The City of Merritt in BC’s Interior is launching a four-day-a-week pilot program in hopes of attracting, recruiting and retaining municipal employees.
The one-year trial, approved by council on Tuesday, will see city hall closed on Mondays, with staff working longer hours the remaining four days of the week.
Hours of operation will be extended from 8 am to 5:45 pm Tuesday through Friday – an extra hour and 45 minutes each day.
Chief administrative officer Sean Smith said workers’ wages would not be affected by the changes, and he expects the pilot program to launch sometime in the fall.
He said he hopes the work week will allow Merritt to compete for talent with larger municipal governments like Kamloops and Kelowna.
“We have a struggle here to keep Merritt employees — they can come here and have a great experience, but we’re losing to larger organizations that can afford to pay more,” Smith said.
“We have to find a way to compete for retention and attraction without affecting the bottom line of taxpayers.”
The increasing growth of municipalities
Several municipal governments in Canada have tried a four-day work week to retain workers and promote morale at work.
The towns of Quispamsis and Sackville in New Brunswick, for example, both started pilots this spring. On Wednesday, the township council of Springwater, Ont., voted to make the four-day work week permanent.
Barry Carroll, chief administrative officer of the District of Guysborough, NS, says workers are happier since the municipality began piloting four-day work in June 2020.
The pilot, which was made permanent last March, split its 60-strong workforce into two teams – one working Monday to Thursday, the other working Tuesday to Friday.
“It’s been a huge success here,” Carroll said. “I can still see a jump in their step – people are excited. Sick leave is very low.”
“It’s a big thing in a relationship.”
Smith says the Merritt drive comes at a time when the city is working to recover from last fall’s floods, which devastated communities and created additional challenges to retain workers.
He says he understands that some residents may be disappointed when city hall is closed on Mondays, but he believes the new plan will help the community by allowing them to access municipal services before or after normal business hours.
“I think the increase in productivity levels and having a refreshed and ready workforce will be beneficial to anyone who owns a business and city hall,” he added.
Merritt’s pilot project will be evaluated through staff and community surveys after six months and a year to gauge its effectiveness and identify ways it can be improved.