Why one Ottawa business decided to move to a four-day work week
Another Canadian company has decided to make the switch to a four-day work week, a move CEO John Findlay hopes will give his employees more opportunities to find that sought-after work-life balance.
In mid-December 2020, Ottawa-based LemonadeLXP announced it had moved to a four-day work week, with employees on the job Monday to Thursday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., with Fridays off.
Adopted in line with the company principle, "strive to delight," everyone still earns the same salary they did before the change, and already Findlay says morale seems to be up among the team of 26 employees.
"I think people have really appreciated the better work-life balance," he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.
Described as a digital adoption and learning experience platform, part of LemonadeLXP's work involves helping staff and customers learn and use new technologies.
The company moved to remote work in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although Findlay says they already had plans and the infrastructure in place to have employees work remotely three days of the week starting that summer, in part to reduce the amount of time spent driving.
However, as COVID changed the nature of work, he says there were concerns around employee burnout and people putting in hours on evenings and weekends.
Findlay says it was felt that giving employees an extra day off could help them recharge. After piloting the idea in November 2020, and with "overwhelmingly positive feedback," the company chose to take the next step.
"We simply said you don't have to be at work on Fridays, and I think people have found ways to improve efficiency a little bit," Findlay said.
"And so maybe that four days is a little bit more packed, but the reward is huge because you've got a three-day weekend every weekend."
While not as widescale, the move to a four-day work week has gained traction in some parts of the country and around the world.
In December 2020, Zorra Township in Ontario, located between Kitchener and London, Ont., made the shift, with its 30 full-time employees now working 10 hours a day, four days a week.
The Toronto-based recruitment company The Leadership Agency started its four-day work schedule in October 2020 after what CEO Jamie Savage described as a period of employee burnout during the pandemic.
"People started to invest in their physical health and well-being, we started to see this come alive. And since then, our revenue has more than doubled," Savage told CTVNews.ca previously.
Around the world, Reykjavik City Council and the Icelandic government launched a similar program in 2015. The change saw a decline in employee stress and either the same, or increased, productivity.
Microsoft saw a 40 per cent boost in productivity after starting a four-day work week in its Japanese offices in 2019.
And after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested in May 2020 that a four-day work week could be part of its solution to restart the economy, Unilever, the distributor of Lipton's tea, Dove soap and Ben & Jerry's ice cream announced its own plans to test a four-day work week in the country.
For LemonadeLXP, deadlines haven't changed and the company still aims to service its customers between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
But since starting the program, Findlay says employees have gone to visit families, taken short trips and generally improved their lives.
Because deadlines are still the same, he believes employees also are spending their work time more efficiently. He also has seen people more willing to pitch in and help out their colleagues, a type of "boomerang effect" he didn't expect initially.
In an age of shareholder capitalism, geared toward increased growth each quarter, Findlay says he believes this puts a tremendous amount of pressure on individuals — and to what end, he asks.
Plus, with life as short as it is, he says spending so much of it working seems to be a waste.
"Obviously, you want your business to grow and succeed, but how hard do you need to push people, and I think people being pushed too hard ultimately has a negative impact on the world," he said.
And while being a leader in this field wasn't the objective, Findlay does hope more companies will consider the idea.
"We were trying to make our team's lives better, that's really what we were trying to do," he said.
"But do I hope that other companies will do that? Yes, I do."