FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shara Dee, Communications Officer, email@example.com, (207) 347-4143
City of South Portland Pilots Four-Day Workweek
SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The City of South Portland announced that it will pilot a four-day workweek for many City employees. The announcement follows a City Council vote on July 18 that approved changes to the City’s Personnel Policy required to implement the schedule change. Under the new schedule, City Hall, Assessing, and the Planning and Development (Hamlin) buildings will be closed to the public on Fridays. These buildings will open earlier and close later than current hours to expand access to the public most other days of the week. The new schedule will begin the week of August 7, 2023.
The public hours for the buildings/departments affected by the change, effective August 7, 2023, are as follows:
Assessing Building (41 Thomas St.)
Monday - Thursday 7:30 AM - 5 PM
City Hall (25 Cottage Rd.)
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 7:30 AM - 5 PM; Tuesday 9 AM - 5 PM, with City Clerk and Finance Offices remaining open until 6 PM Tuesday
Departments: City Clerk, Executive, Finance, Human Resources, Social Services, South Portland Community Television (SPC-TV available by appointment M-Th 10 AM - 5 PM)
Planning and Development (829 Sawyer St.)
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 7:30 AM - 5 PM; Tuesday 9 AM - 5 PM
Departments: Code Enforcement, Economic Development, Planning, Sustainability
Water Resource Protection (111 Waterman Dr.)
Monday - Thursday 7 AM - 3:30 PM; Friday 7 AM - 12 PM
Department: Water Resource Protection
South Portland Bus Service, the Community Center, and Library will continue with their current levels of service and hours of operation, with some employees switching to alternative work schedules when possible. The City’s trash and recycling collection schedule and Transfer Facility hours (Tuesday - Saturday 8 AM - 3:30 PM) are also unchanged.
With the shift to a condensed workweek, non-union employees in most departments will work their regular number of hours, condensed into four workdays, generally Monday through Thursday (with some flexibility allowed for those for whom the longer workdays pose childcare or other challenges). The new schedule is not expected to add or reduce costs for the City. The pilot will last for six months and be evaluated based on feedback from staff and the public.
The City emphasizes that while many offices will be closed on Fridays, residents can access many services including vehicle registration renewal, tax bill payments, vital record requests, and more on its website, www.southportland.org. A full list of online services the City offers (to be updated soon) is available at: www.southportland.org/online-services2. The City is also investing in a new website and software this year, which will make online transactions even easier.
The change comes as the result of an effort the City’s Human Resources department launched last year, which explored benefit changes that would help the City recruit and keep talented and qualified employees. Like many other employers across the state and country, the City has faced hiring and retention challenges since the pandemic shifted norms in the labor market. The labor shortage is also affecting the City, with many positions going unfilled for extended periods.
The City worked with Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI), a New Hampshire-based consulting firm, to help guide an objective and comprehensive review of innovations other entities have made to policies and benefits to attract and retain employees; research modifications that have been successful elsewhere; and identify changes desired by current and prospective City staff.
A four-day workweek and/or more flexible weekly work schedule was the top choice among City employees for changes they would like to see, with 89% of non-union staff who responded to a survey showing interest in this option. Prospective employees also highly ranked a condensed workweek as something that would entice them to work for the City in a survey to the public (though the survey saw limited responses). Once it became clear that workers strongly desired a four-day workweek, the City and MRI researched work schedules and operating hours in other Maine municipal communities and gathered feedback from early adopters of a condensed workweek. They found that over half of the 14 Maine communities reviewed are working a compressed workweek, including Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, and Biddeford. The communities that have made this shift report that both public and employee response to the condensed schedule has been positive.
It should also be noted that the two biggest departments in the City already work schedules that differ from a standard five-day workweek. South Portland firefighters work 24-hour shifts. The Police Department recently switched to a four-day work schedule for two out of three shifts. The City’s other unionized group, Parks and Public Works, has recently expressed interest in negotiating for a four-day workweek, though the changes have not yet been discussed.
“One thing that’s clearly come out of the pandemic is that people are thinking about their time differently,” said Stephanie Weaver, South Portland Human Resources Director. “Employees want, and increasingly expect, more flexibility for their lives outside of work. In addition to the many other benefits the City provides—such as an excellent health care plan with affordable family coverage, matched retirement options, and more—we hope that our new four-day workweek will draw talented applicants and encourage the knowledgeable, hardworking people we have on staff to stay. Our employees are such an asset to this community, and we’re happy to have City Council’s support in meeting them where they are.”