The four-day workweek experiment went viral in the summer of 2018 when a New Zealand firm allowed its employees to work four days a week while getting paid for five. The study’s results showed boosted productivity and a reported 24-percent increase in work-life balance among employees. This study received global attention because the concept alone is in direct conflict with how many companies, especially those in Silicon Valley, choose to run their business in a startup culture that praises long hours and a “workaholism” mindset.
While implementing a four-day workweek might be a radical solution to achieving work-life balance, there are technology companies who are fueling a movement to create a healthy, manageable environment for their employees. In the increasingly competitive battle to attract and retain talent, a healthy, positive culture can be a key differentiator. What most CEOs fail to understand is a company’s culture can also have a direct impact on bottom line metrics like sales and customer retention. Long hours aren’t necessarily indispensable to growth or profitability.
Work-life balance is not a new conversation, but it’s often the first casualty of the growth-at-all-costs mindset that characterizes the tech industry. How can you shift from a nose-to-the-grindstone ethic to one that truly respects a balanced lifestyle while remaining profitable?
Here are three ways to increase the health of the bottom line and the happiness of your employees.
1. Focus on long-term sustainability
In Silicon Valley, most companies make decisions on a three- to nine-month horizon driven by aggressive growth milestones created by the venture capital firms that back them. This creates a cycle where employees must work 80-hour weeks to meet these deadlines. The result is no balance for physical and mental health or personal relationships. Ironically, the quality of work also suffers. Products are developed on a shaky foundation and employees quickly burn out. While some may think a cut-throat, high-pressure atmosphere increases motivation, it often results in decreased productivity over time due to workplace stress, disengaged employees and a lack of loyalty.
Progressive leaders develop goals that lead to sustainable growth and long-term profitability instead of focusing on short-term goals to meet artificial metrics. To do this, executives must buck the status quo. If 90 percent of startups fail, then following the status quo may not be the wisest choice. Instead, build your company culture to emphasize the long-term. Articulating the concept of sustainability and showing how it supports your decisions, provides consistency, and helps you stay on track as you build a company culture you can be proud of.
“If 90 percent of startups fail, then following the status quo may not be the wisest choice.”
2. Lead based on values
Today’s conscious leaders are redefining what it means to be people-focused with new distributed, open, human, neighborly and caring approaches to building company cultures.
As the CEO of a Silicon Valley startup, I’m a strong believer in the power of values-based leadership. Our team at Agiloft has built a customer-focused, employee-centric culture that aligns the interests of every member of the company with the success of our customers. For instance, we offer our customers something unique in the industry: a complete satisfaction guarantee on both the software licenses and services. We also give sales bonuses to the entire company, not just the sales team. We pay the bonus not just when we close a new deal but after we successfully complete implementation. By giving every employee a vested interest in the health of our business, we’ve achieved a 99.6-percent customer satisfaction rate, which has translated to 45-percent year-over-year revenue growth and 200-percent channel sales growth in 2018.
“By giving every employee a vested interest in the health of our business, we’ve achieved a 99.6-percent customer satisfaction rate, which has translated to 45-percent year-over-year revenue growth and 200-percent channel sales growth in 2018.”
An added benefit? When employees buy in the long-term vision of an organization, they are more likely to stay, reducing employee churn and the costs associated with it. According to Employee Benefit News, it costs employers an estimated 33 percent of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement when they voluntarily leave, and the talent shortage in Silicon Valley is already dangerously low.
3. Provide meaningful employee incentives
Silicon Valley offers all kinds of glitzy employee perks. Game rooms, nap pods, free meals, and dry-cleaning services are eye-catching but ultimately gimmicky. A cynical view is that many organizations are outfitting their offices to encourage employees to spend more and more time at the office, further blurring the line between work and personal time.
Companies would be better served by providing employees with meaningful perks that provide tangible value. Focus on providing incentives that help move your company towards achieving work-life balance. Encourage all employees to work 40-hour workweeks, and lead by example whenever possible. Invest in your employees’ wellness. Provide incentives that encourage employees to focus on their health and find natural ways to relieve stress. At Agiloft, we provide all employees with the option to take an expenses-paid 10-day meditation retreat in December without taking any PTO. Instead of providing flashy perks, provide meaningful perks that have a direct impact on employee health.
A “churn and burn” culture is detrimental to employee and company performance. By working with intention, adopting a values-based leadership approach, and offering meaningful incentives, CEOs can create a healthy work-life culture and directly impact their businesses’ bottom lines, while improving long-term sustainability.
Colin Earl is the founder and CEO of Agiloft, a Silicon Valley pioneer in no-code development platforms for business applications. Earl is that rare founder who runs a fast-growing, profitable company without VC funding. A strong believer in the power of values-based leadership, he has built a customer-focused, employee-centric culture that aligns the interests of every member of the company with those of its customers.