ButterflyMX chief people officer: 'Now our employees and candidates want more'

Although California will have to wait for a four-day workweek, a New York firm's employees are asking for it

ButterflyMX chief people officer: 'Now our employees and candidates want more'

A four-day workweek won’t be coming to California anytime soon.

Assembly Bill 2932 would make the official workweek 32 hours for companies with 500 employees or more, giving higher raises and time-and-a-half pay to any worker who surpasses that cutoff. Although the bill had been referred to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, it missed the April 29 deadline for legislative policy committees to send it along for consideration by fiscal committees, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The state’s legislature has shelved the concept for now, citing too little time left in the current session to weigh a bill that would have applied to hourly employees.

In addition to lawmakers, companies across the United States need more time to consider such a seismic shift in how work gets done. For example, employees at New York City-based tech firm ButterflyMX have asked leadership to consider a four-day workweek.

“I haven’t wrapped my head around how to make that work yet,” Lucy Lemons, chief people officer at ButterflyMX, told HRD. “Our products are in people’s homes, and we need to be able to help our customers 24/7. But our employees want time where everybody shuts down so you really feel like you can turn off. How do you do that and keep growing, especially at the stage we’re in?”

Read more: California company puts new spin on four-day workweek

With a smartphone app, integrations to other cloud-based systems and a property management dashboard all designed to make property access easy, ButterflyMX is used for nearly 8,000 buildings and more than 750,000 apartments. Lemons joined the firm last fall, having previously worked for TripAdvisor and Forrester Research, among other companies in the Northeast.

Since joining ButterflyMX, she has dealt with two major challenges that all HR leaders are currently contending with: fostering connection with employees in a distributed world and creating an employee experience that caters to enough people and enough different needs, while still accomplishing the business’ goal.

“It’s not enough to say we trust you to get your work done, we’re a results-driven business, we don’t care about the 9-to-5 schedule, etc.,” Lemons says. “That’s been our culture, but now our employees and candidates in the market want more.”

Similar to the “right to disconnect,” a four-day workweek has proven popular outside the U.S. Earlier this year, Belgium legalized the right of workers to earn a full salary for compressing their five-day workweek into four days — though employers can turn down such requests with a written explanation. In Iceland, it has been the norm for a while, with 86% of Icelandic workers either enjoying the perk or having the right to ask to do so, Wired reported.

In 2020, the Nova Scotia municipality of Guysborough underwent a trial for employees throughout the town, with government officials calling it a “win-win.” In 2019, Microsoft Japan reported a 40% boost in productivity after implementing a four-day workweek during the summer. Spain and Scotland are also experimenting with the concept.

Currently, 35 companies in the U.S. and Canada, including New York City-based Kickstarter, are performing a six-month trial organized by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. Nearly 2,000 employees are getting a paid day off weekly through the course of the trial.

Last summer, California Congressman Mark Takano introduced federal legislation to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by lowering the maximum threshold for overtime compensation. Takano pointed to successful pilot programs from around the world, which resulted in more productivity, better work/life balance and heightened morale. He also alluded to potential benefits of cheaper health care premiums and lower operational costs for employers.

Of course, the concept has its fair share of critics.

Assembly Bill 2932 “significantly increases labor costs by imposing an overtime pay requirement after 32 hours and other requirements that are impossible to comply with, exposing employers to litigation under the Private Attorneys General Act,” according to a statement from The California Chamber of Commerce.

“It just seems like fewer days, but more work,” Lattice Hudson, business coach and founder of Scottsdale, AZ-based Lattice & Co., told HRD. “The employees will be overburdened, plain and simple. Four days isn't enough to get jobs done, especially if these employees work for larger, more demanding companies.”

As for Lemons, she’s quite familiar with having to adapt to changing regulations, as evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic. “When things are mandated by the government, it requires everyone to figure it out,” she says. “What makes it difficult, which is the way of the world in HR, is when different states have different regulations and there’s additional complexity. It’s figuring out how we tell our organization here’s the baseline experience we want for people and in states where we need to, we’ll flex.”

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