How I - and Everyone Else at ECT - Ended Up with a Four-Day Workweek

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Believing in the four-day workweek is almost like believing in Santa Claus.
We've all heard about a friend of a friend that works in a company where they don’t work on Fridays, but we never experience it first-hand. Sure, "news" articles and blogs are full of the four-day workweek. This or that company we never heard of did a trial. Some strange political party drafted four-day workweek legislation in some faraway country we don't live in. The four-day workweek is just an urban legend, right?
Well, that's also what I used to think, but now I know better: It's suddenly a reality for everyone at my company – and I unknowingly became the initiator!
During our weekly meeting, my boss asked me the same question all employees were asked: "How should we change the way we work after mandatory home office ends?"
As chance would have it, I had just read one of those articles I mentioned. It described how Belgium lawmakers were approving a four-day workweek reform; so faced with this question, it was the first idea that popped into my head: "We should reduce our workweek to four days."
My company, European Computer Telecoms AG (ECT), is the tech company that created Telecoms Low Code. At our Munich headquarters, we're around 100 people, mostly techies. Up until this week, we'd been in 100% home office due to the pandemic. Now our Board was considering what to do when we return to office work.
Suggesting the four-day workweek to my boss, the company's CEO Marshall Kavesh, I really expected a burst of laughter. When it didn't come I was about to blurt out, "It's a joke", but then Marshall looked at me, a bit surprised and intrigued. After one of those pregnant pauses, he said: "That's not a bad idea."
Immediately, I could see Marshall thinking about possibilities, advantages and disadvantages, and how to make it work. Then our CTO, Hans Huber, came into the office and Marshall started to sell the idea to him. Skeptical, Hans walked around the room throwing out questions, but surprisingly we found a lot of answers. I was there, part of this incredibly surprising conversation, half-listening to the little voice in my head repeat "there's no way a four-day week is going to happen."

Four is the Magic Number

I've since learned that I am not the only one with dreams of longer weekends. According to a recent poll quoted by CNN.com, 80% of respondents supported a four-day workweek. With COVID and home office and web meetings and so much happening so fast and so unexpectedly, employees everywhere want change whether companies allow it or not. Enter the Great Resignation.
The pandemic changed everyone's perspective; people are resigning from their jobs because they are not satisfied with their wages, with the tasks they are asked to do or with their employer's remote-working policies.
Naturally, companies are also trying to adapt to this new landscape: According to Fortune, "[e]xecutives considered a shortened workweek the most-wanted recruitment and retention strategy by far when polled by Gartner Inc." But here comes the reality check: "Only 6% of those same senior leaders said they’re doing it or even planning to at their organization." So, if executives deemed it such a huge retention strategy, why are they not implementing it? I suppose most management fears "a loss of productivity."
"Disruptive" is a wonderful word to sell products. As the head of the marketing department, I know it looks amazing in press releases. But how many business people really have the guts to be disruptive when it comes down to the future of their company?
Real leadership sometimes means being the first to do something truly innovative. I am proud that we at ECT have the courage to lead. Together, we at ECT's headquarters in Munich are piloting a four-day workweek at least until the end of the year. Like everyone else, my weekly workload has been reduced from 40 hours to just 32, Mondays to Thursdays, and I have the same salary as well as 30 days' vacation (six more than the legal obligation here in Germany). I cannot begin to tell you how this will improve my work-life balance and quality of life. But as you might imagine, being happier also improves my productivity.

Disruptive Solutions for Disruptive Times

Why are we doing this? Now I know this was not an easy call for our Board. Before going forward with the project, the four-day workweek was discussed with leading analysts from Gartner, and the Munich Board of Trade (IHK). Everyone had a different take on this move: Our non-executive board, our executives, department directors like myself, and all our many team members.
"A company is only as good as its employees," Marshall told me, when I asked him why he supported a four-day week. "The difference between an average programmer and a great programmer is not twofold," he said. "It is twentyfold.” And then he explained to me how difficult (and expensive) it is to attract and keep great talent. “A four-day week offers is so great that it's hard to find something better." Work is not just about money; most people value free time more.
Of course, we must consider what a four-day workweek means for our customers so, for the duration of the pilot, sales and service subsidiaries in England, The Netherlands, and the USA will continue working Fridays. Nevertheless, if the goals are achieved once the pilot ends, the measure will be implemented permanently and most probably extended (perhaps with some adaptations) to our subsidiaries.
We also know that it's not about squeezing five days of work into four days. To make up for the 20% less working time that results from the four-day workweek, we have added more than 20% new positions. We already signed 21 new colleagues in the first five months and the good news for you is that we have 14 open positions now. Our unique value proposition is attracting top talent from around the world.
In conclusion, we are all looking forward to having longer weekends while being more productive in our reduced working time.
And, to think all of this is happening because I just said we should work four days a week… I’m so relieved I didn’t suggest beer-pong Fridays.
Author:
Ángel Sánchez
DIRECTOR, MARKETING
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