The City of Merritt in British Columbia’s Interior is launching a four-day work week pilot program in the hope of attracting, recruiting and retaining municipal workers.
The one-year trial, approved by council on Tuesday, will see city hall closed on Mondays, with operational hours extended Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., an extra hour and 45 minutes each day.
Sean Smith, Merritt’s chief administrative officer, said wages won’t change but the city is hoping the compressed work week will allow it to compete with other jurisdictions for staff.
“We have to find a way to be competitive on retention and attraction without it affecting the bottom line for taxpayers,” he said in an interview Thursday.
He noted this comes at a time when the city is working to recover from last fall’s floods, which devastated the community and caused additional challenges for staff retention.
Smith said he also believes the scheme will benefit residents by allowing them to access municipal staff before or after usual work hours.
“It will be interesting to see the exact effects on the public, but I think that the increased levels of productivity and having a staff that is refreshed and ready to work is going to yield benefits for anyone who has business with city hall.”
He said there may be logistical challenges when the pilot is first being implemented.
“I think that, especially at the outset, there will be people who want to just pop into city hall and are frustrated when it’s closed on Monday, (but) we hope that with great communication, and with a little bit of time, residents will find that it’s a benefit.”
The project will be reviewed at the six-month and one-year markers, through staff and public surveys, to gauge its effectiveness and identify areas where changes may need to be made.
Smith said though the assessment details are still being developed, it will focus on three main areas: impacts to public, employee satisfaction and well-being and whether it is fulfilling its intended purpose of attracting and retaining staff.
The start date for the pilot program hasn’t yet been decided, but Smith said he expects it will launch this fall.
“We’re excited to give it a try and hopefully it does yield the benefits we’re anticipating for our employees, and we’re hoping that the public really enjoys it as well,” he said. “If not, we’ll learn from it and pivot back. That’s the beauty of the pilot.”