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Exploring the Benefits of a 4-Day Workweek: Seattle Startup Embraces Innovation for Productivity, Well-being, and Company Culture

Uplevel, a Seattle-based startup, specializes in developing software tools that assist engineering teams in effectively managing their time and preventing burnout. Drawing inspiration from its own expertise and the products it creates, the company is implementing strategies to optimize its own operations.

Uplevel is embracing the growing trend of implementing a 4-day workweek as a means to boost productivity and enhance employee happiness. This approach, which has gained traction among numerous companies and even in Congress, is seen as a response to the changing work landscape during the pandemic. By adopting a shorter workweek, Uplevel aims to create a more efficient and fulfilling work environment for its employees.

In response to the pandemic, Uplevel, a 27-person spinout of Madrona Venture Labs, made the decision to permanently transition to a fully remote work model. This shift required the company to adapt and find new ways to maintain a positive workplace culture and effectively collaborate in a virtual environment, which has been a challenge faced by many organizations in recent years. By embracing remote work, Uplevel has adjusted its approach to ensure its team members can successfully navigate the demands of virtual collaboration while upholding a strong and cohesive work culture.

Uplevel CEO and co-founder Joe Levy expressed his concerns about the mental health impact of burnout and the challenges of constantly working in a virtual environment filled with back-to-back Zoom meetings. While completing tasks and meeting deadlines is important, Levy emphasized the significance of ensuring employees are not physically and mentally exhausted from their work. Uplevel acknowledges the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and prioritizing employee well-being to prevent burnout and foster a sustainable and positive work environment.

Joe Levy
Uplevel CEO and co-founder Joe Levy. (Uplevel Photo)

To combat the lack of physical interaction and promote team bonding, Uplevel implemented virtual happy hours and other social gatherings to facilitate connections among team members. These activities provided a way for employees to engage with one another outside of work-related tasks. Additionally, the company recognized the importance of mental health and offered employees mental health days as well as extended breaks during the summer and Thanksgiving. These initiatives aimed to prioritize employee well-being, alleviate stress, and promote work-life balance in the remote work environment.

The decision to implement a four-day workweek, with Fridays off, was well-received by Uplevel’s employees. The company’s founders, who have a background in organizational psychology and technology, conducted research on the benefits of a shorter workweek and also sought feedback from their employees regarding their preferences and needs. Taking these factors into account, Uplevel made the decision to provide employees with an extended weekend by offering Fridays off. This move aligns with the company’s commitment to employee well-being and productivity, aiming to create a better work-life balance and promote overall job satisfaction.

Uplevel’s experiment with the four-day workweek will span the first quarter, during which the company will conduct monthly check-ins and analyze the impact of the new schedule. At the end of the quarter, Uplevel will evaluate the results to determine whether to continue offering extended weekends.

The concept of a four-day workweek has gained traction in recent years, with companies like Shake Shack and Kickstarter also exploring this approach. Microsoft notably implemented a program called the “Work-Life Choice Challenge” in Japan two years ago, where offices were closed every Friday for one month. This resulted in a 40% increase in productivity, measured by sales per employee, compared to the same period the previous year.

Uplevel’s decision to experiment with a four-day workweek reflects a growing recognition of the importance of work-life balance and employee well-being, as well as the potential for improved productivity in a more condensed work schedule.

Embracing Change: Uplevel’s Four-Day Workweek Receives Positive Feedback from Employees

Lauren Franklin.
Uplevel’s Lauren Franklin.

Lauren Franklin has been serving as the Director of Customer Success at Uplevel for the past two years, and she is eagerly looking forward to the implementation of the four-day workweek. She appreciates the company’s commitment to carefully measuring the impact of this change. In discussions with friends and family, she has received feedback that many of them also desire similar initiatives in their own workplaces.

Franklin expressed her excitement about being involved in a company that is willing to challenge traditional work practices. She is eager to share the results of the four-day workweek experiment with those who have shown interest and curiosity in trying out similar approaches.

Franklin acknowledged that it would be unrealistic to expect that absolutely no work tasks would arise on Fridays. She emphasized that managing expectations and adapting to the occasional work-related situation on those days is an important part of the process.

Franklin expressed some concern about the possibility of having to revert to the previous work schedule if the experiment does not yield the desired results. She mentioned that her team has come up with exciting ideas for utilizing the extra time and, as a manager, she is anxious about how to support her team if they no longer have those opportunities available.

Brian Park
Uplevel’s Brian Park

Brian Park, a software engineering manager, expressed enthusiasm about working at a company that challenges conventional assumptions about productivity in a workweek. However, he acknowledged that some members of his team have concerns about the potential for increased stress if the same workload is condensed into four days.

“We want to ensure that we approach this process in the right way, which means that we’ll be open to learning and making adjustments as we go,” Park stated.

Both Park and Franklin are looking forward to the opportunity for more family time and pursuing personal projects. Franklin, who has a 5-month-old son, is excited to have more one-on-one time with him, while Park plans to delve deeper into his hobby of brewing traditional Korean rice alcohol.

‘Another arrow in our quiver

Dan Giuliani
Volt CEO Dan Giuliani (Volt Photo)

Seattle-based startup Volt, known for its fitness training app platform, made the transition to a four-day workweek, known as “Flex Fridays,” in July 2020. According to CEO and co-founder Dan Giuliani, the shift has been incredibly positive and has helped establish Volt as a company that prioritizes its employees’ well-being. Giuliani described the experience as “fascinating” and emphasized the company’s commitment to a human-centric approach.

“The best part is the positive impact we can make on our employees’ well-being, all while striving towards our company and team goals,” Giuliani expressed. He added, “What initially began as a change in schedule has evolved into a comprehensive organizational philosophy that fosters greater openness, trust, and transparency throughout our company.”

The transition to a four-day workweek has come with its fair share of challenges and valuable lessons. While there is no requirement to work on the fifth day, employees are still expected to maintain a high level of performance. Teams involved in external-facing roles like sales, marketing, and business development have had to be flexible with their availability. Giuliani acknowledged that managing time constraints can sometimes be demanding.

Giuliani noted that with a reduced workweek, the need for increased efficiency becomes evident. The team at Volt had to reevaluate their regular meetings and adjust their approach to time management. This process of reassessment and rewiring their workflow has proven valuable for the organization, as it promotes effective time utilization and productivity.

Volt’s success with implementing a four-day workweek has garnered recognition within the sports industry. The company was recently named one of the “Best Employers in Sports” of 2021 by Front Office Sports, a media platform in the industry. This accolade is particularly notable as it is solely based on employee feedback. The positive impact of the shorter workweek has positioned Volt as a highly desirable employer in the sports sector.

CEO Dan Giuliani acknowledged the significance of the four-day schedule as a recruiting advantage, especially for a startup competing against larger tech companies. He referred to it as another valuable tool in their arsenal to attract top talent.

Companies Embrace the Employee-Centric Approach

team during in person days
The Uplevel team during in-person days. (Uplevel Photo)

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, has reflected on his early days at the company, describing them as “kind of maniacal.” During that time, he held a strong work ethic and did not believe in taking weekends off or vacations until he reached his thirties. Gates was known for his intense dedication to the company, even going as far as memorizing the license plates of his colleagues to monitor their commitment to his high standards.

Joe Levy, CEO of Uplevel and a former Microsoft employee, has experienced a different perspective. Having spent four years at Microsoft and now leading a startup that is implementing a three-day weekend, Levy believes that the working world has evolved. He recognizes the importance of work-life balance and acknowledges the need for a shift in mindset to prioritize well-being and productivity.

Levy acknowledges that Bill Gates had his own approach to work, which yielded success for him. However, he believes that the current employment landscape is different and emphasizes that it is now an employee market. With Uplevel, Levy’s goal is not to offer the highest compensation in Seattle, but rather to cultivate a company culture that employees truly love. He sees the exploration of new work methods, such as the implementation of a four-day workweek, as a significant component in achieving this goal.

Levy argues that the traditional mindset of working longer hours to achieve the same output is akin to a mechanistic approach, which is not suitable for high-end, creative jobs. He believes that individuals in such roles thrive when they are motivated and enthusiastic about their work. This, in turn, contributes to employee retention and helps shape a positive company culture that aligns with the innovative products Uplevel develops.

Levy also recognizes the recruiting aspect of implementing a four-day workweek. As the pandemic has already transformed the way we work, companies will need to adapt their perspectives on office perks like ping-pong tables and kegerators, which were once seen as significant attractions. Instead, the focus will shift towards creating a work environment that supports employee well-being and provides a healthy work-life balance. For Levy personally, he intends to make the most of his Fridays by enjoying skiing trips to Crystal Mountain.

Levy emphasizes that while he no longer has a physical office space, implementing a four-day workweek can serve as a significant differentiator for Uplevel. He firmly believes in the potential success of this approach and its positive impact on the company’s employment, culture, and product.

The decision to experiment with a four-day workweek stems from the belief that it will lead to greater employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall well-being. By actively trying out this new approach, Uplevel aims to create a work environment that aligns with the evolving needs and expectations of its employees.

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