April 03, 2023

So How’s It Going? KDS’s 4 day work week and PTO Policy 1 year later

When you trust your staff, they come through for you.

A message from Christina Kazanas, Principal, Kazanas Development Strategies:

At the start of 2022, KDS announced (insert link here to post) that it was implementing two major policies designed to keep pace with employees’ changing workplace needs: a 32-hour, 4 day work week (with no reduction in pay) and an unlimited/honor system paid time off policy. One year later, we’re looking back to share our experiences and lessons learned from the experiment but the bottom line is that both are here to stay at KDS.

Here’s what we found:

-Our policy gave all full time employees a 32 hour work week but did not pro-rate salaries downward. Basically, we redefined what a full time week is for our company, from 40 hours to 32 hours. One of the unanticipated bumps we hit was with our workers compensation policy – during our year-end audit, the carrier was having trouble understanding our new work week policy and insisted we had 4 part time employees who worked 32 hours. After a lot of explaining and patience on my end (if you know me, that’s not my strong suit), we were able to convince them of our employees’ full time status. We were lucky, and not all companies will be able to achieve the success we had, but big change starts small.

-Our original plan was to be closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This was promptly chucked out the window by January 15th when practically everyone (myself included) realized that we all had differing time off needs and responsibilities. For myself, it made more sense from a client management and business development perspective to split my extra day between Friday and Monday…I would work Friday mornings from 8-12, and then be back in the office Monday from 1PM to 5PM. For others, they appreciated shortened workdays or later start times M-F to accommodate school pickups or tending to aging parents’ needs. So while we still worked 32 hours, we flexed those days differently but practically everyone was able to “be in the office” M-F.

-The unlimited PTO experiment was amazing, and not what I expected at all. Overall, the average amount of time taken was not very different than in 2021, even though the time off in 2022 was paid. Staff tended to take longer weekends more frequently, rather than extended time off (1 week or more). Staff also felt free to schedule “wellness days” with more frequency, and were very open about talking about their need for it (even though that is not a requirement for requesting or receiving approval for said time off). It gave me a ton of insight into how the work might be impacting them, and helped to inform professional development efforts on time/effort management, while giving me useful information on bandwidth and the need for outsourcing new work.

But it also told me that, as the leader of KDS, I needed to be proactive in assessing my team’s need for rest. I had to pay attention to fatigue, frustration, and a ton of other clues that can be hard to assess in a remote environment. And a couple of times, I had to insist that staff take time off. That was hard…these are grown adults and have the right to make those determinations for themselves. But it was also my job to suggest that I was seeing something on my end they maybe they couldn’t see, and how it was impacting their work. I had to encourage people to take some time for themselves, as well as reassure them that they didn’t need to feel guilty for it. I didn’t expect that responsibility, or to feel the weight of its importance so keenly.

-In 2022, we also continued to invest in making full-time remote work viable and productive. We upgraded technology where necessary, invested in a project management platform, and use our Teams environment to grow a sense of community. Our weekly Wednesday team lunches are always a lot of fun, and we’ve started using a dedicated Teams channel for sharing what we’re streaming these days.

If you’d like the TL;dr version: employees like a flexible and trusting work environment, and are more apt to want to be accountable for their time, work, and impact in exchange for that greater freedom. Not a single team member had a project or deadline slip by them during their time off, and each had developed a plan to ensure that the work got done before they left. All of the infrastructure we’ve invested in – communications, effort tracking, and project management – made this experiment the success it is.

When you trust your staff, they come through for you. The work we put in as business owners and non profit leaders to cultivate a culture of trust and wellness pays off in better outcomes and productivity, and organizational loyalty.