Loka is now permanently switching to what we call 5/4 Fridays, giving our employees every other Friday off work.
The same way we set stand-ups and one-on-ones to ensure projects are on track, we now have set days for our people to reset. This adds 24 new days off to our yearly calendar, and with it Loka joins the ranks of leading-edge countries and companies around the world that are prioritizing wellness and providing a practical definition of healthy work-life balance.
Humans enjoy time off. They benefit from time off. This is not news. What is news is the recent, robust data (thanks, Iceland!) that arrive at the same conclusion: More time off work does not equate to less work being done.
The U.S. has been slower than other nations to embrace the shorter workweek. Myriad reasons come to my mind, none of them healthy and none based in fact . Most charitably we could chalk it up to inertia. Despite longstanding studies from the likes of Harvard and Stanford that found the optimal length of a workday to be up to 25% shorter than our current eight-hour standard, old habits die hard.
We’ve all heard platitudes about "employee wellness," but engineers and other technical roles in particular tend to clock exhausting hours without complaint, leading to well-documented burnout. Innovation has disproportionately applied to our conception of products, not treatment of people.
Loka isn't a young company—we celebrate our 18th birthday this year—but we're wise enough to think like one. Instituting 5/4 Fridays wasn't a tough decision and it wasn't long in deliberation. A three-month pilot at the end of last year returned irrefutable results: Productivity is the same if not better, buoyed by reports of greater wellbeing, less burnout, better retention and better recruitment. What's not to like?
This four-day-week shift is clearly part of a larger sea change in the way we work, taking place not only at Loka but everywhere, across sectors and across borders. We know there are more than a few allies out there with the same intention. It is simply a good idea whose time has come. I guarantee more are on the way.
Loka's leadership established the 5/4 structure but left it intentionally empty, a blank for employees to fill in however they see fit. No caveats, no expectations, no insinuation toward being "productive." We made it clear that this day is intended as a genuine, standalone day off—a Saturday, not a half-there Friday or scary Sunday.
To help set the tone, I take the time off myself, for real, every time. My Slack status is "away" and my notifications are off. But believe me, people didn't need much hand-holding. Our 5/4 Slack channel already shows photo evidence of some very fun days off, and we'll keep it running as a reminder of how liberating this new benefit is.
When asked for feedback, Lokals from Los Altos to Lisbon responded with enthusiasm. I probably don't need to tell you this, but folks are very, very happy. Over 98% of our employees strongly agreed that “5/4 Fridays have a positive impact on my work-life balance” and 95% strongly agreed that “after 5/4 Fridays, I feel more productive and refreshed.” No surprises there. But what decision makers might find interesting is that all of our project leaders, with the exception of one, agreed with the statement, “My team’s productivity has increased since the 5/4 schedule began.”
With 24 more days off work this year coming at regular intervals, our team is taking advantage of the mental break to delve into new pursuits like day trading, podcasting, adult education and surfing. They're using the three-day window to travel further from home. They're taking "me" days to run errands and tie up loose ends. They're doing nothing at all but spending time alone or with their kids, partners and friends.
The common thread I see is the positive change in mindset that comes with 5/4's consistent cadence. It speaks to the overall workplace transformation Loka stands for. And I love the variety with which that transformation is expressed:
"The will to try new approaches to make our work-life balance
better shows what the company stands for."
—Madalena, Product Developer, Portugal
"Very few companies care about their employees as people. Loka
is the opposite."
—Wade, Project Manager, USA
"Loka trusts us, so we end up trusting Loka."
—Alex, Machine Learning Team Lead, Portugal
"I’m a more balanced person than before. Three days off work
every two weeks adds a gigantic buffer to recharge and reconnect
—Paul, Head of Backend Engineering, Portugal
"I'm able to separate my downtime and gain more rest on
three-day weekends to brace for the week. It's like an extra
breath of fresh air knowing you have your Friday to yourself."
—Adrienne, Compliance Specialist, USA
"At the end of the week, on your 5/4 Friday you feel like,
'Damn, I earned this shit!'”
—Juan, Engineering Manager, Colombia
I'm glad to hear Juan say that, because earning it is the point! Just like superlative workers earn competitive salaries at Loka, they earn superlative benefits, too. And in the new workplace dynamic, when it comes to benefits, everything is on the table.
Ultimately, as a business owner, I hope to establish a sense of reciprocity with my people. Hard work deserves an equitable exchange. Which is why it feels good to give employees something they deeply desire but never felt was within their right to ask for.
More specifically, it feels correct. It feels true. It feels like us. This is a sandbox we at Loka love to play in and the industry-leading role we have earned.
And what do our clients think? We communicated our plan in advance, discovered they're overwhelmingly on board and received far more congratulations than criticisms. We're still hitting our deadlines, just working different hours. And at the same time we're sending a message to future clients, too: Loka attracts and keeps elite talent because people are happier to be here than anywhere else.
5/4 Fridays are just one of the innovative benefits we plan to explore and roll out in 2022. Wellness isn’t negotiable if you’re serious about performing at a high level over a sustained period of time. This is the tipping point for major workplace change and we all stand to benefit. In fact, I’m releasing this article on a 5/4 workweek, and you can bet I’ll be enjoying every minute of my Friday. What would you do if you had this Friday off?