Louisiana college offers option of four-day work week

Tammy Sharp

Northwestern State University’s recent decision to allow staff to choose between a four-day or five-day work week will have little impact on employees at the Leesville-Fort Polk, La., campus, said Larry Monk, NSU’s executive director in Leesville, La.

Beginning this summer and moving into the fall, staff members will be allowed to choose their schedules, as a result of higher gas prices, said NSU President Randall Webb. The new schedule may help those with longer commutes.

“It’s going to be more difficult than it sounds because offices still have to be open,” said Monk. “No one on the Leesville campus is going to it as far as I know at this time.”

At the Leesville campus, which is quite small compared to the Natchitoches campus, job duties are not easily shared, explained Monk. Generally, one person does one job, and the absence of one employee can have a much bigger impact than it would at a larger campus where others can more easily fill the gap.

In addition, the four-day work week would mean that  just because someone is present in the office doesn’t mean the office would be open, since workers who choose the shortened work week would be working before or after regular office hours.

The four-day work week for employees would not translate into a four-day service week, Monk continued. Offices would still be open five days a week.

“There are some who would  benefit greatly if we went to a four-day service week,” Monk said. “Then it would work here.”

The shorter week would also not apply to faculty and staff, Monk said. Currently the Leesville campus offers classes in a Monday/Wednesday combination or Tuesday/Thursday, but some classes do occur on Fridays, especially compressed video classes from the main campus that are on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.

Enrollment at the university is down this year compared to two years ago when the number of students attending campus-wide was more than 10,500, Monk said.

Enrollment is  probably below 9,000 for next year, attributable to several factors, including the 2005 hurricanes, deployments, and the state’s lower unemployment rate.

When people have jobs, Monk said, then they don’t enroll in higher education.

Leesville Daily Leader