Ilitaqsiniq sees positives midway through four-day workweek test

Salaries and job expectations stay the same in pilot project that runs until Sept. 1

Staff from Ilitaqsiniq, also known as the Nunavut Literacy Council, pictured here, are going through a four-day workweek pilot project. Improving work-life balance, wellness and engagement at work are factors in conducting the pilot, executive director Adriana Kusugak said. (Photo courtesy of Ilitaqsiniq)

By David Lochead

Midway into Ilitaqsiniq’s four-day workweek pilot project, the results look positive, says executive director Adriana Kusugak.

“I would say, across the board, there have been improvements in all the areas we are researching,” she said.

Ilitaqsiniq, also known as the Nunavut Literacy Council, is a non-profit agency that delivers cultural programming across the territory.

From May 8 until Sept. 1, it’s running a pilot project that has seen all of its staff move to a four-day workweek, mostly working Monday to Thursday.

Salaries and benefits have stayed the same during the pilot. Staff are not working longer days, just fewer of them, and job requirements have remained the same.

The goal is to see if the shorter week can provide employees with a better work-life balance and improved mental health and wellness, Kusugak said.

Ilitaqsiniq is also watching indicators such as employee engagement and motivation at work, physical health and overall happiness.

There are other economic reasons for the pilot. Kusugak said Ilitaqsiniq cannot compete with larger organizations such as the Government of Nunavut or Inuit organizations on salaries and benefits provided.

Offering a four-day workweek could be an advantage for Ilitaqsiniq.

“I have to think outside the box [to answer], ‘what can Ilitaqsiniq provide to our employees that will act as a benefit and keep us competitive in a tight labour market?’” Kusugak said.

She said she studied findings from similar projects across the globe before implementing her own pilot project.

“We’re basically condensing the workweek but expecting the same amount of work to be produced,” Kusugak said.

Another reason for the pilot is to determine if staff think it is worthwhile to work four days instead of five.

“What we’ve heard back so far is ‘yes,’ it definitely is,” Kusugak said.

There was an adjustment period for staff at the beginning, to be as productive in four days as they were in five.

With changes to time management, though, they became more productive, Kusugak said.

She said one comment she got from an employee is that the person would sometimes procrastinate or stretch tasks out in a five-day workweek.

“But when you’re aware you have only four days to get it done, you’re on a mission to accomplish and meet those deadlines,” Kusugak said.

She said having a dedicated, motivated staff helped in the transition.

Initially, there was resistance from some members to the four-day workweek because Ilitaqsiniq offers programming on Fridays, and programs that run for five days or longer.

To continue that programming, staff members rotate which days they take off, Kusugak said — for example, someone who works a Friday takes Monday off.

Other challenges included changing finance systems, such as pay scheduling, so it can be done on a different day than Friday.

“Now that most staff are accustomed to the [four-day workweek] and it’s a part of their routine, I feel like there is going to be a stronger, positive impact in the second half of this pilot,” Kusugak said.


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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Untermensch on

    I’m curious if the much celebrated Literacy Council does anything directly related to Literacy? I know they’ve applied a very expansive meaning to the term, which is suitable and convenient if your true interest is in pursuing ‘cultural programming’ as Nunatsiaq has chosen to describe it. Of course those can be combined and that combination could be effective… but is that happening? Has Ilitaqsiniq improved literacy across the territory? Are there any metrics that show they have?

    • Posted by Semantics on

      Sometimes one has to think outside the box. I think literacy extends beyond the confines of western indoctrination and Roman orthography in books. In the Arctic it also involves understanding of the environment and useful ways to live.

      • Posted by Actually on

        If they focused on literacy, we might find that there are actually words that describe those things you list, so that you don’t have to use the word “literacy” to mean “whatever we want it to depending on what we feel like doing and what’s the most fun and easiest.”

        • Posted by LoLz on

          Funny to see someone call themselves SEMANTICS then give a totally botch definition like that. Too funny, should be called IRONIC

      • Posted by Untermensch on

        “In the Arctic [Literacy] also involves understanding of the environment and useful ways to live.”

        If you are opposed to the use of western terms and concepts around literacy perhaps a new word would be appropriate? This definition is tangential to the point of unrecognizability.

        That said, I think Ilitaqsiniq does a lot of good work and don’t object to using literacy to promote living well or understanding the environment. However, when going “outside the box” becomes promoting fun activities without any substantive focus on literacy at all, you have lost the plot.

        To be fair I am not sure if that is or is not happening, thus my question. Let me hone in on it more closely for you.

        How, for example, did last week’s strong person competition in Rankin Inlet, sponsored by Ilitaqsiniq, connect to its mission to “promote and support the literacy needs of Nunavummiut in the official languages of Nunavut”?

        Or, more broadly, does the organization track improvements in literacy that result from its programs?

    • Posted by John on

      What does this even have to do with the article?

      • Posted by Northerner on

        A long over due conversation actually

  2. Posted by Innovators on

    Fantastic to see such an innovative initiatives coming from Nunavut’s nonprofit sector that will hopefully have impacts in other industries. Other organizations and companies should follow suit, especially during summer to allow for people to get out on the land for longer stretches of time.

  3. Posted by Head Scratcher on

    If you can do 5 days worth of work in 4, then technically, isn’t that 4 days worth of work? Sounds like you could use the same time management to do 6 days of work in 5.
    Who else isn’t surprised that staff react positively to working less (d’uh). I bet if you polled and asked if they’d prefer a 3 day week you’d also get an overwhelming response.

    • Posted by Inverse proportion on

      The framing as you’ve pointed out is bit of a problem and could have been done better. Let me try to do that. I’m not a mathematician so this may be clumsy, my apologies as I’m quite sure more elegant models could be produced (if someone wants to, please do).

      As I see it there are three key variables here. Work done in 1 unit of time (we will call that unit a week) = w1, time employees spend in the workplace to achieve W1 = T1. And quality of life for each worker, let’s call that Q.

      In math ‘inverse proportion’ measures how increases in one metric or value are related to decreases in another, and vice versa. So, what Ilitaqsiniq appears to be telling us is that a decrease in T1 = Higher Q, at no expense to W1.

      This is consistent with the findings of multiple similar experiments around the world.

    • Posted by northerner on

      Bravo to them to running this pilot in the summer months. I hope more organizations and companies will follow suit. And of course people will prefer the shorter week, esp in the summer months. I have mentioned this before that Nunavut should adopt a 4 -day work week in the warmer months.

  4. Posted by Nice work if you can get it on

    So, people who do very little work to start with, pat themselves on the back for compressing it into four days instead of five, and of course keep the same pay for those still relaxing four days.

    • Posted by Ben Decko on

      GN is embarrassing.
      Fold it and bring NWT back.

  5. Posted by accountability on

    No accountability at all. This is a for-profit group just like the rest of the not-for profit groups in Nunavut. If there were no personal finical gain there would be no such organization. Money and benefits first before helping others is the way it is. Dollars don’t go very far on these disguised family’s business and the gas mileage is poor unless you are related to the not for profit groups. When will the government learn of this type of scheme. Probably never.

  6. Posted by Mit on

    Imagine if the northern started doing this how angry people would be. Or canada post. Or any business for that matter. These non-profit jobs here people to fill seats with little expectation of productivity or work being completed. If this was a for-profit business, this would never work. Another reason why Nunavut is turning into Canada’s Cuba.

    • Posted by alex on

      I think the 4 day business model wouldn’t work for in the sense of the actual store, since it doesnt follow a 5 day work week, but it runs 7 days. Apples and oranges. Nothing stops the store from being open 7 days a week, but workers working 4 days……

      • Posted by Reality on

        Sure, but since the Northern Store workers do ACTUAL WORK like stock the shelves, transfer freight, and staff the cash register, then they can’t compress that into 4 days in a 7 day work environment, can they?

        Only in Nunavut, where not getting much done at a job is the norm, can people argue so confidently that 4 days work should receive the same pay as 5, since they get the same (small) amount done.

        Some of these employers could just reduce their staff to 1/3 of what they have, and get the same amount of work done. That would be a more realistic way to go about it.

        • Posted by Tired on

          I mean, you say that, but have you seen the issues the Northern (Northmart) in Iqaluit has? Their produce wouldn’t be rotting on the shelves half the time if they actually knew how to manage their inventory and shelving properly. Maybe a bad choice of example for ACTUAL WORK.

          Also don’t most outfits around town only have 1/3 of their positions filled? Everything seems to be limping along, help together by duct tape and prayers, and by burning through the actual staff they have. Cut that another 1/3 and things are gonna fall apart quick.

  7. Posted by Old School on

    Remote work is proving to be necessary to attract the top candidates. GN left behind.
    Four day workweek shown to retain staff and prevent burnout. GN left behind.
    Is it any wonder GN functions with 40% of positions open?
    Yea there are lazy people but with such policies competitive talent will eventually come, especially if we ever get wages right.

  8. Posted by kmo on

    I don’t know if this might be incorporated into the experiments of things but … I have been managing crews and HR for most of my life … almost 70 now … and wresled with the productivity vs time challenge from a hundred different angles.
    In the last 10 yrs I have worked primarily with international travelers under a farm workers program.
    I have experimented with different scenarios over time and a 4 day week was one of the first .. but what became evident fairly quickly was 3 days off a week didn’t work well. Although it was an improvement over a 5 day week as far as productivity goes but 3 days off was too long a stretch. It seemed that it was more challenging to get everybody back on track and up to speed again after a 3 day break.
    It wasn’t until I tried an experiment which split the work week into 2 – 2 day stretches that things really started to make a difference. Remarkable actually …
    Just my opinion but by experience I would say this schedule delivers.
    And that is … work on Tues Wed and Fri Sat.
    Thurs Sun and mon off.
    If the goal is life work balance / productivity / attitude and safety etc etc ?
    This particular schedule … just plain … works. 4 on and 3 off has its own issues.
    Being an experiment … trying this out could be something worth trying … out.
    Just sayin …

    • Posted by Yes Plz on

      Having worked 12 hr continental shift rotations in the past, only having to work 2 days in a row is amazing. That time off in the middle is amazing for mental and physical recovery. Plus now I’m on the standard 8:30 to 5:00 Mon to Fri I miss having the day off in the middle of the regular work week to run errands without the lines.

      I’d say for all positions that aren’t public facing (requireing specific hours of availability) let employees individually decide as part of their contract which day Tues-Thurs they want off. I’m a Wednesday person myself.


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