Zorra Township permanently implements 4-day workweek following success of pilot project

Zorra Township Office. Via Google Maps

A pilot project which tried out a four-day workweek in Zorra Township, just east of London, Ont., has been deemed a success and is set to become permanent.

The second half of the eight-month project ended earlier this month, with researchers from Western and York Universities deeming the study a success.

The study of the community east of London was one of the largest-public sector trials of a four-day workweek in Canada, with 30 municipal employees working 10 hours a day either Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday.

Wednesday night, Zorra Township council met to discuss the results of the study and unanimously voted to make the temporary change permanent.

“Staff have been very vocal in their support for it. It did take a bit of adjustment at first, but now everyone does appreciate the three-day weekend we do have every week,” said Don MacLeod, Zorra’s chief administrative officer.3

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The study showed that 73 per cent of employees wanted to continue working a compressed schedule.

“Those working in the public sector are eager for more flexibility in their working lives as much as those in the private sector,” said York University’s Zachary Spicer.

“Zorra has given us a great indication that this flexibility is possible and can be managed well.”

Read more: Some places make the case for a four-day workweek. Can it work everywhere?

Click to play video: 'Pilot project in Ontario community studies benefits, challenges of four-day work week'
Pilot project in Ontario community studies benefits, challenges of four-day work week

The 10-hour workday also meant that municipal offices were open longer, at no extra cost to taxpayers, and that study showed employees felt the compressed workweek allowed them more flexibility to manage a work/life balance.

“What we saw with this survey is workers gained the opportunity really decompress,” Spicer said.

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Staff in the Oxford County township, population 8,138, were satisfied with their employment with Zorra before the pilot, and this satisfaction remained consistent throughout and after the pilot.

“A potential lesson here is that organizations with good culture and strong leadership are more likely to be innovative,” said Lyons, director of Western’s local government program and a political science professor.

MacLeod said the change has also been good for staff retention and for attracting more people to the community.“Our last two requirements, we had above-average numbers of applicants,” he said.

“The hits on our website for the employment page went up substantially right after the pilot was announced.”

The study did find some worries from people with the change, with some participants noting it was harder to find childcare for a 10-hour day and manage tasks at home.

Read more: Ontario Liberals to explore 4-day workweek if elected in 2022

Fifty-two per cent of respondents cited working longer hours each day while 19 per cent said the compressed workweek interrupted workflow.

An inability to complete work and fewer indirect interactions with supervisors and subordinates were also listed as difficulties in the study.

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The study did show that 43 per cent of staff indicated they had no concerns at all with the four-day workweek.

Although the pilot project was on a smaller scale, Spicer noted that the model could be implemented on a larger scale for cities like London or Toronto.

The Ontario Liberal party announced in October plans to implement a province-wide pilot project of four-day workweeks if elected next June.

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