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The 4-day work week. Fridays off in the summer. Extra personal days. Flextime. Work-life balance. All topics we’ve seen pop up on our LinkedIn or news feeds at an exponential rate since the pandemic began.

On Friday, July 29th, Incite launched ‘Recharge Days’, where once a quarter we provide a Friday off in advance of a long weekend.

We’ve seen the challenges manifest: the blurring of lines between work and personal hours, the push to grow new business taking up evenings, and the strain between remote vs. hybrid vs. in-office employees. At Incite we’ve been tackling many of these challenges by paying particular attention to our internal culture and how others are managing the shifting business environment. It was then no surprise when the conversation of the 4-day work week landed on the agenda for a management meeting.

While initially focused on how to test a 4-day work week in a client-centric consulting environment, the discussion shifted to the use of a quarterly ‘Recharge Day’ to achieve the impact we were hoping to realize. So, how did we get there?

As conversations like this have been happening formally and informally within many organizations, we wanted to share the core questions we considered to help guide your next round of discussions.

What was the reason for making a change to our work schedule?

For some organizations, a shortened work week is the chance to recognize the extra hours employees have worked by providing personal time for staff to rejuvenate, for other companies it may be used as a reward to recognize hard work or the success of a project. For us, it was a combination of both.

Would everyone feel the same relief?

A 4-day week could end up meaning longer days Monday through Thursday, yet every employee is at a different stage of life. If hours were required to extend to compensate for a shorter week, this would pose different challenges for team members with young children or for those with early morning/evening commitments. We also did not want to track hours or implement more oversight, as we knew either of these outcomes would cause damage to our company culture.

What are our other options?

Time off isn’t the only way an employer can provide rest, rejuvenation, or reward. Consider the other options available given the potential impact on client work and the financial and human resources you’re willing to allocate. For us, alternatives to the 4-day week included:

  • Fridays off during the summer
  • Providing individual PTO
  • Increased salaries (beyond planned raises)
  • Increased dollars available for professional development
  • Enhancing food and beverage options at the office
  • Planning larger team trips and celebrations.

What does the team truly value?

A reward is only truly rewarding if each person sees value in it. We realized we could be making a significant mistake assuming that the trending 4-day workweek idea was really what our staff cared about. So, through feedback and casual discussion, we got a better handle on what the team was really looking for when it comes to improving work-life balance.

Key Takeaways of Our Approach

  1. Balance rejuvenation time by providing time throughout the year rather than only in the summer
  2. Increase the positive benefits of a long weekend by providing additional space for a mental break or to complete necessary errands prior
  3. Taking time off together as a team limits the internal sending/receiving of emails, tasks, and requests during the recharge period
  4. Minimize the impact on clients by making the necessary preparations in advance for client communication or deliverables
  5. Commit to checking in after each Recharge Day to identify challenges, pitfalls, and successes in order to measure effectiveness