Beginning in January 2023, our organization will launch a 6-month pilot project for a 4-day work week. Our offices will be open Monday to Thursday, and closed on Fridays.
Shifting to a 4-day work week is something that we have been thinking about for some time now. The pandemic was difficult on all of us. Our staff worked extra hard for a long time, and the lines between personal and professional lives got blurred with everyone working from home. Our mission of strengthening the charitable and nonprofit sector was more relevant than ever in this time of crisis, and we were fully committed to it - as we are now. Going through this experience as a team led to an introspection of how we as an organization support the sector, as well as how we support our staff as an employer.
When they come to work (or log in from home!), we want our employees to feel valued, supported and inspired. Staff self care and wellness became dominant topics of discussion during the pandemic. In 2020, we created the Leadership Council - a cross-functional group formed of staff members from every level of the organization. The Council’s mission is to nurture an inspiring work environment - one where everyone feels included, listened to, invested in and supported so that they can offer their best everyday. Discussions around the idea of shifting to a 4-day work week started to emerge from staff and the idea was taken up by this group.
At Imagine, and in the sector more broadly, our people are our greatest strength. Through our research, advocacy efforts and the launch of HR Intervals, we have been supporting practices that promote decent work and better working conditions in our sector. We're excited to join a growing group of nonprofits that have already adopted a 4 day work week schedule: the David Suzuki Foundation, EcoSuperior, Impact Organizations of Nova Scotia, Greenpeace Canada, and others; as well as organizations, who, like us, are exploring new ways to make work more healthy and equitable. Your leadership has been an inspiration for us.
Different models of 4-day work week schedules have emerged in recent years. At Imagine, we have determined that the approach that would most genuinely align with our goals and values is to reduce weekly work hours from 35 to 28 hrs, with no impact on our employees’ compensation. Case studies of companies (among other examples, this Iceland experiment was overwhelmingly conclusive) that have adopted this model show that employees working 4 days per week feel happier, more energized, and more productive.
We are a few weeks away from launching this pilot, and we feel ready. We know that this process will require adjustments along the way, but we’ve done our homework. Over the summer, we created a staff working group that was mandated with planning for the pilot. We joined the 4 Day Week Global Program, which provided us with invaluable resources to help us make this pilot a reality. Working towards this pilot has challenged us to rethink our work culture and ways of working. For example, we have been rethinking our relationship with time, and are now making conscious efforts to let go of the constant sense of urgency. Even though we are starting the pilot in January only, we eliminated meetings on Fridays and Monday afternoons in September to give employees time to adjust. The way meetings are conducted also changed; we evaluated each meeting to determine if it was really relevant and if all attendees were needed.
Productivity is usually associated with the number of projects and outputs, and the concept of growth. Working towards the pilot, however, has forced us to redefine what productivity means in the context of fulfilling our mission. For us, it means prioritizing mission-critical work, and being more focused in order to achieve greater impact for the sector.
It is important to note that this is a pilot project. While our hope is to adopt this schedule permanently after the pilot ends, we will not make this decision until the 6-month period is completed, and we are satisfied with the results. Ultimately, the success of a 4DWW will be determined by our ability to determine a balance between staff well being and impact for the sector. For the latter, we will be looking to our Strategic Planning Framework and new Theory of Change as our 'north star'. Ensuring that we make meaningful contributions to the betterment of the sector, while embracing a healthier culture, will be the true measures of success.
We expect that some of you will have questions about the pilot, the process, or our schedule. We invite you to contact us, our team will be happy to assist.
We are excited to share this journey with you as we learn to challenge our traditional ways of working.