When Cristian Rennella first co-founded elMejorTrato.com, a Latin American search engine, he and his employees worked five days a week just like nearly all other companies. But then two years in they decided to try something different: they stopped working on Fridays.
“We said we’re going to try it for only three months and if everything is working and the same amount of work is done, we can say three more months,” he told ThinkProgress. “Five years later we haven’t stopped.”
And in that same timespan the company has grown annual revenue by 204 percent.
Rennella credits that growth in large part to the different work schedule. He says it makes everyone at the company get more done in a shorter amount of time. “We know we have Friday off, so we can be more productive because we know we have to focus,” he said. “We only have 32 hours to do all the work.” Rather than spending some work hours on Facebook or doctor’s appointments, he and his employees use all of them for work-related tasks.
His hunches are supported by the data. The most productive workers around the world are those who put in fewer hours. Meanwhile, different studies have found that working more than 60 hours a week can boost productivity in the short term but that boost will disappear after a few weeks.
The model makes particular sense in his sector. “We’re in the technology age, we’re not working in the industrial age,” he pointed out. “In the industrial age, people thought that the more you work the more you will get done. Now for us it’s the opposite. It’s not the most work you do, it’s the quality of the work that matters.” For programmers especially, the quality of the code they write in the shortest amount of time is more important than the hours clocked sitting at a desk. A few other technology companies have tried shorter workweeks, like Treehouse in the U.S.
The policy brings other advantages to his company. “We want to make [work/life balance] a reality,” he said. “It’s impossible to have balance with work and life with your family if you work five days and you have only two days to spend time with family.” The balance he feels they achieve is a big draw for prospective employees. The company has a “competitive advantage…to hire only the best and excellent professionals,” he said. It’s hard to lure the best engineers to a company, but his workweek is a big draw. “Compared to competition with the same salary, they’re happier here and they say it’s an important thing… We can hire better people,” he said. Studies have found that shorter hours do make people happier.
And once they come onboard, his employees rarely leave. “They don’t go to work in another place because they’ve been working so few days,” he said. “Everywhere [else] is five days for eight hours, 40 hours a week.” Here in the United States, the 40-hour week is even a myth: the average full-time American worker puts in 47 hours a week. Retaining employees comes with huge benefits for his company. “When you have a new person on the team or have to replace a person who leaves, you have to start from zero,” he said. Keeping people “allows us to have long-term sustainability. We can grow much more quickly than our competition because we have no problem with members of the team going to another company.”
That’s definitely true for Rennella himself. “If I want to go to a new startup or work for another company, I would like to work four days…because my family is expecting me to be with them Friday.”