Bolt is adopting a permanent four-day workweek after a successful three-month trial.
Chief People Officer Jennifer Christie explained how the startup made the change.
Job applications to the fintech startup were up 30% compared with December, a spokesperson said.
On a sunny morning in August, Ryan Breslow was meditating in the backyard of his Miami home when it hit him. He wanted to implement a permanent four-day workweek at the company he founded, fintech startup Bolt.
Breslow, who resigned from his CEO position on Monday and is now the executive chairman, had been reading articles on the burgeoning workplace trend for months, quietly contemplating it. That summer day, he decided to move on his gut feeling that it might just work. One month later, Bolt launched a three-month pilot program, giving employees and executives a chance to see if the compressed workweek was a fit for them.
It was a resounding success, according to employee feedback. Breslow implemented it as a permanent policy in January for the company's 600 employees. Job applications at the e-commerce company have jumped 30% month over month, according to a company spokesperson.
"We're never going back," Breslow wrote in a tweet last month, citing heightened productivity and reported employee wellness. Bolt did not immediately respond to request for comment as to why Breslow stepped down from his CEO post.
Bolt, a company that wants to make the checkout process quicker and easier for retailers, is on the cutting edge of what some say is the future of work. Employees are rethinking their work-life balance amid the pandemic and the "Great Resignation." The compressed work schedule has been gaining momentum over the past few years, but interest in it seems to have spiked over the past few weeks.
"People feel really proud to work at Bolt," Bolt Chief People Officer Jennifer Christie told Insider. She explained how Bolt executed the change, the challenges leaders faced, and what the team learned from the process.
How Bolt made the switch
Bolt's leadership team jumped into the deep end of the pool without really knowing how to swim.
"It was, 'Let's just learn as we go,'" the chief people officer said. "'Let's test it out.'"
The first key decision was whether to let employees choose the day they wanted off or establish one collective day. Breslow and the team went with the latter choice. Christie said, "We thought it would be easier for everyone to really take a step back if everyone took the same day off."
Then, employees were informed of the three-month pilot and asked to take stock of their schedules. Workers moved meetings to Monday through Thursday and teams worked to cancel meetings they didn't feel were necessary or turn them into "asynchronous formats" like emails or videos that could be viewed at any time. Employees were also encouraged to speak with their managers if they felt their time was being wasted or spent on things that didn't help them achieve their goals.
"We said, 'With those other four days, let's really sprint, let's do focused work, and let's not spend time on things that don't matter,'" said Christie, who's been involved in company conversations about the four-day workweek since October and joined the team officially on January 3.
Dealing with challenges
The shift hasn't been without its struggles. Fifteen percent of employees, specifically workers in sales, said they encountered "external-facing challenges" like planning meetings with prospective clients.
To deal with this, employees were encouraged to either reschedule meetings to be sometime between Monday and Thursday or take the meeting and adjust their schedule the next week to make up for it. For example, an employee who had to take a one-hour phone call on Friday would tell their manager they were taking one hour off the following Monday.
Another challenge was figuring out what to do when federal or company holidays rolled around. At first, the company counted the holiday as the day off for that week. For example, Labor Day, which falls on a Monday, was the day off, with workers working Tuesday through Friday that week. Some workers found this frustrating and confusing, so management walked back their decision, which resulted in multiple three-day weeks.
People were surprised they could get their work done on those three days, Christie said.
"I think people realized when you really kind of forced yourself to focus on the things that are most important, people even went further," she said.
The other challenge is stress. Nearly 40% of the team said they felt more stress Monday through Thursday compared with a five-day schedule, according to company data. Christie said the company was continuing to reduce meetings and unnecessary tasks for employees to combat this.
Still, she said, the benefits outweigh the challenges. In a company survey, 94% of employees and 91% of managers said they supported Breslow's decision to permanently adopt the four-day workweek.
Encouraging other companies to consider it
Overwhelmingly, workers are happier with the change. Eighty-four percent of Bolt employees said their work-life balance had improved. The same percentage reported being more productive at work.
Since the pilot's launch, at least "a few" Fortune 500 companies have reached out to Bolt's team to learn more about the process of compressing the workweek. It's a sign, she said, that the policy can work for small, medium, and large companies. Christie likened the shift to a four-day workweek to adopting remote work. People thought it was impossible for industries like TV news and finance to go remote, but the majority did.
"Before the pandemic, you heard so many companies say, you know, 'I think remote work is great, but, you know, that's only for tech companies and that can't ever work at my company,'" she said. "But behold, the pandemic hit and everyone figured it out."
The compressed workweek, Christie said, has been driving job applications higher. Breslow and the executive team have been getting positive feedback from "across generations, across people with families, people without families," she said.
"People are saying they are more present at home with their families, being able to do things that are more for their own wellness," she said. "Their friends and contacts on LinkedIn are asking if we're hiring."
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