COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — The elusive four day work-week is becoming less elusive.
It's a concept that's been picking up steam around the globe for several years and that momentum only grew in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks with U of M's Ross School of Business.
“Organizations are for the first time in many years, engaging in a re-imagination of how we might meet our strategic objectives," he said.
That includes a re-imagination of what "the ideal worker" is.
More and more, Sanchez-Burks said data shows employees want their bosses to consider their whole lives, not just their work lives; things like caretaking responsibilities, mental health needs, and flexibility.
In some cases this means evaluating the status quo of the five day work-week.
Last year, independent researchers from Boston College, University College Dublin, and Cambridge University surveyed 33 companies over a six month period that agreed to try out a four day work-work. The companies ranged in size, but were mostly small between 1 and 25 employees and were located largely in the United States and Ireland.
The pilots also occurred in a variety of industries, but mostly in administration, information technology, and telecommunications.
Of the nearly 800 employees who weighed-in on their experience, they said the pilot was a success both in productivity and morale.
We were curious if any metro Detroit companies are exploring this model, so we jumped on LinkedIn and searched "four day work-week" and "Michigan." A quick search turned up a posting from LaFontaine Auto Group, looking for an auto technician.
The company started using the four day work-week model for that position over the summer.
"It’s kind of unheard of," said master tech Adam Nosanchuk, who's been in the auto industry several years and works at LaFontaine's Subaru location in Commerce Township.
He loves the new model, which allowed him more time on the lake this summer. It also gives him more time for himself in general, while he brings home the same paycheck.
“Getting personal things done. Doctors appointments, anything like that. It works out really well for me," he said.
And when he's at work, he feels like he's getting just as much if not more done.
“If you’re not there for a full 8 hour day you think you’re going to lose money. But you kind of put in your mind, if you’re going be there for four 10 hour days, you make the most of it," he said.
Nick Pariseau is also a line tech at Lafontaine Subaru.
“We work as two teams. Team one and team two, so we kind of alternate schedules back and forth, " Pariseau said. "When some of the other guys are off, we’re here to kind of pick up the slack.”
Because of the staggered schedules, the four day work-week doesn't change anything from the customer's point-of-view. Cars are still serviced at the same pace and volume. Line techs are paid by the job, not by the hour.
“Makes me a little less stressed everyday to be honest," Pariseau said, no longer having to schedule trips to the Secretary of State's Office on his lunch break; he feels like he has more free time to run errands on his three off days.
“We wanted to just try something different," said LaFontaine corporate manager, Nicole Welsh.
This new model is company-wide for the line tech position and also optional. At the Commerce Township location, all 12 techs have opted in, she said.
“We’ve actually had the same productivity if not better," Welsh told Action News.
She said there are some positions within the company that likely could never use the four day work-week model, but said LaFontaine is exploring expanding the option to other positions in the future.
As for the global study done last year, 25 of the 33 companies are either planning to or definitely keeping the four day work-week model.
But this momentum is coming at a time when some major companies, including Twitter and Disney, are moving away from flexibility and mandating workers report the office a certain number of days each week.
“There’s a number of executives I’ve talked with who tongue-in-cheek were hopeful that an economic recession might shift the balance of power and make it go back to old ways. We’re not seeing that," Dr. Sanchez-Burks said.
The pandemic in general made society more reflective he said, and as the next group of cohorts enters the workforce, employers and corporate leaders will be reminded of that based on what employees value.
"For the next 15 years or so, we’re going to have people coming into the workforce who experienced the pandemic in different ways," he said. "Companies are going to have an advantage if they now have on their radar to try and learn quickly what the next cohort coming into the workplace cares about," Sanchez-Burks told Action News.
LaFontaine has several hiring events in January for line tech positions, including in Ann Arbor and Farmington Hills. Click here to learn more.