The Benefit of a Shorter Workweek for Government Employers

By now, you may have heard about the success of Iceland’s grand experiment of the City of Reykjavik’s four-day workweek. Employees were happier because they could spend more time with their families and felt a significant stress reduction. Managers were happier because employees at work were more engaged and had higher levels of productivity. Sick time decreased, and workers were more focused. All went so well that this will be a nationwide option in Iceland for employees. Employees may work four days a week for the same pay and benefits they enjoyed when working five days a week. Not only has Reykjavik’s experiment gone well, but there are cities in Canada going down this road, and so far, they are seeing positive signs. Other benefits Canadian cities are expecting are fewer greenhouse gas emissions and more tourism.

This all sounds positive, but how does it work exactly?  Here are some details I found out, and others you may want to consider carefully:

  • Employees worked 35 to 36 hours a week. Most employees worked 9-hour days most of the time.
  • If employees’ workweeks are shorter, the amount of vacation could be reduced without reducing the number of weeks off.
  • Employees worked either a Monday through Thursday schedule or a Tuesday through Friday schedule.
  • Many holidays are on a Monday. Determining how this will work during a workweek that favors one schedule over another would need some careful thought.
  • Employers would need to determine the number of people required for each department on any given day. This might be very easy to figure out in a planning department, but it might be more challenging in a police department.
  • Some police departments are moving to schedules that resemble the fire service schedules, and this could prove helpful.
  • Office hours for citizens were an hour longer each day because employees were working longer every day.
  • Certain projects require employee coordination, which could impact which employees can take off which day. Because employees are never working more than 40 hours in a workweek, if the employer needs to switch an employee from working Monday through Thursday to Tuesday through Friday to finish a project, there would be no overtime implications.
  • There are times when overtime might be necessary. Would employees get paid time and a half after 40 hours or 36 hours? One answer to this could greatly affect employee morale, while the other could hurt the budget.
  • Having good software platforms – which seem to be everywhere now – that allow employees to leave notes on an unfinished item or work on documents in collaboration with others would help efficiency. Many are very low cost and quite intuitive to use. In fact, your employees may already be using them for free. You may want to check.

Certainly, if you are having difficulty recruiting talent – especially when the talent needed is a specific skill set that is hard to find – a four-day workweek that is not paid at a lower rate is a powerful tool. If you decide that this is a tool you want to use, and you need to consider all the details, call our staff. We can help.