Public Works adopts four-day work week

TUPELO – After years of study, the Tupelo Public Works Department has switched to a four-day work week that top officials say will save taxpayers $100,000 annually.
If the move proves successful, other city departments could follow suit. But it will take at least a year to gauge initial results.
The new schedule began three weeks ago, with the department’s 59 full-time employees clocking in at 7 a.m. and going home at 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Although staffers still log 40-hour workweeks, they save money by reducing their daily drive times and equipment setups.
It also boosts productivity, said Public Works employee David Knight.
“No doubt that we get more done,” Knight said. “When we’re on a project, we get to spend more time there, less travel time back and forth. And getting started every morning is always a slow time. When you’re in the field, you’ve got your equipment running already, and that extra two hours helps a lot every day.”
The initiative started at the behest of Public Works Director Sid Russell, who said he had researched the idea for at least two years before implementation. He specifically wanted to save money on gas and utilities, because the department relies heavily on both and their costs have steadily increased over the years.
“Right off the bat we’re looking at $60,000 to $70,000 in fuel (savings) annually and about $15,000 in utilities,” Russell said. “We anticipate (saving) about $100,000 a year after you factor in the incidentals that you know we’ll save but you just can’t put your finger on right now.”
The Public Works Department handles city road and drainage work, vehicle and property maintenance, brush and street cleanup, traffic control and mosquito spraying. It has an annual budget $5.4 million.
Some office staff remain on duty Friday to work the phones, and an on-call crew responds to emergencies.
Russell also said he has heard no employee complaints about the schedule change. Knight said he and most of his colleagues actually prefer the four-day weeks because they get Friday off. It also reduces their personal travel time and fuel expenses between the home and office.
The four-day work week isn’t a new phenomenon. Governments and companies nationwide have adopted the schedules to save money, reduce traffic congestion and provide worker flexibility.
But some downsides, according to Forbes magazine, are parents’ difficulty finding extended child care hours and the possibility of increased workplace accidents due to overtaxed workers, especially those operating heavy equipment.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he’s eager to see the long-term effects of the Public Works schedule and will encourage other departments to consider it if, and when, appropriate.
“There are some departments, obviously, it wouldn’t make sense in – police and fire for example,” Reed said. “But I’m excited about trying it. Anything we can do to make the department better and save money at the same time, I’m for.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.

Emily LeCoz/NEMS Daily Journal