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A Saskatoon tech firm moved to a four day work week a year ago. Here's how it's going.

A Saskatoon tech firm is boasting about the benefits of a four-day work week, with plans to never return to a traditional five-day schedule.

More than a year after implementing its new working schedule on a full-time basis, Coconut Software co-founder Romeo Iula says the reduced working week isn’t some gimmick, but a way for the company to remain relevant in a competitive industry while also meeting the needs of its employees.

I think that there's this belief that you have to give it your all, all of the time to get something done. But I think what people don't necessarily always appreciate is that there's a point of diminishing returns, right?” Iula said. “Burnout is a thing.”

“Whereas if you give people the time to breathe to reflect on the problems that you're presenting to them…then you actually get a quite a bit of an improvement on your return there.”

Coconut — which provides appointment scheduling, lobby management and video banking software for financial institutions — first experimented with the idea in August of 2021 as a way to entice new employees to join the startup. Not being able to offer the perks of tech giants like Google or Microsoft, the company figured working less could be just what Coconut needed.

After a couple of different trials, support for the new schedule started to overwhelm support for the five-day work week.

“If we felt like if we couldn't continue with the production and output that we had been seeing historically, then we would revisit the conversation, but that hasn't been the case,” Iula said.

Overall, the company is moving away from “the grind” of a 40-hour week that has been customary in North America for decades, where hard work, long hours and tireless effort are eventually rewarded.

Keavan Andreassen knows that story all too well. The senior developer used to live in Vancouver, where he commuted to work in Burnaby and was constantly asked to do more in his work week, where eventually he felt like he was running out of time for himself on his days off since he was on-call or expected to be available to his company.

“It was kind of expected, but not vocalized,” he said of his previous employer’s expectations of working more than eight hours of work every day.

“And then the weekend rolls around and you still have more things to do. It just felt like everyday, all day was work.”

He says the environment at Coconut is vastly different. When he explains his work schedule, he’s usually met with curiosity, shock and jealousy.

While many people experience “the Sunday scaries,” the feeling of anxiety or dread the day before going back to work, Andreassen says he feels rejuvenated and ready for work — to the point where it doesn’t feel like the slog it used to.

“I like to say we just don’t have Mondays,” he said. “We throw away the worst day of the week.”

The company now has the proof it needs to keep the 32-hour schedule going. Internal surveys show 98 per cent of the company’s nearly 150 staff say it has helped their physical and mental well-being. Ninety-six per cent of staff say they feel more productive and 66 per cent say quality of life has improved.

Iula said sick time and personal time usage has dropped off, and many employees are feeling less stressed and anxious. He’s also proud to boast a 98 per cent employee retention rate, which is important for a startup that can’t afford to lose valuable dollars to replace staff.

In plain terms, Coconut employees are devoted to productive work when they’re at work.

Rather than being proud of being run down by their job, Coconut employees are proud to leave their work at work every Thursday.

“We have that extra day to recharge, catch-up on sleep, do extra chores,” Andreassen said. “When I come to work I feel much more prepared.”

Iula never imagined Coconut Software would be at the forefront of a trend taking place across the world.

In the United Kingdom, a report published by think tank Autonomy, featuring scholars from University of Cambridge and Boston College examined a four-day work week trial featuring 61 companies and roughly 2,900 workers. Fifty-six of the companies decided to continue with the shortened schedule.

As the trend continues to gain momentum, Andreassen feels it’s the way of the future.

“It’s going to be a mentality to get over,” he said. Top Stories

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