I sat on a panel recently for NARI Greater Chicagoland and unsurprisingly, the topics of hiring, company culture, and work-life balance were on everyone’s minds. One idea that came up, to mixed reactions, was the four-day work week.
The concept may seem unrealistic in remodeling, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, for some remodelers in the room, it’s how they do business.
Don Van Cura of Don Van Cura Construction in Chicago made the change almost three years ago. David Callahan of Callahan & Peters and Ron Cowgill of D/R Services Unlimited, both in Glenview, Ill., have been offering shortened work weeks for more than 20 years; though, Callahan operates on a four-and-a-half-day work week.
There’s plenty of precedent for a four-day work week outside the United States.
In June, the United Kingdom kicked off one of the largest four-day work week trial runs—orchestrated by 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit that claims that 78% of employees with four-day weeks are happier and less stressed.
Benefits for Remodeling
While 4 Day Week Global’s model focuses on 32-hour weeks, the Chicago area business owners run on four 10-hour days. Each expressed finding few (if any) negatives with the revised schedule.
“We said we’d try it for six months, and if it’s a problem, we’ll go back,” shared Ron Cowgill. “There really weren’t any downsides, and that’s why we never stopped it.”
Each remodeler expressed a similar experience; it began as a trial but became an unexpected solution to several challenges: hiring, limited time, and work-life balance. Yes, employees and the owners must work longer days (typically 7 am until 5:30 pm, Monday through Thursday), but those adjusted times actually help team members beat rush hour, and they don’t have to commute five days a week (especially helpful with today’s gas prices).
Teams also tear down and clean up jobsites only four times a week. And even if crews have to come in on Friday, they’re getting paid overtime to do it and still have their weekend. While Cowgill admits that longer days could be difficult for some older employees, his team has still rarely called a day short.
As owner, Cowgill finds that those empty Fridays help him catch up on his backlog of administrative work, such as writing estimates and scheduling.
One concern raised during the panel was how the homeowner might respond to the four-day week. Remodeler Don Van Cura was quick to challenge the misconception.
Clients enjoy having their kitchens back on Fridays, Van Cura says. And while Van Cura’s focus is on happy clients, a greater focus for him is happy employees.
“I really think it’s more our mental problem than it is to clients because we’ve noticed no change,” Van Cura shared, adding that the untraditional schedule conversation is one of the first had with potential clients.
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Getting the Schedule Right
Still, Fridays remain a working day for most everyone else, so Cowgill and Callahan request their employees remain on call for emergencies.
“Even if I have schedules to work on Friday afternoon, I know I can do it outside the normal structure: I can kick back on my deck, and it’s the same thing with our designer,” Callahan told me. “She has a toddler and she can go home.”
Cowgill adds it’s “clearly an advantage” because two of his latest hires applied specifically for the shortened week.
Clearly there are no rules for a four-day work week. From shortened hours to stretched days, the model varies, tweaked to fit the needs of an owner and their team. As remodelers seek solutions to longstanding challenges, the concept may not be as unreasonable as it seems.