A four-day working week sounds very interesting in theory, but very few companies implement it in practice. However, Webpower Adria designed a permanent practice that resulted in satisfied and engaged employees, and they shared their story on HR Days conference. Here are the details. HR Days konferenciji. U nastavku donosimo detalje.
You are one of the few companies in Croatia that introduced a four-day work week. Not only that, but you have kept the eight-hour working hours, while some of your employees are asking to work the usual (for a five-day work week) 40 hours. What prompted you to make this move?
Since the first Corona lock-down, we started working from home and very quickly found that our team was more productive and efficient under those circumstances, and we felt that we needed to somehow return that increased productivity to them.
Earlier, we faced the challenge of employees leaving the company for a better financial offer. As a small company, we created top Email marketing experts and were a desirable source of workforce that acquires very specific knowledge and experience, which is drastically lacking in the labor market. And here we could never fight with the big IT Unicorns or Pharmaceutical giants who stole our staff just because they could offer them better financial conditions, which at that moment we could not compete with.
And then we asked ourselves the question, what is it that is more valuable than money? The only thing money cannot buy is time and health. This is exactly the effect of a 4-day work week, more free time that we can use for various activities that positively affect our health, whether mental or physical. For us, the introduction of a 4-day work week from day one was not a pilot project with which we want to get the most out of the company, but a permanent practice with the aim of raising the quality of life of our employees. Therefore, we did not reduce salaries or increase the number of hours worked to 10 hours four days a week, but we gave our colleagues a raise in the form of free time.
Before shortening the work week, you conducted a SWOT analysis to find out what threats and opportunities the change in the way you work brings... What did you discover from the analysis and what did you focus on?
Of course, our focus was on strengths and opportunities, while we decided to deal with potential weaknesses and threats as they came. We couldn't even foresee all the challenges at the start, but what was a possible threat to us in that process, so that the quality of customer support for our clients would not be compromised. For this reason, we did not introduce the 4-day working week model in such a way that we all use Friday as a day off, but we divided into groups and during the current week each group has one day off, and the next month we rotate for a day. In this way, everyone will meet their free Friday or Monday, sooner or later. Over time, we found that such a schedule presented us with a challenge, since we did not have a single day in the week when we could all be together for training or teambuilding. We perfected the model very quickly, so we designated Monday, Wednesday and Friday as days off, and the rotation of the teams takes place between those three days of the week.
The four-day work week brought us more satisfied, healthier, rested, motivated and loyal employees, which was our primary guiding thread when we started thinking about the strengths of this practice.
What was the project development process like? And how did your employees react when you introduced them to the idea of a four-day work week?
After the prepared SWOT Analysis, we studied how the 4-day working week model was introduced and worked in Iceland. Internally, we did not yet mention this idea to our employees, but at that moment we analyzed individual employee reports in more detail. Reports on the time requirements of daily tasks, the requirements of clients, the number of clients that each person manages... Taking all that into account and looking at the cost-benefit, we decided that we should do it, because globally the benefits are much higher than the cost.
Work from home, 4 days a week, 8 hours a day, without salary reduction. You can imagine the excitement in the team when we told them this. In that moment of euphoria, it was phenomenal to see how they organized themselves into teams faster and better, and who would be free on which day of the week (because we still have to be available to clients 5 days a week), defined a mutual "backup" plan, introduced organizational and technical measures, shared calendars, support mail procedure, various organization applications that facilitate the remote mode of work. They really showed how important it is for them to succeed, and you can simply see that day by day, with their dedication to their tasks, they want to repay you for something good you did for them.
What were the concrete goals that you tried to achieve, that is, the effects of the project?
We have set ourselves three main goals that we want to achieve. In the first place, satisfied, healthier, rested, motivated and loyal employees. Furthermore, an equally important goal was to maintain the high satisfaction of our clients with the service we provide them in the form of customer support from our Experts, and of course the further growth of our Webpower Adria in the number of newly acquired clients. With this practice, our intention was to create a positive reputation or what is popularly known today as employer branding for Webpower Adria as a desirable employer and in general for the Webpower Adria brand to be recognized as a brand that employees and clients trust, a brand that serves them and with which they feel good.
After one year, we analyzed the effects and results of the set goals, and I can say that the introduction of a 4-day work week was the best decision we could make, because in addition to the great media coverage, which resulted in an increase in the number of clients by 56%, it turned out that clients simply like to work with positive brands that care about people, and that client knows that in the end he will talk and work with a satisfied employee, so that cooperation will be pleasant and successful.
But in addition, we also recorded 50% fewer days of absence due to illness compared to the period when we worked 5 days a week from the office, and twice as many applications for the job we announced, compared to a year ago for the same type of job. But most importantly, our employees are happy, satisfied, healthier, rested, and motivated.
The project received a lot of media coverage.. Did you hope for that and were you contacted by other companies that are considering introducing a four-day work week for advice?
We attracted a lot of media attention with the introduction of a 4-day work week, we were also invited to various conferences in the field of HR and Employer Branding to tell our story and experience. We are extremely happy to spread our experience wherever we go, and even more so, one of the defined opportunities in our Swot analysis of this practice is to be an inspiration and motivation to other companies to introduce the same work model.
Companies thinking about introducing the practice often look to us for a ready-made recipe for success. We are very happy to share our experience. However, there is no ready-made recipe, because every company faces its own challenges. The only common and main ingredient in that recipe is your employees, who should be your first priority.
For whom, in your opinion, shortening the working week could turn out to be a good solution, and for whom it could be a missed move (depending on the size of the company, the industry in which they operate, etc.)?
We encourage employers who have a business model in which it is not necessary for the employee to come to the office every day of the week, to enable them to work remotely from home. It can be just one day a week, but it will mean a lot for the satisfaction and well-being of the employees, while for the employer it is no loss. It is already a good start to introduce change and focus on people, showing them that you trust them, which is a prerequisite for any stable and long-term relationship.
In service industries whose operations are exclusively based on "One-to-One" physical access with the client/customer, it is impossible to work from home. But the same does not apply to a reduced working week. It is possible to implement it. With increasing technological progress and business automation, it is possible to achieve significant time savings thanks to technology. At that moment, it is the employer's decision whether to direct the time savings to a day off for its employees or to additional employee engagement. Although I am an entrepreneur myself and of course I am focused on the growth of the company and its revenues, but if you do not return to the employees their increased productivity or the achieved time savings, but only keep piling them up with additional tasks, then you cannot expect satisfied, motivated, loyal employees. And precisely these employees are the main factor of your business, without which your company would not survive.