There’s no question that business has looked quite different in 2020 than it has in the past. While some industries have flourished under the new world order that COVID-19 has brought, many have taken a big hit when it comes to revenue and workload. We fell in the latter camp, with in-person tradeshows and corporate events coming to a screeching halt as early as February. As you can imagine, we had to make plenty of decisions internally to ensure we take care of our employees and look positively towards the future. Some changes were no-brainers: working from home, exploring new business opportunities, and holding daily huddles to keep up momentum and morale. But one of the most impactful changes we made as a group was to switch to a 4-day workweek.
To say there was apprehension when we first started discussing this option would be an understatement. After all, the decision would have a massive impact on our employees and the way we do business! Our leadership had been considering the change long before Coronavirus was discovered and disrupted our world. You see, there’s a pervasive problem that comes with running a business. The problem? Businesses are made up of people. And people, as it turns out, perpetually have trouble with their mindset when it comes to work-life balance. We’ve been conditioned to see the block of time between 8am-5pm Monday-Friday as work time. Whether there’s actual work to be done has become irrelevant. This block is for work, which means you can’t use it for personal activities or growth. No wonder people get burnt out! In any given week (168hrs), you’ve only got a few hours each night and two weekend days to focus on yourself. Account for sleep and it adds up to little more than 25% of your own life that you’re focusing on YOU! If you don’t see the effects of this mindset in your own business, you’re probably not paying close enough attention.
We’ve tried to counteract this culture for many years, starting by actively providing our employees with recovery strategies and time after intense projects. The more difficult task was to give them permission to truly change their mindset. The concept is simple: the amount of work should dictate the amount we work. When COVID hit, and our workload vanished almost overnight, it became obvious that this was the perfect time to consider the 4-day week and put an end to the 5-day mentality.
We needed to research, get feedback from the team, and weigh the costs with the benefits before we fully committed to anything. So, we hit the “books,” and thankfully, we’re far from the first company to consider and implement a 4-day week. This Huffington Post article details numerous examples from school districts to corporations in the US and around the globe. Many of these organizations reported boosts in employee satisfaction and morale as well as productivity, a win-win! Even Microsoft experimented with the 4-day week in Japan and reported a 40% (!!) increase in productivity compared to the previous year. Clearly, the benefits are there…so why isn’t every organization in the world taking advantage? Our initial fear was focused on our largest projects, which have previously required months of round-the-clock attention culminating in 10-14 days of continuous onsite work (welcome to the tradeshow industry). How would these be possible with one less day of work available? How about holidays and vacation days, how do those change? Once leadership posed the idea to the entire team, we did several rounds of discussions and surveys to exhaust every concern. There were open conversations, with and without leaders present, to make sure every voice was heard.
In the end, we decided that the benefits outweighed the costs for our organization. Once everyone understood and agreed upon the full scope, we had a 4.86/5 average survey rating when asked if everyone was on board. After working out some specifics, we were able to implement the change in about 2 weeks. We did it a little differently in that we have 2 different “shifts.” Half of our employees work Monday-Thursday while the other half work Tuesday-Friday. This means we maintain our availability to handle any client inquiries or emergencies that need our attention on any given day. Everyone has a backup they can transition work to as required for their off day. But let’s not forget the whole point of this change: a shift in mindset. Everyone is now responsible for managing their workload to make it fit into their 4 days. We’re lucky enough to have this downtime to practice and perfect our strategy with much less work on our desks. This means when the industry does come back, we’ll be experts in managing it effectively. Moreover, we’ll be experts in recovery and mindset.
So far, the proof is in the pudding at Point to Point. Our team unanimously loves this change. I can tell you personally that we have felt the productivity benefits with four days compared to five. It will also become an extremely valuable recruiting tool for us in the future. Still not convinced? Reach out to us! We’d love to talk more in-depth about our shift and whether it’s the right choice for your business.
Until next time, stay safe, everybody!
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