The wine isn’t the only sparkling thing about working at Benjamin Bridge.
The Gaspereau Valley winery has begun a pilot project to introduce a four-day week for its employees.
“I had the idea to pitch it to the senior management team a few months ago, and it’s come to fruition with the support of the team,” co-owner Ashley McConnell-Gordon said in an interview. “I think it’s the story of Benjamin Bridge; we evolve as best we can with the times, recognizing what people value and how we can be more equitable as an employer. We’ve been hearing about the four-day-week model, which is not about working longer days so much as working smarter, and fewer hours.”
For Benjamin Bridge, the concept came from the production team, which adopted the modification this past summer.
“And what we found is that work joy and productivity went up, and overall well-being,” McConnell-Gordon said. “So through that trial, we challenged all of our departments to see how they could adopt it this fall, and here we are. It’s a 36-hour work week that we pay 40 hours for, and in addition to working 36 hours in four days, so nine-hour days, over the course of several weeks, they have excess hours that we paid them for that they didn’t. ‘t work. And our hope is that it provides an opportunity to focus on their wellness, gain more work-life balance and come back energetic after a three-day break, focused and even more competitive in the workplace.”
The four-day week at Benjamin Bridge includes “a little tweak in that our team also has to commit to doing nine hours of volunteerism in the community over an eight-week period,” the idea there being to give people space to be more active. citizens. It applies to the owners as well.
“For myself, I’m hoping to be a business mentor through the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. That’s what I’m interested in supporting, and I know there are some that are interested in the SPCA, others that want to contribute through food banks. We don’t have a list yet of where people are contributing, but that is where we’re headed,” said McConnell-Gordon. “Everybody is excited to try it. I think the opportunity to do more for the community resonates.”
The winery’s departments include hospitality, production, vineyard, marketing and sales, and a modified work week is easier for some than others.
“All the departments are figuring out how to implement this year-round. It’s a challenge; we’re in the farming industry but we’re piloting it, trying to navigate our way through it. For (some) departments, it’s quite natural and easy enough to do.”
The modification comes as Benjamin Bridge has also undertaken the initiative of keeping the winery open year-round. It created a rink last winter and this year will add groomed walking and snowshoeing trails. Beginning this weekend, the vineyard will be lit at night, which will hopefully continue the trend that saw traffic triple last winter.
“It stems from, ‘Why are we doing this in the Gaspereau Valley of Nova Scotia?’ and it’s because we want to be a responsible, sustainable business. For us, that means not having a seasonal workforce, but trying to create permanent, stable jobs in rural Nova Scotia. In order to do that, we have to think about how we can extend our season and keep people employed,” McConnell-Gordon said. “Last year was extremely exciting with the rink, and we saw the potential to do even more. We want to keep mostly everybody going, and that’s very different from some of the other agritourism businesses. The way we do it is by creating innovative fun experiences that people can take in.”
Right now, Benjamin Bridge has 65 people on the payroll, 40 of them full time. There are more than 100 in the summer.
Other wineries are also trying to find ways to extend their season.
“We currently have an initiative out right now called Behind the Vine where we are trying to push the tourism season out into November and have events running through till the end of the weekend,” said Haley Brown, executive director, Wine Growers Nova Scotia, pointing to newly renovated Luckett Vineyard, Lightfoot & Wolfville and Domaine de Grand as wineries hoping to be open over the winter. “Grand Pre is hosting the Ice Wine Festival in February this year.”