Co-founder of The Wanderlust Group outdoor travel technology firm; Concord resident
If the last year has taught the world anything, it’s to question fixed assumptions about work. We’ve learned offices aren’t always necessary, major cities don’t have a monopoly on talent, and above all, the five-day work week is pretty arbitrary.
Last year, my firm, The Wanderlust Group, moved to a four-day work week. We did it because our employees were stretched thin juggling their work and family during the pandemic shutdowns. We did it thinking, “Hey, we can withstand a short-term hit to productivity for the sake of our team.” But that short-term hit never came. In fact, the year that followed was arguably the most productive in our firm’s history. Revenue grew 99 percent from the previous year. Despite decreasing our time spent at work, sales doubled, support response-time was maintained, and employee turnover was well below the industry average.
After a pilot period, we made the four-day work week permanent and decided not to change salaries or the hours worked each day. But we did rethink how we organized our time — eliminating numerous standing meetings, communicating more asynchronously, and making decisions more quickly.
It’s great that we were able to maintain productivity, but let’s not forget what we gained: focus, energy, and a hiring edge. By taking Mondays off, our employees get an extra day to clear their heads before diving into their work. Because they have more time to get life done, we have heard from many on our team that they feel less drained and more focused.
While we are a small brand, we have seen interest in our job postings grow since introducing this benefit, allowing us to hire more top talent. Our company’s mission is to get more people outdoors, and giving our team this extra day back to go for a hike, get on the water, or just appreciate nature brings our mission to life.
A four-day work week would absolutely work for more companies, big or small. Since we started, we have met companies of all sizes and types that have successfully made this shift. Outcomes matter. Team health matters. Hitting an arbitrary target of hours worked does not.
CEO of Bay Copy in Rockland; Norwell resident
The idea of a four-day work week is gaining popularity. US Representative Mark Takano, of California, for instance, has introduced legislation to create a 32-hour, or four-day, work week. Appealing as this may sound, the argument must be made that now is not the right time to establish this as a national standard.
The last 18 months has dragged our economy into twists and turns with consequences we are still trying to figure out. Businesses are struggling to meet their customer needs in the face of supply chain interruptions and a reduced labor force. Computer chip shortages have hurt the technology industry; we’ve seen shortages in medical supplies and groceries, as well as soaring prices for lumber and used cars. This all points to the challenges in our economy to meet the needs of customers in a timely, efficient manner.
In this moment, we are stronger with an “all hands on deck” workforce to get things back on track.
Many industries, additionally, are not an ideal fit for a reduced work week. In any business where customer service is a key component, such as IT or printer/copier repair, customers need their services performed in a timely way. These companies cannot afford downtime and there would be great difficulties in addressing issues arising from a four-day week.
There are many instances in which companies could individually and voluntarily implement a more flexible work schedule within their organizations. Some already have. COVID-19 showed us that many industries can accomplish a lot of work remotely, which does introduce greater flexibility for employees.
I am the owner of a 49-year-old company. Many of our employees have been with us for more than two decades. We truly have a family culture in the organization, and I would always do anything I can to accommodate any employee. But this business, as many others, has survived because we meet our customer needs on time.
I do believe a time may come when we as a nation embrace a four-day week. But we still have too much cleanup to do following what COVID-19 has put us through. Let’s get our economy back on track first.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, contact email@example.com.
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