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The CEO of the Tech Company that Permanently Switched to a 4-Day Workweek Says He Did It for Selfish Reasons


Last year, Bolt, an ecommerce startup, decided to test out something many people dream of–no more working on Fridays. Or, more specifically, a four-day workweek. Bolt isn’t the first company to try such a thing, though it’s one of the only examples I could find of a company that has gone all-in on the idea. 

Three months in, the company is making the change permanent. That’s partly because it was overwhelmingly popular among Bolt’s employees, which seems obvious. Who wouldn’t want to only have to work four days a week for the same salary you were getting when you had to show up Monday through Friday?

More importantly, however, the company’s CEO, Ryan Breslow, explained to CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday that the company made the decision for “selfish” reasons:  

A lot of our employees came to me and say ‘hey this is a generous thing for the company to do.’ My response is, this is a selfish thing that we’re doing because our hypothesis is that not only would employees be engaged and healthier, but they’d be more productive at work. And that’s what we’ve got. We found that the four days that they’re here, they’re overwhelmingly more productive than your traditional five-day week.

First, you have to give Breslow credit for being candid about the reason the company made the change. It would be easy to give the corporate spin answer and say that the company just believed it was the right thing to do for its employees. Instead, Breslow is honest that the change made business sense. If moving to a four-day work week means your employees are more productive, that’s good for business.   

One of the reasons Breslow says this is true is that in many cases, being at work isn’t necessarily about being productive. “At a lot of other companies, we see this work theater, which has a lot of people working to show that they’re working, rather than delivering impact,” Breslow said. “So here we’re like, how have you impacted the company? We don’t care if you worked 10 hours or 40 hours or 60 hours.”

Instead, Breslow says his company measures the “impact you have for the company:” 

We measure what’s important in the company. So we don’t measure the amount of time you spend at work, how you work where you work from. We measure the impact that you deliver to the company. So we keep it very simple for employees, what impact did you deliver?

If we’ve learned anything over the past two years it’s that sitting at a desk in an office doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, the opposite is often true. Give people more flexibility to design a work environment or schedule that fits their life, and their productivity improves. 

It doesn’t mean that every company should automatically make the same change. And, as Breslow admitted, the company had to hire additional staff in order to be sure to provide customer support coverage as it shifted employee schedules. 

Of course, Breslow might have had selfish reasons for making the change permanent, but it also happens to be very good for employees as well. “One objective was to improve the culture within our company,” Breslow said. “We know that when we do that…. everything else improves.”  

It appears to have worked. In a survey taken at the end of the trial, 84 percent of employees said they were more productive. Roughly the same amount said they have been more efficient with their time. At the same time, those employees also say their work-life balance improved.

This leads to an important point: Doing the right thing for your people is always good for business. 

Improving your company culture is always good for business. Increasing productivity in ways that make your employees feel valued and less stressed is always good for business. It also has the benefit of being the right thing to do. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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