The 32-hour workweek.
A blog by Lee Williams, CEO of Community-Minded Enterprises
May 25, 2021, was a historic day for Community-Minded Enterprises. Historic is not a word I use lightly, but for this announcement it definitely applies. On May 25th the CME Board approved the 32-hour workweek/64-hour pay period. Can I get a hallelujah? Some jazz hands? A happy dance? Well, that’s how I was feeling at least, and I know many in our company felt the same way when the announcement was made internally.
As I pause and reflect, I go back to a year ago, when it was just an idea. A what if. A dream big. Such a big step was not to be taken lightly. We had many hours of conversation and reflection. We listened to staff, consulted with experts, mapped out what it could look like for our organization, and tried it out.
Along the way we refined the concept to meet the needs of our employees. If there was one area where we were laser focused, it was the reason behind this new approach. I was convinced then, and I am now, that the 32-hour workweek will bring the balance we all need to live our best life personally and professionally. Valuing our staff is deep in the roots of this organization and now, in a very tangible way, we have a tool that will impact our team for years to come.
We officially make the switch to the 32-hour workweek/64-hour pay period in September. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Nancy Rust-Schaefer, our Chief Financial Officer and Traci Logan-Demus, our Chief Human Resources Officer, for helping to make this happen. I am grateful to the CME Board for their support, and our staff of over 60 who asked great questions along the way.
Sincerely, Lee Williams, CEO
It’s a new month and I again find myself reflecting on our organization’s trial of the 32-hour workweek. Like all good processes, this one is evolving. We have shifted our way of thinking from 32-hours in one workweek to 64-hours in a pay period. This slight shift has had a profound impact, giving team members the ability to adjust to last-minute assignments or changes in their workflow or personal life.
As we get ready to wrap up our trial, I am pleased to share another story from our staff. Laura works in our Plan to Work program assisting people receiving Social Security benefits to access employment. Here is her experience with this new way of approaching work.
CME’s adoption of a trial 32-hour week has brought a refreshing and much-needed change in my life. While I am very thankful that we were able to continue serving our clients by working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the 32-hour week has helped me alleviate the issues that sometimes come with working from home. There is less time to feel isolated from coworkers, and the somewhat blurred lines between home and work life don’t seem to make the days run into each other as much.
Having the option to choose between a compressed workweek or flexing the 32-hour week across 5 days has been a blessing that goes beyond the impacts of the pandemic, a shift I am hoping will become permanent in my role as a Community Work Incentives Coordinator and in CME’s culture. With the new work schedule, I found myself being more productive, better able to prioritize daily tasks, and more intentional in how I communicate with my clients. It has also provided me with both the opportunity and the challenge to continue looking for ways to work smarter.
The new work schedule has not only benefited my work life but also my personal life. For example, it has allowed me to continue attending medical appointments for ongoing health issues without feeling guilty that I am missing work, and spending more time helping my son, who although is in his mid-twenties, still requires my ongoing support due to his disability.
I would like to thank our CEO Lee Williams for proposing the 32-hour week work schedule to the board and the board for approving the implementation of this trial period. From talking with several coworkers across various programs within CME and reading previous blog entries, it seems that this change has benefited many of us both professionally and personally. A common thread runs through the 32-hour workweek, that it has brought us a renewed sense of commitment and purpose, lowered stress levels, and encouraged more balanced lives.
I am humbled by Laura’s kind words and pleased to see the new schedule is doing what it was designed to do – support our amazing staff. Soon I will be presenting all we’ve learned during this trial period to the Community-Minded Enterprises Board of Directors. In my next blog post I will share with you next steps. Until then I leave you with this thought “work smarter not harder”.
Lee Williams, CEO
Earlier this week, I presented to the CME Board of Directors on our trial period, using, adapting, and growing under the 32-hour workweek structure. I was able to report to the board, that three months in, this new approach IS working. I say that confidently because every other month staff receives an online survey to gauge and track their experiences. One question we’ve been asking staff is to rate their workplace stress. Since January we’ve seen workplace stress decline. After coping with the unknowns of a pandemic, this is a great indicator we are on the right track.
Another question we are getting feedback on has to do with work-life balance. Specifically, are staff better able to accommodate their child(ren’s) needs while working a 32-hour week? The response to this question has been overwhelmingly positive.
Beyond the survey, we are learning from staff through one-on-one interviews with members and our leadership team and inviting staff to contribute to this blog.
This month we hear from Raymond Sanderson whose official title is Recovery Café Floor Associate. Ray, as he likes to be called, is the glue that holds the café together. He greets members as they arrive, answers the phone, helps with meal service, and leads a recovery circle. When he is not at work Ray helps care for his nephew Silas, as you’ll seek as Ray shares his experience, in his own words.
My experience with our company’s 32-hour workweek is a blessing and so appreciated. I have Silas from Friday afternoon (sometimes he is waiting at my house when I get home) until late Sunday evening. This scenario never gave me a break for just me time, which after a while wears me down. I get to take Mondays off thanks to our new 32-hour week. I have an ongoing list of medical problems and have multiple appointments for these concerns. I even get to do some fun self-care like getting my hair done and doing laundry. It is very nice to be able to take the day and just breathe and relax. The entire CME team has and continues to go above and beyond for all of their employees. I am very grateful to work for such an amazing company.
Thank you, Ray, for sharing your story. Family is so important, and we are thrilled his new approach to work is making your life better. In the nonprofit world, especially in direct service, we all need some time for self-care.
I will continue to share staff stories here. Thanks for checking in and I look forward to sharing again in May.
Lee Williams, CEO
At our weekly Huddle meeting recently, team members shared strategies for self-care. It is a topic that seems to come up a lot these days. A year of living under a pandemic has taken its toll. Whether it is reading, cooking, walking, listening to music – we are all looking for ways to unplug. Now Community-Minded staff has more time for self-care thanks to the 32-work week.
As we reach the halfway point of our trial, here is a look at how it is going. As seen through the eyes of Shannon. A member of CME since 2012 and a self-described typical working mom, struggling to balance work life with family life and all the expectations that go with that dual role. Here is her story.
A 32- hour week schedule has been fantastic for me.
The timing of this idea alongside COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise. For many years, I spent time trying to find that perfect work-life balance, as many of us do. Endeavoring to edit and reclaim lost time. Often a workaholic. One more thing, one last conversation to be responsive and not to mention general responsibilities including supervision and oversight of our Professional Development Program. Then there is the family side. The silent system. This has been my internal struggle. I attempted small adjustments but found that inconsistent. Self-care was a word that had no meaning, a word on the to-do list.
Then COVID-19 hit, and we were forced home. So was most of my family. Now I asked myself “How was that going to work?” Work and home with my kids all day! I will certainly be working even more hours if that is possible.
That was different than I had envisioned in my mind- but we adapted. We adjusted. We compromised, we budgeted for data increases, and well… we did it! We grew from it!
Additionally, the idea of working a different schedule was introduced. Do your same job, just condense it into 32 hours. “We will support you!”
Challenge accepted. Next, the opportunity to practice and plan. I am a planner so that worked well. I determined I would not work on Fridays because a three-day weekend suits me. I dug in, although skeptically. I had to adjust my mindset. This was hard but valuable. I had to practice being okay with uncertainty, not answering every email all day long, pushing away guilt. It was freeing. The mindset was shifting. For tasks and practice, I set limits and minimized specific distractions, or as I refer to them as time sucks. I put into practice productivity supports and time management tools.
These steps were key. I had to change my mind about how my daily grind would look and what was a success in a condensed schedule. I have had to build stricter boundaries for my efficiency and effectiveness and then stick to it. I am more intentional with people; I feel my interactions are purposeful. I have time for reflection.
The balance? It’s working too. I have learned that my boys can be at home and working online and can reach out for help right away, instead of scheduling it as before. We can pop in for a quick “I love you” or our treasured lunchtime together. Our spirits are boosted and we still manage to complete what is needed by the end of the day. This has built a stronger social-emotional component for them and me. I can be a teacher again, the dependency on the village is balancing. I can offer support to others now too. I realized that a touch from the pups during the day can send positive endorphins my way. A feeling I was missing. Who knew?
Today, I have built-in practices on all sides that make my abilities easier and more efficient. The massive guilt has lessened- I have learned to focus on the little things for work and life. I have learned that technology has some tricks that have helped me stay in control.
I can see the benefits. When I fall into my old practices, I notice it immediately, the hours in a week build and build. Those weeks, I feel more grumpy, negative, burned out, and tired.
This once skeptic- is forever changed! I appreciate a 32-hour workweek, and I appreciate working from home. The mornings are not rushed, I can take my time, I am not driving everywhere. I get my work done! I feel accomplished at the end of the day- my goals are realistic. I find that the scale is balanced!
I look forward to this as a permanent fixture. Even with uncertainty, I can make this happen much easier than trying to go back to the humdrum of overworking and balancing the work/ home life scale.
Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your story. As we are learning during this trial, the 32-hour workweek is different for everyone. That’s the beauty of it really, that staff, like Shannon, can explore what will work best for them.
About a month ago, I shared that Community-Minded Enterprises was moving toward a 32-hour workweek with a five-month trial beginning January 1, 2021. I also committed to providing updates via this blog. Welcome back to those of you who clicked on last month. If you’re new, here’s what’s been happening.
We are thirty days in and so far, so good. How do we know? First through data collected from an employee survey. The anonymous online survey was a chance for our staff to “tell it like it is.” We are learning from their comments and will use the baseline data to track our progress.
Second, we are listening, getting feedback from weekly huddles, monthly CORE meetings and regular program meetings. To give you a better idea about our progress, I asked CME’s Pasco Office supervisor to provide an update. Here’s the view from our early staff in the Tri-Cities, as told by Suzanne Suyama Child Care Aware Supervisor – Southeast Washington.
Now that the holidays are behind us and all on our team have returned from vacation, we have begun to practice the 32-hour work week with intention. We entered with both excitement and apprehension. As the month of January comes to a close, I am beginning to see the benefits unfold. With a better work-life balance there is a renewed energy for the work. Staff are engaging in new work and opportunities with excitement and passion. Extra time with family, the time for self-care and the appreciation that they feel for an agency that cares is looking to be transformational.
I recently received the following in an email from an employee: “I love the opportunity CME has provided us with the 32-hour work week. I don’t feel stressed, I have been able to reach out to all my educators as needed without any issues, I enjoy the flexibility I have in my work schedule, and I feel fortunate having a rejuvenating 3-day weekend to focus on myself & family!”
I am grateful to Suzanne and her team for sharing their story. It is exciting to start to see this innovative approach taking hold and making a difference in the lives of staff.
One month down, four to go. Stay tuned!
Lee Williams, CEO
It is January 11, a little over a week into the New Year, and Community-Minded Enterprises is “officially” moving toward making the 32-hour workweek part of its permanent culture. This isn’t a News Years resolution or a fade, but rather an idea that has been slowly winning favor with organizations around the world and here in the United States.
Forbes Magazine wrote about it in May 2019 and I got acquainted with the concept while reading the book The 4 Day Week, by Andrew Barnes. The subtitle of the books says it all, “How the flexible work revolution can increase productivity, profitability and wellbeing, and create a sustainable future.”
That sounds good, but would it work? When I first pitched the idea to CME’s Executive Team, we were at the height of COVID-19. The 32-hour workweek is designed to help employees find work-life balance, something nearly everyone in our organization was struggling with at some level in the early weeks of the “stay-at-home” order. I asked, “What if we gave our staff the ability to manage their time with a shorter workweek?” The stresses of life need our focus so we can be productive!”
We spent hours discussing the merits in Executive Team meetings, looking at it from every angle. We surveyed staff and held company-wide Zoom conversations. In December of 2020, after a few of us tried it out (note to those reading this, it takes some getting used to) we approached CME’s Board of Directors. They too had lots of questions. Would it work? How would we know? In the end, the board approved a five-month trial, which officially started on January 1, 2021. To gauge its effectiveness staff will be surveyed periodically during the trial. Our team will reach out to our partners and supporters to get feedback and guide the process.
Some believe the concept of the 32-hour workweek will become the new standard for business. If that is the case, CME will be a trendsetter. While that’s not our motivation, we do strive to be innovative in all we do, so that’s a bonus.
More to come. Stay tuned!
Lee Williams, CEO