Zorra Township’s 4-day work week experiment shows early signs of promise

Early results of a pilot project by Zorra Township found a four-day work week allowed it to serve the public 12.5 per cent longer at no additional cost to taxpayers. (Indypendenz/Shutterstock)

The four-day system used in Zorra is known to many as the compressed work week

Zorra Township says early results of its four-day work-week experiment suggest the new hours allow staff to spend more time serving the public at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The eight-month pilot program began in September and requires employees to work a 40-hour week, but over a period of four days, an arrangement known to many as a compressed work week.

The pilot is being watched closely by Western University researchers and, so far, early results suggest the experiment has already accomplished what it set out to do.

“It works out to a 12.5 per cent increase in the hours we’re open each year and there’s no [additional] cost to the taxpayers,” Zorra Township’s Chief Administrative Officer David McLeod told CBC Radio One’s Afternoon Drive on Thursday.

McLeod said the township still serves the public five days a week, even though many of its employees only work for four. Teams are split up in certain departments in order to cover all the days in the week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

McLeod said since the pilot was implemented two months ago there’s been a lot of interest. He’s taken about a dozen calls from a number of municipalities and private businesses.

He also said the township’s jobs page saw a spike in traffic in the two weeks immediately following the announcement. Normally the page receives 35 to 40 unique visitors a month, but after the pilot was announced it received more than 700 visitors in two weeks.

McLeod said while buy-in from employees was relatively easy, the public had to be convinced that employees weren’t slacking off.

“At the outset we did hear that from the public. Our mayor did an excellent job to explain how that worked.”

McLeod said once the eight-month pilot runs its course a report will go to council, which will then decide whether to make the arrangement more permanent.

Zorra Township between Woodstock and London started a pilot project a few months ago switching to a four-day work week. Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre checks in with Don Macleod, the township’s chief administrative officer, about how it’s going. 6:33

While the compressed work week is not a new concep​​​​​​t, it has been given some renewed attention since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people work, including more flexible hours and working from home.

Still, some organizations have actually given their employees a four-day work week, instead of making them work five days over the course of four.

Microsoft Japan implemented a 32-hour week, closing its offices each Friday, while paying its employees as if they worked a five-day week.

The company not only saw saw a 40 per cent boost in productivity from its employees, its resource consumption fell, with offices using 20 per cent less electricity and printing 60 per cent fewer pages of paper.

Colin Butler · CBC News

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