Almost all the organizations I’ve been looking at for the new book are for-profit companies. This is more or less by design, since I wanted places that had to deal with making payroll, satisfying customers, and all the rest while reducing their working hours.
But nonprofits are often places that have very dedicated workforces that believe in the mission of the organization, want to make a difference, and are susceptible to all the issues around burnout, overwork, and exploitation that you see in startups.
So it was interesting to discover the Rockwood Leadership Institute, an Oakland nonprofit that has been running on a 4-day week for years. As they explain in a post, “The Nonprofit Four-Day Workweek: You Can Take Care of Yourself and Still Change the World:”
One of the six practices we teach social change leaders here at Rockwood Leadership Institute is personal ecology: maintaining balance, pacing and efficiency to sustain your energy over a lifetime of activism. For the past seven years, we’ve found that a wonderful way to support our staff’s personal ecology is by instituting a four-day, 32-hour workweek.
Our four-day workweek experiment began during the 2008 recession when we, like many nonprofits, were finding solutions for some new financial challenges. During that time, we decided to try reducing the salaries of our department directors while also changing their schedules to a four-day, 32-hour workweek (Monday-Thursday). After a very productive year, we extended the four-day, 32-hour workweek to our entire staff (without the salary decrease) to test the idea that a shorter week would strengthen the organization overall. And it did!…
I love that the 4-day week flows from their interest in sustainability and personal ecology. At the same time, they’re also clear about the challenges:
We won’t sugar coat it. Having a four-day week isn’t without its issues. Staff have also reported challenges with answering the email that builds up over the three-day weekend, and with creating efficient systems to get work done in a timely manner. Some staff also expressed guilt about “not doing enough.”
That said, instituting a four-day, 32-hour workweek hasn’t just benefited the staff’s work and personal lives, it has also helped Rockwood grow as an organization. Since implementing a four-day workweek, we have tripled our budget and increased the number of people we serve each year while maintaining the same number of staff (11-13).