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Tlell, Haida Gwaii

Why we have shifted to the four-day work week

Tlell, Haida Gwaii

Full confession — last fall, when a team member proposed Ecotrust Canada shift to a four-day work week (4DWW), I scoffed. Openly. I looked around at the group of people already pressed to the limits of time to fulfill the mission of our organization and wondered aloud, how on earth would a shorter work week help? If anything, this group of harried, stressed people needed a longer work week! Admittedly, it took longer than it should have for the glaringly obvious penny to drop. I’ll blame it on the willful blindness that appears symptomatic of my accelerating age. After all, when I was a kid, I had to walk 10 miles uphill in a blizzard to get to…well, never mind.

So, with a bit of soothsaying from staff, a boatload of reading on the subject, and consultations with organizations who had instituted similar policies, we began to form a full picture of the benefits of a shortened work week. Indeed, the research and practical experience of those implementing a 4DWW highlighted significant upsides, including increased team productivity, effectiveness, and job satisfaction, not to mention stronger employee retention and improved recruiting prospects.

While I believe a 4DWW can help all kinds of businesses, as a non-profit organization, we depend far less on financial compensation to motivate and support our team. Instead, a passion for our mission is what attracts and keeps people here. But unfortunately, all that passion can be detrimental to a person’s work/life balance, and the non-profit world is replete with the casualties of people who are burned out and “running on empty” as they try to do too much with too little. That’s why it’s critical that Ecotrust Canada does what it can do to help our people maintain balance in their working lives.

There is a wide variety of ways that the 4DWW can be implemented. We have chosen to shift to a 32-hour week from Monday to Thursday — with no change in compensation. This was not an exercise in having people work less for less pay. While the change, in theory, increases the cost of our work, we are confident that the additional expense will be more than offset by factors such as the increased effectiveness of our team, reduced sick leave, and lower job turnover.

We also take satisfaction in knowing that this shift lives up to Ecotrust Canada’s values and mission, and the spirit with which we embrace economic innovation that can make people’s lives better and more whole. It’s what we aspire to for our community partners, and it’s what we aspire to for ourselves.

By Chuck Rumsey, President and CEO


[January 30, 2023]