Early Results from the 4-Day Workweek Experiment: Employees Love It and So Do Employers

As workplaces of all kinds consider creative ways to boost retention and attract talent, it might be time to consider a radical departure from tradition – a four-day workweek.

According to the Great Place to Work® organization, Kickstarter tested it, Cisco is trying it and Healthwise implemented it after massive resignations and found that four days are more productive than five. A San Francisco-based e-commerce company, Bolt, piloted the program last summer, allowing employees to take certain Mondays off to recharge.

Following that experiment, Bolt put a four-day week in play so all employees could go offline on Fridays for three months. Morale went up, employees were happier and productivity got a shot in the arm. The decision to make the policy permanent was a “no-brainer,” Jennifer Christie, Bolt’s chief people officer, told Best Place to Work.

After a survey, which drew participation from 80% of the 735-member workforce, 94% of workers and 93% of managers wanted the program to continue. Also:

  • 84% noted an improvement in their work-life balance
  • 84% said they were more productive
  • 86% said they were more efficient with their time

While retention levels stayed the same, Bolt saw 200% more applicants in 2022 compared with the same time period in 2021, “suggesting the culture we’ve built and adopted here at Bolt is a huge differentiator for us,” Christie said.

Here is an edited version of a Q&A with Christie published by Great Place to Work.

What were the biggest lessons learned and challenges you faced?

Christie: Initially, there was quite a large operational lift to make this work. It was important to Bolt that we didn’t think of this change as doing five days of work in a four-day period. We had everybody wipe their calendars clean, not only to ensure that we weren’t scheduling anything for Fridays, but also forced us to be very intentional about what meetings were occupying our time. Certain meetings were reduced to 15 minutes from 30 minutes, others were shifted from weekly to bi-weekly, and many were scrapped entirely. This shift allowed our company to free up time for focused work while also easing the burden of trying to change the entire company’s schedules on a disjointed and more rolling basis.

Another logistical burden was how the company managed our holiday schedule. Initially, weeks with a holiday replaced the company-wide offline day, but many found this to be confusing and frustrating for our team. We decided to honor both holidays and our offline Fridays.

What are the key factors to a successful roll-out and implementation?

Christie: We had to make sure that everyone was fully bought in. We recognized that this policy would never take hold if our senior employees were working and demanding things from their teams on Fridays. Additionally, to truly evaluate the pilot program’s success, we needed everybody to actually abide by this new schedule so we could evaluate the output the organization was producing before and after the change.

Is this model for everyone—even non-tech companies?

Christie: If an organization has a more traditional nine-to-five and is willing to put in the time and energy required to evaluate this new working model for its employees, it could definitely make this model work. There are many more organizations out there that this could work for, they just might not know it yet.

 

 

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