BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Western New York college is setting a new bar when it comes to work schedules. At the start of December, D’Youville College announced staff would move to a four-day work week.
The unique move impacts staff like Belinda Penque, who works at the Student Success Center. Like many working parents, she knows how hectic life can get.
"Balance is a little extra tricky," she said. "When we get the kid's schedules from school, I use my PTO time to take off any days that they might have off or just spring break, things like that."
When she found out her employer, D’Youville College, was moving to a four-day work week, she thought it was great.
"Yesterday, I can't even count how much stuff I did," Penque said. "In one day, I just got so much [done] because my kids are in school and I'm there by myself."
President Lorrie Clemo made the announcement at the start of the new year, after trying it out during the pandemic. There was no cut to benefits or pay, just fewer hours.
"The benefits of what we saw to our employees in terms of being better rested, improved creativity during that time, just overall better happiness for them, at a period where there was a lot of stress and anxiety all around us," Clemo explained.
Staff and administrators moved to 32-hour work weeks, with their new days off staggered to make sure everything kept working smoothly.
They're using technology plans to teach employees how to work smarter, not longer, even managing to keep some student services open later.
"Students are served better and happy, and our employees are happier," Clemo said.
Penque and her colleagues use the time to run errands, do laundry, make calls and more. These are things that they would usually need to be squeezed in during the week or that would take away from family time during the weekend.
"It has made my life a lot easier," explained Penque. "It has made having a full-time job seem more manageable with a family."
So far, the only difference she sees is a few more emails in the inbox after a day off, but it’s nothing she or coworkers can’t handle.
"I know everybody overlaps and helps each other out," Penque said. "We can only speak to our area, [but] I would think that it feels very sustainable to me."
These are little wins that the college hopes might inspire big changes across higher education.
"We are looking to blaze the trail," said Clemo.
Faculty are not included in the reduced work week at D’Youville since they have a collective bargaining agreement with the college. Clemo says this when it comes to ongoing contract negotiations, everything is on the table.