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A 4-Day Workweek Was Tested In This Small Canadian Town & Here's What Happened Next

The town has some big tips for anyone looking to convert.👇

A 4-Day Workweek Was Tested In A Small Canadian Town & This Is What Happened Next

Back in June 2020, the municipality of Guysborough in Nova Scotia tested out a four-day workweek for employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 60 full-time, permanent employees split into two groups and started alternating days off for a nine-month trial, with one group working Monday to Thursday and the other from Tuesday to Friday. The number of hours they worked stayed the same but were condensed over four days, instead of five.

More than a year later, Narcity caught up with Barry Carroll, the municipality's chief administrative officer, to find out what happened next including the results of the trial, if the alternate work schedule has become permanent and why other places in Canada should try it.

How has the four-day workweek in Guysborough gone?

"I'm seeing people have a bounce in their step. It seems like they have something to work for and they want to be successful," Carroll said on October 14. "They see the advantages of having that extra day."

Since the extra day off is during the week, that means people can do things they might not be able to do on the weekend like get their car serviced or take their kid to a dentist appointment. Carroll also mentioned that they don't necessarily need to take a sick day or a vacation day if they need to do those types of things because they have that extra day already.

"A big, big positive coming out of this is that our sick leave in the organization is way down compared to what it was," he said. "We're basically a year and a half into the four-day workweek schedule, but today we're seeing that as a huge positive."

People come up to Carroll and tell him that they love the four-day workweek. He said that older employees typically enjoy the three-day weekend for the rest time and younger employees tend to like it because they can spend more time with their families and get a break on child care.

Even spouses of employees have told Carroll that the change has been great and helped them a lot.

"It seems to be a win-win," he said.

Also, it's not just the employees who are benefitting from the alternate work schedule.

The four-day workweek has condensed hours — employees work an extra half an hour in the morning and the evening every day — which has allowed the municipality to be open longer to the public each day, working out to five additional hours of service each week.

Have any challenges come up?

"There's an element that you have to cover for people that are off during holidays and that becomes more difficult when you don't have your full staff every day of the week," Carroll said. "So on the Mondays and Fridays, there's a little bit of extra work to do but I think this works for us in our workplace."

Despite that, there haven't been any "real negatives" stemming from the shifted work schedule.

Before the four-day workweek started, the municipality anonymously surveyed employees about it and only two people were skeptical of changing the workweek.

"I think those people are also bought over now because we're getting everybody saying it's a good idea," Carroll said.

Another anonymous survey was done later on and all the employees said they loved the four-day workweek, which Carroll credits to people seeing the benefit of it.

Is the four-day workweek in Guysborough permanent?

The four-day workweek trial ended in March 2021 but that wasn't truly the end of it.

"At that point in time, we brought forth a recommendation to our elected council to consider making it a full-time permanent schedule for employees," Carroll said.

Council has made it permanent but with the stipulation that the alternate work schedule must be reviewed after three years to make sure it's still working the way it's supposed to.

"We're a year and a half in and so far so good. I don't think anybody is seeing anything that would raise any negative flags," he added.

Should alternate work schedules be implemented across Canada?

Carroll wants to encourage municipalities, cities, towns, businesses and others to look at alternative workplace models that can fit into their workplace.

"I think it's important for businesses or other municipalities to see what works for them and to be open to ideas about how we can make the workplace a little bit better and work for the benefit of everyone," he said.

That could be a four-day workweek like Guysborough, a work from home program or another model.

"The morale boost in our workplace alone has been enough to warrant what we've done," he said. "It's worthwhile exploring for sure."

Where else in Canada is the four-day workweek being tested?

Guysborough isn't the only Canadian town testing out a shorter workweek, either. In 2020, the Ontario township of Zorra piloted its own version of a three-day weekend over eight months. In July 2021, Zorra's chief administrative officer said that there had been "no complaints from staff or the public."

Companies across the country are testing it out as well including a Toronto-based business. The owner of the company even told Narcity that it was "hands down the best business decision I've ever made."

In Montreal, a video game company is moving to a four-day workweek where employees will put in 32 hours of work each week and see no reduction to their salaries.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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