One of our goals this year is to work less.
Yes, you read that right.
That may seem counterintuitive – and trust me, I’ve gotten more eye rolls than I can count from other agency and business leaders – but it’s not. Our people are our business. Anything and everything we do to make them better, makes us better.
While working less is a great goal, it’s not easy to achieve, especially when you have a team that truly cares about the work they do and the impact they make. The pressure to perform is always there – and as much as we encourage our people to step away and refresh, there’s always an inherent tension that makes people feel like they need to keep grinding.
Great workplaces eliminate that tension and provide the structure, time and flexibility people need to take care of what matters most (themselves), while simultaneously enabling ambition, growth and excellence.
This is one of the many reasons we took a leap and became one of the first and only PR agencies to give employees every other Friday off. We piloted the program for three months starting in March, and then implemented it as a regular benefit, which we now call Inker Fridays, in June.
The program is open-ended. At its core, it encourages our team to recharge and work less. At a higher level, the goal is to provide people with the means to be intentional about how they spend their time – socially, for their own physical and mental health, with their families and communities, and professionally.
We’ve had some really cool stories, like one team member (who is marrying a teacher) that used the Friday to secretly meet with his now fiancé’s parents about marrying their daughter. We had another team member finish his kitchen remodel, and others spend time volunteering.
And while we have many stories like that, the real benefit is the day-to-day impact on our employees’ lives. Most folks report their favorite part is the time they get with the people and things they love, and the extra time to take care of personal matters so they can enter the weekend in a good place. We’ve also heard that many employees value using a portion of their free Friday to work uninterrupted on their professional goals and the passion projects. Personally, my favorite part is the extra time I get to spend with my three-year-old son Quentin, and surprising him when I unexpectedly pick him up at school and take him to places like Sesame Street (his #1 life goal!).
Reducing how much we worked was a big change – and it wasn’t easy. Making it work requires extreme accountability, communication and collaboration. One of the things we always preach at Corporate Ink is that if you are making an impact, and being accountable to your clients, colleagues and the company – then everything is possible, including working only four days.
The hard work has been worth it. We kept the pulse of our team frequently during the trial. At the end of the pilot program:
The biggest challenges our team faced: completing weekly responsibilities in four days so they could consistently enjoy the benefit, and making time to focus on strategic agency initiatives, which were both identified by 23% of the team.
On the client side, we continue to deliver amazing work and make an impact. We tested the pilot in the background, and while there was a lot of juggling and real-time learning on our end, our clients never noticed because we always had coverage and continued to deliver great work.
The proof is in the numbers. We’ve grown our business by over 50% this year. And our employee retention – well, it’s 100% and we haven’t had a resignation in over 17 months (take that, Great Resignation). Looking back at the decision, it really wasn’t a leap. It was practical. We have a team of smart, talented and ambitious people. Giving them more room to grow, live and do what they do best simply makes sense.