A poll of directors and salaried staff at Van Buren Township showed that 70% would like to change their five-day work weeks to four days, working 10 hours a day,[…]

A poll of directors and salaried staff at Van Buren Township showed that 70% would like to change their five-day work weeks to four days, working 10 hours a day, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. And, 95% believe a four-day workweek would be more efficient.
This is the information Human Resources Director Nicole Sumpter related to the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees at its workshop session May 3.
She said she is only asking for discussion and no decision on the proposal is needed now. She said this would allow time for residents to come forward with their ideas on the subject.
Director Sumpter said this has been a hot topic over the last few weeks and she wanted to get it all out in the open at the workshop.
Deputy Supervisor Dan Selman said the compressed work schedule was based on keeping the hall open for services. He thought this was an optimal time to discuss this since it is going into summer and contract negotiations are starting.
“How did this come about?” asked Trustee Reggie Miller.
Supervisor Kevin McNamara said on Fridays it’s dead in township hall and on Friday afternoons the hall is empty. He said the phones ring until 4:30 p.m. and the contractors come in early in the morning.
He said a proposal to work nine-hour days and a half-day on Friday was a non-starter with employees. He said a lot have daycare problems and after 5:30 p.m. there is extra cost.
Supervisor McNamara said there are retention problems and, “We’re a service organization and can’t work from home.”
“How will this affect our residents?” Trustee Miller asked.
McNamara said the township hall will be open Mondays through Thursdays and a lot is available online.
“We do have online permitting and you can register online for programs in Community Services,” said Deputy Selman. He noted that if the township was contacted by someone who could only come in on Fridays, “I’m sure we could accommodate her.”
“How do we get the information out about the day closed?” Miller asked.
Sumpter said that would be done the same way they did with COVID changes. She said they had a very good communications department and they got the word out.
“Sit in here on a Friday? It’s a ghost town,” Sumpter said.
McNamara said the proposal is to try it for three months, with a drop-dead date of Sept. 2. He said they have to put wording in the contract and if the residents don’t like it, this board is the only one who can make this happen or not.
Clerk Leon Wright said people want flexibility and they are hearing that now as they interview candidates. He said someone who came to the township hall late that day was asked if he’d like a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule at township hall and he thought it was great, especially for the employees.
“It’s not set in stone. It’s a trial,” Clerk Wright said. “The majority of residents would understand. This is a good time to do a trial run.”
McNamara said 21 employees left last year.
Sumpter said this is not the first time interviewees had asked about weeks of 4/10. “They are happy with long week ends, to spend time with their families.”
Miller asked if all the departments will have this and if there would be overtime engendered in order to accommodate someone.
Sumpter said directors don’t get overtime and the directors would take care of anything after hours.
McNamara said he discussed this with every director.
Selman said he spoke to the HR director of Commerce Township which has this kind of hours and he said they wouldn’t go back.
Miller asked if other townships have just four days and Sumpter said there are other townships that do this and they close for lunch, as well.
“We’re here to serve our residents and as long as we let our residents know … I think they can handle it,” said Trustee Sherry Frazier.
Clerk Wright said he served on a state board and he was surprised to hear how many have staggered work weeks and days closed – Monday or Friday. He said this has a lot to do with who’s making the decisions.
Wright said he’s a baby boomer, but he embraces technology. He has a button on his desk that reads, “But we always do it this way” and he said he’ll keep it there until he doesn’t hear phrase that any more.
“I want everyone’s opinion,” Sumpter said.
Treasurer Sharry Budd said people come in on Friday to get permits for weekend work.
“If the township didn’t close, I’d feel better,” Treasurer Budd said. “If the building is closed, I don’t want directors to keep coming in on their own time.”
She said during tax season her department is very busy. She said people can apply for a building permit on line, but still have to pick it up in person.
“I’m not in favor of this proposal,” Budd said.
Trustee Don Boynton said he is for it, but, “I also am very sensitive to residents — that they will receive the service.” He said other governmental agencies, including the Secretary of State, are not open five days. He said people can take advantage of technology or walk into the office.
“Give everyone a chance to adjust and it will be very successful,” Trustee Boynton said. “We talk about burnout and being able to take advantage of three-day weekends. A high 70% firmly believe this will work,” he said of the poll. “I believe it’s definitely well worth the effort to give it a try.”
Trustee Frazier said, “It’s always good to try new things… It may work out well for employees.”
Miller asked if they could try some off on Monday and some off on Friday and Sumpter said that was never in the discussion.
“We’re discussing it now,” Miller said.
“We’re just two months out from elections,” said Wright. “We can’t have half off and half on.”
“We don’t have enough employees to be half-staffed,” McNamara said.
“I want everyone to know it was discussed and everything was looked at,” Miller said.
Under public comment, John Delaney said, “You forget you are public servants and the township needs to be accessible.” He said Kelly Services would staff seven days a week for 12-hour days, if they wanted. He asked them to be more creative and take a look at staggered schedules. He said this needs a lot more study.

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