La Plata County government is experimenting with a four-day workweek, starting with a pilot program in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
Beginning Sept. 12, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office will work longer days Mondays through Thursdays and be closed Fridays, according to a news release issued this week by the county.
The move comes in the wake of Bayfield and Ignacio school districts moving to four-day weeks.
The Clerk and Recorder’s Office is currently open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Beginning in two weeks, the new hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, however, the office will not open to the public until 8 a.m. on Wednesdays to allow for internal staff meetings. The office will be closed Fridays effective Sept. 16.
Because it is a pilot program, La Plata County will evaluate the new schedule at the end of the year to see if it will be used on a more permanent basis. The Clerk and Recorder’s Office will be open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during election season beginning Oct. 24 through the end of the election.
La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee said the decision was made after receiving complaints about the office closing at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s hard for them (the public) to get off work and get here in time,” she said. “So us being open 7 to 5:30 to be able to provide motor vehicle transactions, especially, is really going to help.”
The experiment means three-day weekends for employees. Lee said other employers, such as La Plata Electric Association, are also moving toward four-day work schedules because it helps with employee morale and prevents employees from having to commute that fifth day.
“It just makes it more affordable for people not having to drive an extra day,” Lee said. “I have several employees, including myself – we drive distances to get to work every day, and with the cost of gas prices, that’s going to help reduce cost.”
The days will be longer for employees, but so far the feedback has been positive, Lee said. But, she reiterated it is a pilot program, and things may change.
Budget was also a consideration, she said. Moving to four 10-hour days will help prevent employees’ need for overtime to finish work. Previously, employees would go over the 40-hour limit working eight hour days. With four 10-hour days, she said there will be more time to accomplish necessary tasks.
“We get real busy, a lot of times, so employees need to stay late or they’ll skip lunch, or they’ll come in early just to keep up with the daily workload,” she said. “So we’re hoping this might work better.”
Lee said her office is more than willing to make accommodations for employees who have child care conflicts with the new schedule.
County government will be watching to see whether the four-day workweek makes sense for all or some other departments. The county did not want to fall behind where it sees a growing trend, said county spokesman Ted Holteen.
“We’ve been watching a lot of other folks do it and we figured this would be a good way to try to implement it,” he said. “And, we’re going to listen to feedback from our residents and everything like that.”
School districts moving to four-day weeks were a motivating factor, he said. If children are going to be off on Fridays, parents will be forced to find child care solutions or find employment that will allow them to take care of their child.
“I don’t know how many of our 420-plus employees have kids at Bayfield and Ignacio. But I think it’s significant and so that’s certainly something to see,” Holteen said.
Lee said she has an employee with a child in the Bayfield School District and moving to a four-day week schedule is going to save him money on child care.
“I’ve had one employee tell me it’s going to save him $250 a month on child care, and as a single dad that’s pretty important right now,” she said.
Holteen said there would be exceptions if La Plata County were to implement four-day workweeks across the board, for example, at the Sheriff’s Office. Reducing employee travel on Fridays also interests Holteen. However, the county has not done any research to see what the environmental impacts would be.