The past two years have challenged the way we do everything, and for some New Brunswick businesses and organizations that includes how many days per week we work.
The Town of Quispamsis begins a three-month pilot project that will see all employees work four days a week starting on May 1. The staff have been divided into two teams, with one group working from Monday to Thursday, and the other from Tuesday to Friday.
Aaron Kennedy, acting chief administrative officer for the small town with a population of about 19,000, said the motivation is to improve the mental and physical health of all employees.
"Life has been wearing on people," he said. "Everything that's going on between inflation and the price of gas, geopolitical tensions elsewhere in the world. So we're really concerned about mental health for our staff."
Kennedy said employees have the option of sticking with a five-day week, but so far none of the town's approximately 90 workers have decided to do that.
"We think this is a way to help people find that work-life balance and help their mental health as well."
Quispamsis employees will continue to work the same number of hours, which means their days will be longer. Kennedy said this will allow the town to extend customer service hours by five hours each week.
"So it really shows that we're balancing what we feel is a great wellness initiative for our staff with enhanced services for our residents."
Moncton company sticks with 4-day week after pilot
In Moncton, consulting company O Strategies started a four-day work week pilot after the Christmas holiday.
Owner Jason Doiron said that unlike Quispamsis, his company with 10 employees, didn't lengthen its days to fit the traditional 40 hours of work into four days. Instead they work just 32 hours — but have tried to "reprogram" the way they work.
"The experience has been challenging, but very positive," he said. "There's not less work to get done."
After the three-month pilot, Doiron said, staff have established that the benefits of the four-day week outweigh the disadvantages, but more "tweaks" are needed.
"Our four days are a lot more intense," he explained. "It doesn't mean they're longer. They're just more intense."
As an employer he has seen "clear benefits." When his team returns to work on Monday they are refreshed and more energetic, Doiron said.
Looking back on the five-day week, he sees now that time was often not as productive as it could have been.
"Often, that Monday morning, we're just getting up to speed with things — having a few cups of coffee just to get the brain rolling. And then Friday afternoon … by noon time, we're winding down and the energy is low," he said.
What we've agreed upon is that we wouldn't go back to the 40-hour work week. And that's for sure. - Jason Doiron, O Strategies
"In this case … the energy is higher. And so we're getting just as much work done in these four more intense days than a 40-hour work week kind of spread out."
As a business owner, Doiron has also seen benefits in his personal life with more time to recuperate over the longer weekend and more time to spend with friends and family.
He also believes the shorter work week might help the company to recruit new employees.
"We opened a position for a one-year contract a few weeks ago, and we had a lot more resumés than the last time that we had openings," Doiron said.
"So I'd like to think that it might attract more talent, and I can't know that conclusively yet, but I think it could definitely have some advantages for sure."
Doiron said the company hasn't made a final decision yet on what shape the four-day work week will take. It is considering adjustments that may see staff work two half-days and three full-days during the week. He said managers and employees will work out the new model together.
"What we've agreed upon is that we wouldn't go back to the 40-hour work week. And that's for sure."