GUYSBOROUGH – In what is a first for municipalities in N.S. and perhaps across Canada, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough will test out a four-day workweek for staff starting June 15.
"We call it an investment in human infrastructure," CAO Barry Carroll told The Journal Monday, noting the municipality is normally focused on investments in physical infrastructure, like water treatment and solid waste management.
The new four-day shift schedule will be a nine-month pilot project. "It's a transition for us back into what would be normal working hours," he says. "We are going to evaluate it at the annual planning session at the end of January and it might be something we will implement permanently."
One group of staff will work an extended day Monday to Thursday, the other Tuesday to Friday. "Everyone works the same shift three days a week, but not on the other two days," says Carroll. "This also lessens our risk during the pandemic."
The idea for the new shift schedule came as a result of COVID-19 and the quick introduction of alternative work models, he says. "I started thinking about it in late March, early April. Then we heard the prime minister talking about it and we see New Zealand and other countries looking at it."
He said the work-from-home model doesn't work well for MODG on a regular basis, but will still be an option during emergencies. "We're going to develop a policy for at-home work for when we need it."
Council unanimously passed a motion to approve the four-day workweek plan at a special meeting last Tuesday, June 2.
"Staff are excited about it," says Carroll. "We did give them the option to work the regular five days a week schedule. They could still work that, but we haven't had anyone express their wish to do so yet. It will be longer days for them, but there is a trade off there."
Warden Pitts said he sees the change as a strategic move.
"We're trying to stay ahead of the curve; you have to move with the times." he said during an interview Monday.
Hours of operation at the municipal office will be extended from the current 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. At the waste management facility, open hours will increase from the current 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday hours at the landfill site are unchanged.
Hours of operation for public works and recreation will be extended by one hour daily, but the Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex and fitness centre will keep their current schedules.
"Our staff are so dedicated," says Carroll. "When we were working two-days-on, two-days-off (during the state of emergency), all of our staff made a commitment that they could all be at the workplace within 90 minutes of being called. Our staff are the type that if we needed everybody today to work on a recreation project, they would all do that. If they were needed at the landfill, they would go to the landfill.
"I've never experienced that anywhere else," he says. "We truly have a fully dedicated staff."
The plan doesn't involve huge costs, he says. "We're moving all files to a cloud-based system and moving staff to laptops." The municipality will explore whether provincial support may be available to help offset those costs.
MODG has close to 50 staff, not including nursing home staff who already have a shift model and are not part of this program.