Conventional wisdom holds that a great employee experience promotes a great customer experience. That – combined with a growing body of evidence that the traditional 40-hour workweek may not be the most effective or healthy model – has inspired me to institute a four-day workweek for all Heart of the Customer team members. [Insert blaring trumpets here!]
As a data-driven organization, we’re starting cautiously. We’ve committed to this new schedule on a 90-day trial basis for now, from mid-June through Labor Day. We won’t make the change permanent until we can gather enough data to reliably gauge the impact on our company and our clients.
But we have every reason to believe that this trial period we will be a success.
Our aim is to devise and adopt efficiencies that will allow us to deliver the same or higher quality work for our clients in fewer “office” hours and give our team members more time for fulfilling and rejuvenating personal pursuits.
A lofty goal, to be sure…but one that seems well within reach.
After all, we’re joining a growing number of organizations in the U.S. and around the world that are exploring alternatives to the five-day grind. The pandemic – and its impact on parenting, general stress levels, and how people think about work – only accelerated the momentum of a movement that was already steadily gaining steam.
We all know intuitively (and many of us from experience!) that working more hours doesn’t lead to better outcomes. What we’re setting out to discover this summer is where the “sweet spot” is. What will allow us to maximize employees’ skills and creativity without courting burnout, and without compromising on the experience we deliver for our clients?
A change like this will also help us retain and recruit the top-tier talent our clients rely on us to provide. A recent Qualtrics survey found that 92% of workers want a four-day workweek. It’s also ranked as the No. 1 factor in promoting company loyalty, beating out unlimited vacation or paid mental health days. (Though at Heart of the Customer, we offer those things, too!)
Seeking continual improvement and new ways to promote employee well-being are SOP (standard operating procedure) for us. While this may be the biggest step we’ve taken in this regard, it’s far from the first. In addition to our generous vacation policy, we also offer a company-wide “week of rest” at the end of each year.
That’s in addition to well-paying internships, Election Day off, and a generous annual stipend for skill development for every employee. We also donate a portion of our revenue every quarter to support non-profit community organizations (including this one and this one). And an employee-led committee determines where we direct those funds. That enables our giving to reflect and support team members’ interests and priorities.
One source of inspiration for me in deciding to trial this schedule change was the book Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less—Here’s How. Author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang interviewed more than 100 companies that shortened their total working hours, kept salaries the same, and maintained the same levels of profitability, productivity, and customer service. (For a quicker introduction to the concept, check out this video instead!)
We’re adopting the model that has everyone working the same four days. (In our case, that will be Mondays through Thursdays.) This is the most common approach for companies that move to a four-day workweek. We think this variation maximizes the benefits for team members while maintaining consistency and clarity for clients. And choosing to cut Fridays was a no-brainer. That’s typically the day with the fewest scheduled meetings and the least client engagement. (According to Gartner research, about 55% of companies already offer reduced Friday hours, if only for the summer.)
As the company that set best-practice standards for journey mapping, it feels natural that we’re applying the same curiosity, ingenuity, and professionalism to tackle scalability and workplace processes. Because this isn’t really about a three-day weekend. It’s about devising and adopting new efficiencies. As HoC Practice Lead Nicole Newton likes to say “constraints generate creativity.”
The last thing we want is for our team members to simply pile Friday’s hours onto other days. Our aim is to find ways to work better and smarter.
I believe that experimentation is one of the best ways to discover the truth. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how this summer unfolds. We’ll be monitoring performance and impact throughout the trial period and we’ll let you know how things work out.
Obviously, not all experiments are successful, but we’re committed to outcomes here, not hours. A four-day workweek might not be the right solution for our company or our clients. But if that’s the case, you can be sure we’ll keep looking.