Why this organization switched to a four-day work week…and back again

Alternatives to the Monday-Friday grind are rising in popularity, and while some companies claim four-day weeks are the key to their success, others have returned to the road well-travelled

Why this organization switched to a four-day work week…and back again
Alternative management techniques are popular amongst small businesses and technology crowds, but governments are usually more conservative. However, the state of Utah made a bold move by experimenting with a compact work week across its entire workforce for several years, and many other companies are citing its experiment as a basis for moves of their own toward compacted work schedules.

Award-winning Indianapolis business Slingshot SEO has moved its 81 employees to four days of work. And in Portland, the 70 employees at online education company Treehouse consider their 32-hour Monday to Thursday routine to be full-time. According to Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson, candidates regularly choose his company over tech giants like Facebook because of the four-day policy. “One of the team told me he regularly gets emails from Facebook (recruiters) trying to win him over,” Carson wrote on Quartz, “and his answer is always the same: ‘Do you (offer) work a four-day week yet?’”

When the Utah state government was on a four-day week, they also found it was a particularly successful recruiting technique for the Department of Information Technology, according to Wendy Peterson, SPHR, who is the state’s deputy director in the Department of Human Resource Management.

“We marketed this work schedule as excellent work/life balance for potential employees,” she said. The state’s technique was different from companies like Slingshot SEO and Treehouse in that Utah employees’ hours were not reduced from 40, but merely compacted so that employees worked 10 hours a day, four days a week.

However, after an audit was conducted by bureaucracy 2010, the tactic was removed, and the state instead decided to allow individual agencies to determine what would work best for their own employees. A report to the government found that the estimated $15million in projected cost savings from four-day weeks did not materialize. It also found any improvements to productivity were either negligible or could not be objectively measured. And while the report noted that most employees were satisfied with the compacted work week, and that personal leave days were significantly reduced, it also said some managers had concerns about whether staff had the stamina to be productive for ten-hour shifts.

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