work-life balance

This California Company Is Trying a 4-Day Workweek, and It's Flourishing

In February of this year, two California lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 2932 that would shorten the workweek from 40 to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees.

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Odessa Jenkins, the president of Emtrain, a startup tech company with 75 employees in San Francisco and Sacramento, had a novel idea last year after noticing an unusual amount of exhaustion and stress among employees working and living during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her pitch for a four-day workweek came in the form of an email that she thought was only going to managers.

But everyone got the memo. So the shortened workweek was put into place and the sky didn't fall.

"I think that we forget that sometimes as business operators, that we have the power to make change, frankly, the power to make mistakes," she said. "We wanted them to have more flexibility. We trusted them. It's worked out tremendously."

Since then, she says, Emtrain has had its most productive financial period. They are overachieving on all business goals. The attrition rates are as low as they've ever been. And workers are reporting that they're feeling happier and less stressed, she says.

The schedule wasn't without problems, though.

Not all employees work the same shifts in the same hours. If a client or a prospective client sends something on Friday, someone will need to respond. If the app is having trouble on a Sunday, IT will need to answer.

"Even though our doors might not be open, our business is technically always available for a client," she said. "I think every business has a little bit of gray. It's like, 'How far do you go with customer service?'"

Jenkins said she doesn't know what the work schedule will look like in the future at Emtrain but her employees have demonstrated they can be productive.

"People want to move in the world differently," she said. "They want to do more of what matters to them. And we need to start realizing that and making space for them."

She says she supports a California bill pushing for the 32-hour workweek. In February of this year, two California lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 2932. This bill would shorten the workweek from 40 to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees and it would make employers pay overtime to those who work more than four days a week.

"I believe that there's going to have to be some flexibility in what we're asking business owners to do. Just like the five and 40 isn't hard and fast, nothing else can be hard and fast," she said. "I think the idea that we need to be guided toward something more flexible is the right way to go, whether it be through legislation or not.

"I think that when we're talking about these things we are frankly just talking about humans having more of what they deserve to have and that's peace, that's love, that's engaging with their families and friends."

"This is really important to me ... us taking care of our people in the workplace and, frankly, giving them more time. The world is asking for this."

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