Last fall, I casually posted about a bold new direction we were considering taking Blue Street Capital, the Technology and Equipment Financing firm I founded almost 14 years ago. In a nutshell, we were converting our traditional 8-hour workday to a five-hour window, without changing pay. Not surprisingly, readers of that blog have been anxious to hear our results. For those who are considering a similar path, take note: our company revenue has increased 33% over the past 12 months, employee productivity and morale is at an all-time high, and the quality of applicants for our open positions is extraordinary. Our customer-response rate is quicker than it had been during an 8-hour day, and our NPS (Customer Satisfaction Score) has surpassed our previously-held record.
When we made this decision to reconfigure our workday to increase productivity and promote work-life balance, we feared every possible negative fallout: customer dissatisfaction, industry judgement, plummeting performance. But, at our core, we believed in it. One year later, the numbers – from productivity levels to an increased bottom line – demonstrate the power of values-based management decisions. And, strictly personally, my life, and the lives of every one of our employees, has improved exponentially. We can confidently promise future employees a ‘10X’ improvement in their quality of life. In return, we are confident in our ability to grow BSC by equal measure.
A SNEAK PEEK AT OUR 5-HOUR DAY
The standard 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Blue Street Capital workday is baseline. We regularly work past the early afternoon cutoff but, frankly, a really-busy day typically ends by 3 p.m. When our customers call after 1 p.m. we can still pick up or get back to them, but we have re-educated them to our hours. The more notable change in our new policy has been the elimination of wasted time, everything from extended coffee breaks, pointless chit chat, hour-long lunches, too-social meetings and much more.
New employees are amazed at our level of focus before 1 p.m. (Consequently, they reflect on their previous work environments and recognize the waste; this visible comparison is an invaluable asset to our onboarding.) Last Monday, I arrived at work promptly at 8:00 and delivered high-intensity attention until exactly 1:00, when I left for a quick surf, lunch with my wife, a surprise appearance in my daughter’s carpool and an educational drive with my son to football practice. My earlier five-hours of focus surpassed the productivity of a typical eight-hour day, and it was still only 4:45; hours lay ahead of me to revisit work, spend time as a family, and truly relax.
TGIM (Thank God it’s Monday) is a legitimate motto at our company. It sticks, because we mean it. Mondays do not signify the end of freedom… a.k.a. all that personal time with family, friends, physical sport, invigorating outdoor-activities, following passions, relaxed creative visualization, etc. We can now roll all of these pastimes into our weekdays. Creating this kind of space to pursue our lives has been a game changer for all us.
Can we expand our business and, at the same time, maintain this lifestyle? My bet is yes.
PHYSICAL MEETS VIRTUAL – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
There is no doubt in my mind that having employees in the same space builds energy and fosters the kind of collaboration that simply doesn’t occur in virtual interaction. At the same time, people working in the comfort of their own home on their own time often generate richer results. In essence, the five-hour-workday creates the environment for both exist.
As I mentioned, the 5-hour day is strictly a starter. There are many times that our customers need us, and we need to respond. And end-of-quarter requirements typically necessitate extra hours, as well. But the attitude remains, that balance is key, and the onus to strike that balance and perform rests squarely on the employee. Responsibility: it’s the ultimate freedom.
Our biggest challenge has been the pull of old habits. Specifically, it is strangely sometimes easier to stretch our effort over 9, 10, 11 long hours. Call it human nature, this trance-like detour toward trivial chatter, Facebook updates, returning personal texts, googling random facts, etc.
This past year, we have learned that the only way to break those habits was to demonstrably change our culture and, in turn, expand our values: drive, hustle, focus, efficiency. All of these attributes were present, or expected, before the shift, but the shift itself forced them into the spotlight. Our expectation, now, is that we bring it every minute of every day. To do that, these values must be more than words on a wall; they must be embedded in our DNA.
Arriving even two minutes after 8:00 a.m. is considered a serious offense. Every superfluous conversation has been eliminated. Lunches, routine medical appointments, and any non-work related meetings have all been relocated to the afternoon hours.
WILL THE FIVE-HOUR-WORKDAY WORK FOR YOU?
Our 5-Hour Day is still officially in beta-mode, but we are well past ‘experiment.’ There isn’t one member of Blue Street Capital who would go back. It is unanimously hailed as more efficient, more productive, more personally satisfying. And – because we are in business – our numbers are up. The only way to know if this strategy would produce similar results in your company is to give it a try. Give it a year. Give it a real chance to take hold and break bad habits. It doesn’t take long to recognize all the waste… once the waste is gone.