Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from May-Jun 2018 issue

Two-Way Street: Does Your City Have Summer Hours?

Calvin Portner, City AdministratorCALVIN PORTNER
Elk River (Population 24,368)
Judging by the amount of traffic passing through Elk River on a typical Friday afternoon in summer, it is obvious Minnesotans value their cabin country weekends.

In fact, many of our residents have indicated they chose to live in Elk River to better beat the traffic as they head out of town for the weekend.

Considering alternative hours
In 2012, the Elk River City Council identified a goal to complete an evaluation of alternative office hours for City Hall office staff. The intent was to save building operation costs and enhance customer service with more resident-friendly hours.

Our City Hall employees shared an interest in considering a change to summer work hours, as our public works employees have had a summer schedule for a number of years coinciding with daylight saving time.

Trial started in 2013
Our summer office hours are in effect from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During this period, our office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Friday, City Hall is open 7:30 a.m. to noon, with staggered employee schedules to ensure all customer service windows are open without overtime costs. The rest of the year, City Hall is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The City Council adopted the policy on a trial basis in 2013, with staff directed to seek resident and visitor feedback throughout that summer. We generally don’t have a lot of resident City Hall traffic. However, those who do need to come in said they like the opportunity to stop in before or at the end of their own workday during the summer.

Positive feedback
In 2014, the Council was satisfied with the survey results and feedback received, so they continued the summer hours program, which is still in effect today.

Employee feedback about summer hours has been very positive. Work tends to be slow on Fridays in the summer, so employees like being able to take off early and have a little more time to enjoy the weekend. In addition, employees said they don’t mind working later Monday through Thursday because summer days provide enough daylight for weeknight activities.

Overall, both residents and employees seem to appreciate the summer schedule. It has worked well for Elk River, and we plan to continue it.

Eric Hoversten, City ManagerERIC HOVERSTEN
Mound (Population 9,371)
The City of Mound has exercised a summer schedule at City Hall for as long as anyone on the administrative staff can remember. Our city sits on the western side of beautiful Lake Minnetonka, so you might think this seasonal adjustment is all about letting employees enjoy our amazing lake. While that is a perk, the change is really more about customer service.

Our schedule change actually happens more in line with when we change our clocks for daylight saving time. From May to October, City Hall is open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday. The rest of the year, it is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Schedule aligns with customer needs
Much of the summertime customer service we provide is related to the various forms of outside activity and work that are unique to the summer season. With the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, contractors often start work at 7 a.m., and work as late into the day as possible.

As the week goes on, contractors begin to hit their overtime thresholds, and we have a slowdown in client interactions come Friday afternoon. We complete our 40-hour week about the time on Friday that most of our clients are shifting into weekend mode.

Nice for employees, too
Our administrative staff is too small to break into offset shifts to cover more of the clock, so we find that the swing into a summer-hour schedule is a very efficient way to meet the community needs.

And many of the employees find this to be an enjoyable feature of our summer workload as well. It gives them a chance to get a head start on the weekend.

Possible extension to public works
Our public works bargaining unit has recently asked to somewhat mirror this, except using a “4-10s” schedule, with Friday or Monday off, spread across individual team members. We are seriously considering it since it extends our ability to address public works issues to 50 hours per week, without any overtime. It does not increase the total labor hours worked by the team, but spreads them further across the week.

This would be another win-win situation. While keeping service to the community our top priority, it also gives employees an opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend.

Read the May-Jun 2018 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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