By Cassandra Gaddo, Run for Something Chief Operating Officer
What would you do with an extra day off every week — if every weekend was a three day weekend?
The Run for Something team is going to find out when we launch a new internal initiative: a four day work week. Starting the week of January 31, for a six month pilot period, Run for Something staff will work four, eight hour days, Monday through Thursday. All staff will have Fridays off. That means no emails, no Zoom, no Slack — just a three day weekend, every week.
If you’ve kept up with Run for Something’s plans, it may seem like an odd time for us to be cutting back our employee hours. Our 2022 strategic plan lays out ambitious goals for this year: grow the Run for Something pipeline by at least 25,000 people; endorse 700 candidates, with a focus on election administrators and school board candidates; and raise $6.3 million to support the work. These are big goals that are undoubtedly going to require significant commitment, creativity, and inspiration from every single RFS team member to see them realized.
So why…work less?
LONG TERM & STRATEGIC
It comes down to our Values — we’re Bold & Fearless, but we also aim to be Long Term & Sustainable, both with our mission externally and with our organization internally.
Yes, we set audacious goals. Yes, we believe our team can accomplish incredible things together. And: we’re building this organization for the long-haul. We don’t want to burn people out after one or two election cycles. We want to build infrastructure — and talent — that lasts for the long term.
One of our core beliefs is that in order to produce great work — that is, in order to achieve that commitment, creativity, and inspiration mentioned above — employees need to live full lives outside of work. Our remote workplace encourages people to step away for caretaking duties, self-care needs, or whatever else life brings in the moment. Unlimited paid time off (with minimum requirements), paid sabbaticals, Summer Fridays, and generous holiday closures help people take time to recharge. Communication norms ensure that nights and weekends are protected personal time.
Then, nearly a year into the pandemic, we started noticing that people seemed to need extra time to recharge. So we instituted half-day Fridays, by closing our offices at 2pm local time. We noticed two things: One, the staff loved it. While individuals used the time differently, the additional few hours gave some extra, weekly breathing space that a global pandemic merited.
And two, the work just…got done. In the first half of 2021, we were able to exceed all of our expectations, while working four fewer hours per week. By mid-2021, we made half-day Fridays permanent, but it also got us thinking: what if we did away with those remaining morning Friday hours and instituted a four day work week?
So we started to gather research about the idea. Many, many, many, others have written about this, so to quickly sum up: it works. Work expands to fill the time we give it. With the promise of an additional day off, employees are able to work smarter, not harder. By adjusting to a 32 hour work week, employees are able to achieve the same impact by eliminating the distractions that invariably creep into our days. (The current four day week movement advocates for four, 8-hour days, rather than four, 10-hour days — which just burn people out on a different schedule.) Fewer hours, same outcomes.
Most importantly — and this was the key factor for us — the research showed that, given an extra day of rest, employees find themselves recharged come Monday morning. Some employees use Fridays to do errands that they’d typically do on Saturday or Sunday, leaving weekends free for actual relaxation. Others use it to be at home with their young children. Some used it to learn a new skill or volunteer, or to catch up on their inbox without distractions. And others simply use it to sleep or catch up on their Netflix.
The actual content of the day isn’t important — what’s important is that it gives people time to fill their cups, so that on Monday morning, they’re actually rejuvenated. Remember that inspiration, creativity, and commitment we mentioned above that will be key to our success in 2022? A four day work week helps those factors skyrocket. According to Four Day Week Global, 78% of employees with four day work weeks are happier and less stressed. Beyond any statistic, we thought, it just seemed like the right thing to do for our employees’ well-being as people.
So we decided: we’d embark on a four day work week pilot.
We’ve based our pilot, which will run from February-July 2022, largely on Four Day Week Global’s white paper. We’ve been planning the pilot for a few months; each team member has given input on it and what will help them be successful. As luck would have it, Four Day Week Global happened to be running group pilot programs this year, which we’ve joined as well, gaining access to additional training, mentoring, and research.
We expect we’ll learn a lot, find some success, make some mistakes, and make the necessary adjustments. Luckily, those sorts of big swings is what RFS culture is built around.
We have ambitious goals in 2022, and we plan on achieving every single one of them. And, we think it’s possible to do that while allowing our team to live fulfilling, sustainable lives outside of work, increasing the chances that our staff will be doing this work with us in 2023 and beyond.
We know that politics is understood to be a 24/7/365 industry, because the stakes are too high to rest. Our belief is that framework has been an excuse for too many toxic work environments and organizational cultures that burn out employees and drain our ecosystem of talent. We believe there is a way to both do amazing work and live full lives. We know just sometimes, even with the best intentions, work may need to happen outside business hours. But the four day work week resets expectations and will allow for more long-term planning, capacity-shifting, and realistic timetables. At the very least, we want to try!
We’re not sure exactly how the pilot will go. We are sure of this: if you email us on a Friday and receive our Out of Office reply or don’t get a response until Monday, we’re not just resting. We’re recharging for the long-term and strategic hard work ahead.