Golden Police Department trying out four-day workweek

City could expand program to other departments

Corinne Westeman
Posted 5/26/23

The Golden Police Department is launching a four-day workweek trial program, without a change in pay or number of employees. The six-month trial will start July 10, impacting all 75 full-time GPD employees.

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Golden Police Department trying out four-day workweek

City could expand program to other departments


For proponents of a four-hour workweek, all eyes are on the Golden Police Department.

The City of Golden is launching a four-day workweek trial program for GPD employees, without a change in pay or number of employees. The six-month trial will start July 10, impacting all 75 full-time GPD employees.

The goal, as city officials described, is to enhance employees’ quality of life and improve recruitment and retention. If successful, Golden could implement a four-day workweek in other departments.

The GPD is likely the first law enforcement agency of its size to implement a four-day workweek, staff members said recently.

Golden first announced the trial May 16 and hosted a public listening session May 22, where residents expressed mixed feelings about the program. City Manager Scott Vargo said May 22 how, since announcing it, Goldenites have worried this will lead to less service and/or increased costs.

He and Police Chief Joe Harvey both expected productivity to remain the same, or even increase, during this six-month trial. The city won’t be hiring additional GPD employees, but instead work to maximize efficiency among current employees by minimizing distractions, automating any applicable work, and reducing time spent in meetings.

This concept gained momentum among Golden leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic when employees were forced to work remotely. Despite concerns beforehand, Vargo said Golden employees were still able to get their work done, improving morale and retention.

Vargo and Harvey said Golden’s partnered with the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, which has helped implement four-day workweeks around the world. The nonprofit’s efforts have been successful, with most of its partners permanently adopting a four-day workweek.

Goldenites have also worried that “once you do it, you’re stuck with it," but Vargo emphasized how employees know it’s a trial. Thus, it could be a general success, a partial success or a general failure.

GPD was selected to test it for the city, he said, partly because it already records productivity and engagement metrics. Thus, the city already has baseline numbers for comparison, to track whether the four-day workweek is successful.

During the six-month trial, Golden officials will be monitoring employee productivity and engagement, service to the city, potential reduction in overtime, reduced use of sick leave, and recruiting and retention.

Golden will have a three-month update in October and a six-month one in January. At that point, city leaders will decide to expand the four-day workweek plan to other departments, modify it for the GPD and retest, or discontinue it altogether.

The other major reason GPD was selected, Vargo continued, is because it’s a “microcosm of city government,” with various shift schedules and different types of work environments — on-the-go, office and front desk/customer service.

“All those different positions and schedules make them somewhat unique within city government,” Vargo said.

Overall, Vargo and Dale Whelehan of 4 Day WorkWeek Global expected the four-day workweek to enhance employees' mental and physical health by reducing stress and improving their sleep habits. Vargo noted how it also gives employees an extra day for doctor’s appointments and other errands that typically interrupt the workday.

(Not) Workin’ for a livin’

Starting July 10, Harvey said GPD employees will start transitioning to eight-hour shifts over four days, depending on the employee and position. He hoped to capitalize on the overlap between officers’ shift schedules, saying he wanted to create “power shifts” where more officers will be working during high-volume times.

Regarding overtime, city officials stated overtime won’t accrue until an employee exceeds 40 hours for the week. GPD staff will still be paid for 40 hours, but should only work 32 during the six-month trial.

Harvey and Vargo said GPD employees will likely average closer to 40 hours a week at the beginning, as everyone adjusts to the new schedules and work practices. However, most employees should be averaging 32 hours by January, if not sooner, Vargo continued.

Vargo said there might be some jobs, whether in GPD or in other city departments, where a four-day workweek wouldn’t make sense. But, considering it’s a trial period, he continued, Golden will see how everything plays out.

A few of the May 22 listening session attendees asked why city officials aren’t reducing time in meetings, minimizing distractions and so forth, while keeping a 40-hour workweek.

Vargo emphasized how Golden’s employees are its greatest asset, saying the city wants to be "the employer of choice.” If the four-day workweek is successful and improves employee retention and recruitment, he said it could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in hiring, retraining and lost productivity.

“Even if it’s a failure, part of what I’m trying to do at the city is create a culture a creativity, innovation and risk-taking,” Vargo continued. “ … The community is changing, and the demands on (city staff) are changing. And we can’t continue to do things the same way we’ve done them if we’re going to meet those new demands.”

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