Stories of Building Santa Cruz

The Four-Day Workweek by Eric Lamascus

The Four-Day Workweek

Wednesday, January 03, 2024 by Eric Lamascus

We're all about celebrating our long-standing members by sharing their insights, providing mutual value, and strengthening our community.

With that, check out Eric Lamascus of Elite Construction's blog article reposted below: https://www.discoverelite.com/blog


The Four Day Work Week 

Does it really work for a small business?

Conversations about a 4 day work week have been in the news a lot lately. Many industries are experiencing employee burnout and poor employee retention especially in the wake of Covid and remote work. These businesses are seeking ways to improve company moral and retain hired talent.

A few years ago, I started hearing about 4-day work weeks being tested by companies in Europe. It was obvious to my partner and I how it might work for a big corporation's predictable schedule and large staff. But we weren't convinced it would work for a small construction company.

The lowdown

Our company, Elite Construction, has 15 employees. We specialize in kitchens, baths, and ADUs with an occasional large remodel thrown in. We take on 30-40 projects per year. Our office staff has flexible schedules that allow them to work remotely if desired and choose the hours that best suit their needs yet get their jobs done. Up until January 2022, our field employees have worked a traditional Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm (with a 30-minute paid lunch and two 15-minute breaks). As business owners, we work the same hours as the employees plus the extra days needed to keep a small business running smoothly.

After researching the concept of the 4-day work week, the possible benefits of a 4-day work week to our company were too intriguing not to try. In 2021, my business partner, Craig and I started planning how to make the idea work for our company. We didn't need to switch the office staff's schedule as they already worked a flex schedule.

What We Did

Step 1 - Field staff buy-in

This was the easiest part. "Hey, crew and project managers, do you want to work four days a week instead of five but make about the same amount of money?" The answer was obvious and the new schedule of four 9-hour days running from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm (with a 30 minute paid lunch and two 15 minute breaks) was set in motion.

Step 2 - Working with California labor laws

California labor laws are tricky to navigate, creating a 4-day work week adds another layer of complexity and tedious paperwork. After consulting with our payroll company, we decided not to make any formal changes to the schedule. Instead, we pay 8 hours straight and 1 hour overtime daily, 4 days a week. This allowed us to switch back easily if the great experiment failed.

Step 3 - Working with Subcontractors and Building Inspections on a 5-day schedule

This was not as difficult as we anticipated. We do all layout meetings with our subs before Friday. This way, they have all the information they need if they are working on a Friday.

For building inspections, we schedule the complicated inspections for Monday through Thursday so our Project Lead can be there. For simple inspections, like drywall nailing or shower pans, one of our office personnel, who all have strong general construction knowledge, meets with building inspectors to get signed off on a project.

The Results Speak For Themselves

Since we still had remodeling activity on Fridays with our subs and inspections, our clients were not inconvenienced by our 4-day work weeks.

Employee retention was excellent, and employee morale also increased significantly.

Our Gross sales increased by 16.3%

Our Net profits increased by 1.7%

I'm not 100% clear on why it works. On paper, it doesn't seem like it should. Here are some ideas we have about why it works.

Efficiency

1 less job rollout and takedown per week. That saves time that can be spent building.
Getting in your rhythm

It takes time each day to wrap your mind around what you need to do. When you work nine hours instead of eight, it's easier to maintain focus.
Recuperation time

As with most construction companies, our carpenters do side jobs. We know it's too expensive to live in Santa Cruz without exploring all income opportunities. With a Monday-Thursday work schedule, the employees can take on extra work on Friday & Saturday and still have time to spend with their families. Now when they come back on Mondays, they are refreshed and productive.

Morale

Every weekend is a 3-day weekend. If you choose to take on side jobs, great, but if you want to go fishing, camping, take a weekend away with your spouse, watch your kids play sports, or all the other stuff that makes life great, you have three days to do it. Not to mention there are a lot of Monday holidays scattered throughout the year, i.e., a 4-day weekend!

The owners

Craig and I, are much better at our jobs when we are rested physically and mentally. Yes, we still work the employee hours, Monday to Thursday, but Friday through Sunday is ours! We work those days as needed (yes, I'm writing this on a Friday morning), but it's our call. We don't have employees in the field requiring answers about projects.

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