Prioritizing Islander Wellness

San Juan County knows its strength lies in the public servants who run its departments and programs. By prioritizing the people who keep the County running and promoting employee wellness with a 32-hour work week, San Juan County is setting the standard for quality work-life balance in the islands.

Adapting to Island Life

San Juan County is well known for its beautiful, remote location – accessible only by ferry, private boat, or plane. While its unique location is one of its many draws, it also poses considerable problems when it comes to accessing essential services.

Served by the Washington State Ferry system, the County and its residents often travel to the mainland for medical appointments, shopping, and entertainment opportunities. These trips are not only costly but time consuming. The 32-hour work week allows additional time for employees to schedule off-island travel in a way that will not interrupt normal working hours and County operations. Pilots and studies of a 32-hour work week show that when employees are given the option of tending to personal matters during time off on a weekday, absenteeism drops significantly and productivity increases.

Overall Well-Being

Research from the Henley Business School at the University of Reading in the UK shows there are clear benefits to a flexible workweek. "We found that those organizations already offering it are seeing improvements in employee satisfaction, increased staff productivity, and a reduction in sickness absences," the study said. Employees are reportedly less stressed and happier in organizations implementing a flexible working week. "Our research highlights positive impacts on family life, mental health, and physical fitness."

More recent data can be found in the world’s largest four-day working week trial to date: The UK’S Four-Day Week Pilot. Comprising 61 companies and around 2,900 workers, the study took place in the UK from June to December 2022. Some of the most extensive benefits of shorter working hours were found in employees’ well-being:

  • ‘Before and after’ data shows that 39% of employees were less stressed.
  • 71% of employees had reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial.
  • Levels of anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.

"It is time the United States equally prioritize quality of life and productivity," states a one-page report from a California 'Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act.' "The question of a shortened workweek is a productivity issue for employers and a quality-of-life issue for employees that branches into spheres beyond just work; healthcare, education, and childcare are all affected by the number of hours employees spend at work." This act was endorsed by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 4 Day Week Global, and others.

Protecting Family Time

The 32-hour work week supports growing families and offers working parents greater flexibility to align with their children's schedules. Parents are afforded one less day of childcare, the opportunity to pick their child up from school, or travel with their team to an off-island game or meet – all in an effort to make room for more meaningful family time.

Research from the Henley Business School at the University of Reading in the UK found that 69% of employees believe family life would improve as a result of the change in working practices. When asked how they would spend their extra time, meeting up with the family was the most popular activity across all generations (66%). There would also be a positive impact on the local economy with 54% of people saying they’d use the extra day to go shopping. Charities and non-profit organizations may also see a boost, with a quarter of respondents saying they’d use the extra time to volunteer.

San Juan County is choosing to support the whole person – not just the employee.

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