The workweek is about to get one day shorter for employees at Elephant Ventures.
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The software and data engineering company is testing out a compressed four-day workweek starting this week. Employees will have 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday.
“Fridays we are off and we are trying to encourage pencils down, no emails or Slack. We want to really hold the time open,” said President and Founder Art Shectman.
A condensed four-day workweek isn’t a new concept. Companies sometimes implement them as a way to attract talent and increase productivity. New Zealand’s prime minister recently raised the idea of adopting a four-day workweek to offer workers more flexibility and help the country’s pandemic-hit economy.
Shectman said he started to notice some of his employees – particularly working parents – were struggling with work-life balance. Morale was also taking a hit.
“Morale across the board was suffering because of the loss of our very strong team and in-office culture,” he said.
But after the long July Fourth weekend, workers returned with more energy and focus, Shectman noted.
“Everyone came back refreshed. That extra day everyone took a pause. You could feel it in company morale. Everyone was more productive and engaged.”
A four-day workweek isn’t completely new to the company. Half of its 41-person staff is based in the Philippines, and have been working shorter schedules for five years. He said the company saw a 20%-30% productivity boost from the team after the schedule was condensed.
Now, with everyone working remote because of the pandemic, Shectman thought it seemed like an opportune time to test it in the US.
The company surveyed employees before the change, asking questions like whether a worker and manager are aligned on the same deliverables needed to be met each week, whether they agreed that a compressed week would boost productivity or offer more flexibility.
Burdens on the company’s working parents who were also juggling childcare and remote learning were a factor in the decision.
“The prospect of harvesting back that day to pursue their lives … I will say there is both fear and excitement from the parents,” said Shectman.
Longer days, shorter weeks
A company Slack channel was created for parents to compare notes on how to set up the best work schedule.
“Many parents were anxious about how to reorganize their schedule, particularly with distance learning and kids in school,” said Shectman.
A lot of employees are planning to start their day around 7:00 am and end at 6:00 pm, with a one-hour break for lunch. Some workers might get going a little earlier at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.
Noah Schottenfeld, a product owner at the company, started his day Monday at 6:30 am – an hour earlier than usual. He lives in California with his wife and two kids.
He plans to use his Fridays off to schedule appointments and hopefully volunteer at his kids’ school.
“It helps to be able to have a day when you always know you can schedule something.” He added that having an extra day off will help with his work as well.
“Whenever I take a three-day weekend or have a holiday, it helps with focus and morale for myself. I am honestly looking forward to having that third day every week to rejuvenate and recharge.”
To help create more solid blocks of work time, the company is trying to rein in how much time is spent in meetings.
“We are trying to get away from big hour-long meetings to shorter and smaller meetings. We’re working on meeting efficiency,” said Shectman.
The company plans to test out the new workweek in August and September. August will help get everyone familiar with the change, while September will be an opportunity to learn how well the work days jibe with whatever happens to children’s school schedules.
“The last handful of months has been tough for a lot of working parents to accommodate distance learning throughout the workday,” said Shectman.
The company will survey employees at the end of August and make a decision whether to continue into September. They will re-survey at the end of September.
If key performance indicators aren’t met or survey results regarding morale, engagement or work life balance are negative, the program will be canceled.
But if the shorter week is successful, the company could even go one step further to shortening working schedules.
“Depending on finances and customer satisfaction, we might consider reducing the work day one hour in October,” Shectman said.
The company alerted its clients of the schedule shift, pledging that productivity would remain the same or improve. So far, clients have been supportive.
“The message to them was we won’t be around on Friday, but we are going to be more productive and more efficient.”