Clothing company sees benefits of shortened workweek

'It really does make a difference in the recruitment process,' says HR leader

Clothing company sees benefits of shortened workweek

Operating seven days a week, fashion label Kowtow Clothing wasn’t sure if the four-day work week model was a good fit for the company.

But after an internal survey revealed it was a popular option with employees, the company signed up for a large trial involving several employers currently underway in New Zealand. It started with a nine-day fortnight, meaning Kowtow’s employees get a three-day weekend every two weeks, according to Cathy Stewart, people and culture manager at Kowtow Clothing.

“Fashion is deadline-driven and we operate retail stores which run seven days a week and we really wanted to include our retail managers in the trial, which is a lot trickier, so we thought the nine-day fortnight was a good place to start.”

The program, run by non-profit 4 Day Week Global, recently revealed that none of the participating organizations are returning to a five-day week. Participating oganisations have reported positive changes in productivity, revenue, environmental impact, and health and well-being.

Gains in productivity, attraction at Kowtow

Four and a half months in, Kowtow has definitely seen benefits such as increased productivity and an elevation in employees’ energy levels by having that extra opportunity to rest and recharge, says Stewart.

And while the new format was a bit of work to set up, Kowtow employees were really pumped to make sure that it worked.

“Productivity doesn’t just start happening overnight,” she says. “It’s a real hand-on-heart type of thing. You really have to assess what you’re wasting time on – are your meetings too long, are you having too many meetings, does the stuff at the bottom of your to-do list really need to be done? So, team by team, we just sat down and assessed those things.”

At this stage in the trial, Stewart says that one of the biggest benefits is employee attraction.

“I’ve had four key positions that I’ve been recruiting for over the last few months, and it really does make a difference in the recruitment process to be able to say that that’s something we offer,” said Stewart.

Looking ahead

The four-day work week may be gaining global momentum, but for one culture expert, it’s doomed to fail.

While the company hasn’t made any firm decisions on continuing after the trial, Stewart said there has been no negative impact on the business at all.

“The key thing is you’ve got to make sure you’re meeting all your goals and targets. The good thing about joining the trial was it helped us form measurables and think through how it might impact the business.” 

“It's just great to see that the conversations happening, and people are thinking about it. And that employees are getting the opportunity to have a little bit more of that balance between their work and their personal life,” said Stewart.

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