Five day work weeks are ubiquitous. The words ‘work week’ are synonymous with the words ‘five days’. This is considered a standard work week. But why?
The answer is, almost 100 years ago Henry Ford decided to close his seven day a week factories for two days. He thought this would be best for his team, which was a monumental move. That being said, his team produced cars … in the early 1900’s. Yet we’ve applied this five day structure to almost every job, everywhere. Why are we mirroring the work week structure of a company who made cars in the early 1900s? We’ve certainly come a long way in the advancement of cars, but why not on how we structure our work weeks? This work week was not based on the fact that it’s the best way to do things, it’s just ‘a’ way of doing things and it is completely made up .. by a guy who had the best interest of his employees in the early 1900s.
Maybe there is another way (or multiple other ways) to structure a work week. When your schedule allows for five days to complete your work, you will structure your week to allow your work to be completed in those five days. Work expands so as to fill the time we have available to complete it. But what if we had four days? Could we complete the same amount of work (or more) in that time? Maybe remove a few unnecessary meetings, shorten others, and structure our days to be as productive as possible. Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? We’ll see!
Plain and simple, to improve the balance that is work and life. We want our team at GBL to be happy, healthy, and productive. If this trial is a success, there will also be some ancillary benefits to implementing a four day work week. Some of these (hopefully) being; attracting and retaining great people, increased employee engagement, smaller carbon footprint, and more. But the one that is at the nucleus of every benefit that we could see is improved work/life balance.
In June 2020, after a few months of lockdowns and quarantining, we wanted to give our team a bit more flexibility. We made the decision to trial a modified 4.5 day work week. Work a bit more Monday to Thursday and log off around lunch time on Friday. After a couple months of trialing this, we made the change permanent. So, we are going from a modified 4.5 day work week to a true 4 day work week, which makes it a little easier. The plan is to work a true four day work week, four 8 hour days. There was some calendar gymnastics that took place in order to compress our schedules to four days. This was accomplished by focusing on the efficiency of meetings and the work day. Our recurring meetings will now bookend the days, ensuring the team has sufficient heads down time during the core of the day.
This is something we have been trying to figure out for awhile now. Is there a specific metric, or set of metrics, that we can look at to determine if the trial was a success? The conclusion we've come to is, no. There is no single north star that we will gaze upon to give us the answer. This will require a combination of metrics, survey results, data points, and maybe most importantly, feedback from the team. We also don’t have to make a decision at the end of the trial. We could extend the trial as we iron out some wrinkles. We could step back to 4.5 day work weeks for a short period of time while we prepare ourselves for a second 4 day work week trial. Time will tell what the best decision to make will be.
This will not impact salaries. Again, the goal is to get the same amount (if not more) done in four days of work. We do not link salaries to hours worked. It’s about the impact someone makes, not the amount of time someone is sitting at their work station. The same goes for vacation. This is not an alternative to giving our team vacation time. We will still provide the same amount of vacation time per year. So, here goes nothing. There are definitely risks involved in trialing a four day work week. We don’t know what lies ahead, but what we do know is that our intentions are in the right place. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to separate work and life, so let’s focus on what we can do to harmonize the two. Stay tuned for more blogs and posts about how our trial is going! :)