Aylmer council approved a new staffing model in the form of a “compressed” four-day work week, in principle, at a virtual meeting on Monday, May 3. Staff will prepare a formal work plan for council consideration at a future meeting, to be implemented once COVID-related restrictions and work-from-home instructions ease.
The model proposes increasing daily hours for staff, which will allow for one day fewer of work, while at the same time expanding town hall service hours to the public.
A report written by Legislative/Corporate Services Director Josh Brick and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Grozelle proposed splitting town administration staff into two teams: Team A would work Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Team B would work the same hours, Tuesday to Friday. Both would get a 30-minute lunch break.
Currently, administration staff work Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The new model keeps a 35-hours work week, but each workday would be 8.75 hours, instead of seven.
As a result, the municipal office at town hall would be open to the public for 45 hours a week instead of 40.
“We’re offering an improved work life balance for certain staff members, while also increasing our number of hours that we’re open to the public at town hall,” said Mr. Brick. “By being open from 8 a.m. till 5 pm, we’re hoping that we can catch some extra folks that perhaps work during regular business hours.”
“I think the devil will be in the details. This has to be well thought out,” commented Councillor Pete Barbour. “We have to be considering the fact that the 40-hour work week people may be a little disappointed that one segment of the employees are being treated differently than they are.”
Other members of council, including Mayor Mary French, Deputy Mayor Sheri Andrews, and Cr. Jamie Chapman, expressed their support for the compressed work week.
Deputy Mayor Andrews commented she felt that work life balance is somewhat lost while working from home.
“When you’re at home all the time, you’re putting in more than 40 hours, and it kind of blends in with your home life,” she said. “So going back to work, when that does actually happen, I think it makes a lot of sense to achieve that work life balance to go to a four-day work week.”
The township of Zorra in Oxford County has implemented a compressed work week based on the experience of Municipality Guysborough, Nova Scotia, the report states.
Benefits listed in the report include improved corporate recruitment and retention, improved employee morale, reduction in scheduled absenteeism, increased level of service, improve environmental sustainability, and the opportunity for enhanced succession planning and creation of redundancy.
Weaknesses and threats of a compressed work week listed include customer service disruptions, interdepartmental communication, logistical and human resource related challenges, and criticism.
The compressed work week is expected to be introduced as a component to the town’s return to the physical office sometime in mid to late 2021.
Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express