Four-day work weeks improve staff wellbeing and productivity, boss says and makes policy permanent
As the Covid-19 pandemic stretched on into the fall of 2020, Jamie Savage noticed her staff was suffering burnout.
Ms Savage, the founder and CEO of Toronto-based recruitment firm The Leadership Agency, called her COO Elizabeth Tufegdzich and asked if she had noticed a malaise setting in among their employees, who had been working remotely for six months.
“We need to make some changes,” Ms Savage recalls saying.
The company already allowed staff to work a half-day on Fridays, and so they thought, why not make the leap to a four-day work week.
The nine staff members remained on the same wages and benefits, and it was made clear they wouldn’t be asked for anything in return.
Ms Savage told The Independent she noticed an immediate impact on staff productivity and wellbeing, as well as the company balance sheet.
Revenue doubled and conversion rates for job applicants they were assisting went from 74 per cent to 96 per cent.
Ms Tufegdzich told The Independent the shift was “really dramatic at a time when a lot of small businesses were struggling”.
“And overall just team happiness is a big measure of productivity as well. Somebody can be performing really well but still be really disengaged at work.”
The firm’s management agreed they had to set the tone, and forced themselves to switch off from answering work emails on Fridays.
“We had to get really intentional about taking Fridays off and lead by example,” Ms Savage said.
Staff took advantage of the extra day of freedom to go to the dentist, visit a museum, or catch up with family.
Some took the opportunity to try therapy, as prioritising mental health became vital during the pandemic.
They told staff that it was their time “to do whatever makes you feel better, and whatever makes you come to work on Monday your best self”.
Ms Savage said the key to the programme’s success was not asking for nothing in return from their staff.
“This is a true addition to their lives. We didn’t want there to be any sacrifice or exchange made.”
At the time The Leadership Agency trialled their new work regime, there was no playbook on how to launch or implement it, so they had to come up with processes themselves.
“There wasn’t anyone in our peer group or competitive landscape that was doing this. We did it because it felt right and we’re a small business so we can be agile,” Ms Savage said.