A brave step forward

This text appeared on the Grenier website. To consult the original version, click here.

In response to the increasing demand for flexibility and a better work-life balance, various initiatives are being introduced all over the world.

Think of Iceland, with its four-day workweek, or Belgium, whose government launched a labour market reform that aims, among other things, to adopt this model. Countries and companies that have tested reduced schedules all agree: they have proved to have a positive effect on workers’ productivity and well-being.

In Quebec, a number of employers are following suit. Poches & Fils, for example, has adopted a four-day workweek for their employees. They’re one of a variety of companies who are starting to offer reduced schedules.

Ever since I started working in communications and marketing, I’ve been asking myself why this type of model was so taboo in the industry – and why it wasn’t more common. When I brought the matter up with a number of leaders, I always fell upon the same apprehensions: With our teams already working so hard on a full-time schedule, how can we ask them to work fewer  hours? How can we give our clients the service they need on such a model? There’s no way this would work in our industry!

Not too long ago, we were seeing a similar discourse about remote work. And it was nothing if not possible. We’ve tweaked our way of doing things, and working remotely is now the norm at Humanise. Thanks to a hybrid work model, we’re taking advantage of greater concentration at home and better opportunities to foster collaboration and creativity at the office. So, to promote flexibility and encourage the well-being of our employees, we again took up the conversation on what scheduling options we could explore.

With the help of a few managers who were firm believers in the cause, we tested flexible schedule models within Brand Language, one of the teams at BBR. After 18 months of trials, assessments and adjustments, the findings were conclusive: it worked! Not only were employees happier and appreciative of a better work-life balance, there were no adverse effects on their productivity – in fact, it even increased! The bottom line is the program had no impact on our bottom line, plus it had a favourable effect on retention, attraction and even absenteeism.

In light of these inspiring results, and as the labour market is more competitive than ever, the Talent and Culture team reached out to other leaders within the Humanise Collective. Could this type of program be adapted to other fields of expertise? Could we identify barriers and find solutions to make it work? Think of all the good it could bring, not just for our employees but for all of Humanise!

After a deep dive into the matter, we have some good news to announce. Five agencies from the collective will be taking the plunge and testing out the flexible work model in 2022!

We’ll be starting with our 9/10 model for all employees. The notion is simple: on a two-week schedule, we work nine days and take a break on the tenth. This model encourages employees to take some personal time, while limiting the impact on their work. (If stress increases because they’re working slightly longer hours each day to make up for the break, then we’re straying from the objective.)

The following is what guided our convictions to implement this program:
●   Our employees are mature professionals. We trust them.
●   Our employees are hard-working and loyal. They deserve it.
●   We believe in the accountability of each individual.

The next few weeks will be dedicated to testing this model, learning about what changes it brings and tweaking it as needed. Although we know it won’t be perfect, we are confident it will be a success. Why? We know we’re doing it for the right reasons, and we know our employees are like no others.

In three months’ time, we promise to report on our lessons learned. And until then, we will be sure to make the most of our well-deserved breaks, while slowly and surely working to change people’s minds.