Blue Ridge Community Action has begun an exciting new pilot program for some agency employees. In January 2023, the agency's Board of Directors approved a Compressed Work Week Pilot Program proposed by Executive Director, Stephanie Ashley. This pilot program, which runs from February until the end of June 2023, was offered to all departments at the agency except for child care. The pilot aims to test the viability of a four-day workweek for some agency employees and help recruit new hires during severe staffing shortages.
Flexible and alternative scheduling has become the new normal for many businesses in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these alternative work schedules is a compressed work week or CWW. The condensed work schedule allows employees to work their total weekly hours in fewer days than the traditional five-day workweek. For example, a typical compressed workweek could be a four-day workweek where employees work 10-hour shifts. This type of schedule has gained popularity in recent years, with studies showing that it has numerous benefits for both employees and employers. At BRCA in particular, there are two alternating schedules for participants: Monday through Thursday, or Tuesday through Friday.
One of the main benefits of a compressed workweek is increased productivity. Research shows that employees who work a condensed workweek are more productive than those who work a traditional five-day workweek. In a Society for Human Resource Management study, more than two-thirds of employers reported increased productivity among employees who worked a compressed workweek. This increase in productivity can be attributed to several factors, including fewer distractions, better focus, and increased motivation.
Another benefit of a compressed workweek is improved work-life balance. By working fewer days, employees have more time to devote to their personal lives, which can reduce stress and improve overall well-being. This can be especially beneficial for those working in the human services field, where the job demands can be emotionally taxing. Studies show that employees with a better work-life balance are happier, healthier, and more engaged at work. Feedback from participating BRCA employees has so far been positive, with many citing increased time with families and having the ability to schedule appointments for services typically not open on weekends. In addition to improving productivity and work-life balance, a compressed workweek can lead to cost savings for employers. Employers can save on energy costs, office expenses, and other overhead costs by having employees work fewer days. This can be especially beneficial for smaller organizations looking to reduce expenses without compromising productivity.
The next steps for the BRCA CWW Pilot Program include surveying participating staff to collect feedback and asking non-participant employees whether or not they would like to try to program if it were a permanent benefit made available by the agency. After the pilot program concludes, the agency and Board of Directors will evaluate and assess the program's continued viability. The agency and board are also researching ways to allow childcare staff to participate in the program at some point in the future. However, finding a viable option for childcare staff has been a challenge. The compressed workweek does have the opportunity to offer BRCA employees numerous benefits. Improving productivity, work-life balance, and cost savings is a work schedule worth considering for any organization in the human services field.
Society for Human Resource Management. (2019). The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day Workweek. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/the-pros-and-cons-of-a-four-day-workweek.aspx
Robinson, J., & Shockley, K. (2016). Work design research and a four-day workweek: Lessons from the field. Human Resource Management Review, 26(1), 58-72.
New Economics Foundation. (2017). Four-day Week: The Evidence So Far. https://neweconomics.org/2017/08/four-day-week-evidence-far