Another company is piloting a four-day workweek, and it could make a shortened week the norm within Corporate America.
Exos, a U.S.-based company with more than 3,000 employees around the world, announced to employees Tuesday that it will begin its trial of a four-day workweek beginning May 1. Exos is a coaching company that trains pro athletes and runs corporate wellness programs at 25% of the Fortune 100, including Capital One and Humana.
The company intends to use its experiment and results to create a guide to bring the four-day workweek to corporate clients, which could impact "hundreds of thousands" of people, says Exos CEO Sarah Robb O'Hagan.
The move is a direct response to the pandemic and burnout crisis, and the new working model is intended to "improve people's capacity to operate and perform at their best in a hybrid world, which requires a completely new way of working and time that companies everywhere should try," Robb O'Hagan tells CNBC Make It.
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Workers will be encouraged to practice what the company calls "You Do You Fridays," during which employees can spend time with family, take up a hobby or use the leisure time as they see fit. Or, the company says, people may want to use their uninterrupted Fridays to prepare for a meeting or presentation.
Robb O'Hagan adds that the goal is for the policy to be flexible and enable people to practice intentional recovery, or build rest into a person's schedule in a way that's effective for them.
So, she says, a working parent may choose to work shorter days Monday through Thursday and still log on Fridays for a few hours for focused time.
One clear rule: You can't message other people or try to set up meetings for Fridays, Robb O'Hagan says.
The move aligns with the 30-year-old company's founding ethos that "work + rest = success," per Exos founder Mark Verstegen.
Robb O'Hagan explains it this way: "If an over-trained athlete comes to Exos, it's easy to understand you can't physically train for 18 hours a day and expect to be refreshed the next day. But executives expect that all the time."
Building in intentional recovery time, meanwhile, can make "intense work better and more productive," she says.
'We want it to work'
Exos will measure the impact of the four-day workweek on employees with help from organizational psychologist Adam Grant and Wharton School of Business doctoral candidate Marissa Shandell.
Researchers will benchmark employees' levels of engagement, burnout, satisfaction with work and life, and feeling of recovery.
Robb O'Hagan says that as a leader, she's clear with the organization that this is a big experiment and will come with ups and downs, but "we want it to work."
"At the end of the six months, we're committed to continuing with the four-day workweek unless there's such extreme negative results that we'd choose otherwise."
"It could also be that we get to the end and evolve how we use that fifth day," she adds.
Previous global trials of the four-day week have indicated overwhelmingly positive results: Businesses say they're seeing improved productivity, morale and team culture, whereas individuals are reaping benefits for their health, finances and relationships. The majority of companies that try a four-day week don't go back to the traditional five.
A culture blueprint for Corporate America
The shortened week is part of what Exos is calling a "Readiness Culture Code," a blueprint codifying best practices to build in rest and recovery into the workday, such as:
- Adding time zones and work hours to email signatures to remove the pressure of responding outside of work hours
- Encouraging meeting-free days throughout the week to allow time for focused work
- Swapping routine one-on-ones for "walk and talks"
- Setting meetings for 25 or 50 minutes with a 5- to 10-minute break; or including recharge breaks for meetings over 90 minutes
- Intentionally establishing employee resource groups for underrepresented communities and their allies, as well as special interest groups for employees to share in hobbies, interests and activities
The goal is for Exos's corporate clients to adopt parts of the culture code, Robb O'Hagan says.
The pandemic has changed the conversation around employee wellbeing for the better, in that it's no longer just an issue for HR teams to handle, and that "divisional heads, CEOs, presidents, operators all need to be educated on what it takes to create a high-performance culture in the modern work world."
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