As of July 2022, ChickTech staff has transitioned to the 4-day work week. We now work from Mondays to Thursdays with a three-day weekend beginning on Friday. This transition didn’t happen overnight. So in this blog post, we’ll tell you about how we did it and our reasons behind the shift. We’ll also share some tips for how you can advocate for a 4-day work week at your organization.
Setting ourselves up for success
Our journey began with understanding how many of our staff members used their unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO), a policy we implemented back when ChickTech was first created in 2012. What surprised us was that the lack of structure made everyone less likely to request time off from work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new hires get 10 days of PTO a year on average, which increases to 15 days a year after 5 years of service. Given that our policy allows for a higher-than-average amount of vacation time, we were expecting staff members to use it more. It was implemented because our staff members’ mental health and well-being are important to us. So, we made it our mission to find out what was preventing them from using it.
We met with staff members to learn what they needed to feel comfortable taking the time off. Some staff members needed help with offloading duties, but some needed to hear that it was ok to take a break. This led to us implementing Recess Days. Recess Days started out as a single day out of each month that staff members could schedule off. “It was our way of dipping our toes in the water—to see if it would encourage more time away from our desks and help us stay refreshed and energized in our work,” said Tonya Pieske, Director of People & Operations at ChickTech. But, it didn’t take us long to notice the impact that Recess Days had on everyone. Being able to take that day off allowed us to see an improvement in the mental health of staff members. And with that increase in mental health, staff members were able to adjust their schedules and workloads without too many issues. This experience is what led to our researching the 4-day week.
We did a lot of research to understand the benefits of the 4-day week and implement it in a sustainable way. This involved reading the experiences of companies like Microsoft Japan, Bolt, and Perpetual Guardian. Many of the studies and experiences we read were about the ways that the 4-day week contributed to a healthier work-life balance. They also informed our understanding of how the 4-day week increased the productivity and efficiency of the companies.
The 4-day week gave employees more time to handle personal responsibilities, which decreased the risk of burnout. During that extra day off, employees could spend their time doing household work and caretaking. But, they could also spend that time resting and allowing their energy levels to return to normal. Either way, that extra day off gave them more time to spend on the things that were important to them outside of work. So by the time they returned to work, they were less stressed and more productive and creative.
Taking the plunge
After seeing how the Recess Days impacted staff members, the benefits of the 4-day week seemed promising. We decided to move forward with the transition and began having meetings with staff members regarding their hopes and concerns about it. We also asked about what the transition might look like if we succeeded compared to if we failed. The communication didn’t stop there though. We had all staff members involved in every part of the process. Doing so helped us to make sure the 4-day week worked for everyone. It also helped us set clear boundaries and expectations that everyone could follow.
For us, moving to the 4-day week looked like broadening our Recess Days. We added one day every month until we finally arrived at the 4-day work week. This entire process took 4 months to complete, but the end result was well worth it. Here are some comments from staff members about how they’ve been spending their extra day off:
- Dani, Marketing Manager: I have been using the day for mental relaxation – to decompress and give myself space to disconnect from work and home obligations.
- Annalise, Youth Program Manager: I use the day differently every week. Some days I’ll run errands, for example cleaning the house and going to health appointments. On other days I do weekend activities, like scheduling a tattoo appointment or skating.
- Shatoyia, Event Manager: I participate in my local NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) chapter, as well as have family time with my husband and toddler.
- Tonya, Director of People & Operations: I help out my brother and sister-in-law, do chores that I’m usually too tired to do during the week, and devote a solid day to practicing for upcoming shows.
- Renee, Community and Partnerships Manager: Fridays have become my most productive day of the week for my personal life, allowing me to use my weekends for fun and relaxation.
How to advocate for change at your organization
Although we’re a small team with unique opportunities to include all staff members in making big decisions, we believe that people working at companies of any size should have the ability to advocate for a better work-life balance. Here are a few tips for employees and managers to start this conversation at work:
- Share the data – Thanks to a growing interest and commitment by companies around the world, we have more data than ever about the benefits of the 4-day week. Our favorite resources that explain the benefits (and concerns) include: 4 Day Week Global, Four-Day Workweek by Conscious Culture, and the following blogs/articles on NPR and BBC News.
- Start the conversation – Start chatting with fellow workers about the benefits and concerns of transitioning to a 4-day week. By understanding what aspects of the 4-day week excite employees, as well as any concerns they may have, it’ll be easier to understand how the 4-day week could impact the company. Having these conversations also gives employees time to mentally prepare for the transition. This would allow them to feel more confident in their abilities to complete work when the schedule finally changes.
- Create a proposal – Employees and managers alike can start working on creating a proposal. The proposal should outline some basic steps leadership can take to explore a 4-day week. Remember: in the beginning, the proposal doesn’t have to be expansive or airtight. In fact, it should be as flexible as possible so that the necessary changes can be made as you understand more about employee and business needs. Some things to consider during this stage include:
- What are the business’ needs?
- What are the employees’ hopes and how do they relate to work/life balance?
- What type of concerns do employees have?
Afterward, you can work on proposing a trial that the company can follow. For more help creating a proposal for your company’s leadership, this excellent blog from OwlLabs guides you step-by-step through the process.
Please let us know about your experiences with the 4-day week at your company and how you’re improving the work-life balance there. Tag us @chicktechorg on social media to let us know about your thoughts and opinions!