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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Plainville makes 4-day workweek official for some municipal employees

    Plainville — Three of the town's municipal departments have pivoted to a permanent four-day workweek following the success of a pilot program.

    "This forward-thinking approach reflects our commitment to better serve both our residents and employees, enhancing their experience with the Town of Plainville," Town Manager Michael Paulhus said.

    Plainville officially implemented the four-day workweek for the Municipal Center, the Recreation Department and the Youth Services Department.

    "Deciding which departments were going to be a part of this was narrow in terms of the Municipal Center, (which) was a half day on Fridays already. So there really wasn't a big change there and the Recreation Center and Youth Services departments," Paulhus said. "The others, in terms of public safety, are 24/7. Our building and grounds and roadways are also on call. Obviously, they didn't fit within our matrix, so to speak, in terms of contracts and hours of operation. So, it is limited, but still, it's helpful to us from a from a clerical side."

    The employees participating in the program continue to work the same number of hours each week but in a condensed, four-day timeframe. The departments will extend their hours of operation on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to 5 p.m.

    "We're still at 35 hours; we just adjusted the length of our days, and we shortened our lunch breaks," Courtney Hewett, director of the Recreation Department, said.

    The senior center, library, public safety (fire, police, EMS), public works, trash and recycling collection, transfer station, parks, summer camps, Berner Pool, Splash Pad, and other recreational programs will not change their schedule or hours of operation.

    Additionally, the town is looking to expand its online services, such as taxes and fee payments and building and fire permit applications. These services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    "Implementing the four-day workweek came about from an analysis we were seeing in terms of other towns that were experimenting or piloting it combined with the recruitment and retention issues that we're facing in the market for new employees," Paulhus said. "So, we thought of it as a new tool that we could use (as) part of our recruitment and found out that it is also a powerful tool for retention."

    Paulhus said cost saving was not a huge factor.

    "It's really cost-neutral," he explained. "It's not costing us anything. We're the same 35-hour workweek, just over four days instead of 4.5, and we made that work without having to impact the budget. So, I don't think we're going to see any savings here — maybe down the road (if) we start to monitor energy use — but we're not banking on that in any means."

    Paulhus praised the research efforts and collaboration from the Assistant Town Manager Andy Cirioli and Human Resource Director Stacy Buden, as well as talking to other towns to pull everything together.

    Plainville started the pilot program in August, but the decision to permanently switch to longer days, with Town Hall closed on weekends and Fridays, took longer than the projected February date.

    "It was originally a six-month pilot program, but then we had a change in our Town Council that was pretty significant, so the council wanted a little bit more time to explore that," Hewett said. "So, it ended up being an extra two months before it was finally adopted."

    A survey asking for input and feedback was done before the initial decision was made.

    "They did send out a survey before they made the initial decision. It was overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of the employees saying that they enjoyed it, it helped create a better work-life balance, and it was a nice change," Hewett said. "And so far, honestly, it's been going great. I know our department loves it so far. ... It really has helped us create a better work-life balance, and we're still around as much as we were; it's just different hours."

    The pilot program also proved successful in achieving the town's goals of retaining and recruiting talented employees and continuing to provide high-quality services to the community. As the needs of the workforce continue to evolve, adopting a four-day workweek is seen as a significant step toward remaining competitive in today's hiring environment.

    "We're finding that as a recruitment tool, it's working," Paulhus said. "It is coming up in interviews that the four-day is a factor that candidates are considering, and that's what attracts them to Plainville."

    "We've also found that is a great retention tool. We've retained employees in that fact — the lateral transfers, etc. — (because) employees find it attractive. So, it's good for retention, good for morale. And we're hoping to continue to use it as a recruitment tool."

    Plainville joins several other Connecticut municipalities that have adopted or are considering four-day workweeks. Vernon, Ellington, Mansfield and Redding have implemented similar schedules.

    "We're going to continue to monitor this, try to enhance it wherever we can, and improve upon it," Paulhus said.

    The Municipal Center, Recreation Department and Youth Services Department are now open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and closed on Friday.

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