After 4 months of intense preparation, this January marks the beginning of a test period of a four day workweek.
Before saying why we are taking this step, a small semantic notation: with us the term “four day workweek” is prohibited. We talk about the “4-100-100” week, because it better describes the pact (and the bet) we are making:
- 4 working days per week (32 hours),
- 100% of the results achieved,
- 100% of salary paid.
The idea is therefore to do as much and as well as before, without going any faster. (We will describe how in another blog post).
1. The first shot
On June 14, 2022, one of the representatives of the employees at the workshop in France submitted a proposal: “Gas prices will not be going down anytime soon, so can we explore the possibility of a four day workweek?“
We responded: “This is a subject that has never been brought up. We have an unfavorable opinion because of the risk of MSDs [muscular issues due to manual work] if days get longer, but if that’s what everyone wants, we can think about it.“
2. The aha moment
On June 25, 2022, I was listening to a podcast where Laurent de la Clergerie speaks about his experience of the four day workweek within LDLC. I found it interesting, without necessarily projecting Voltaire into it.
And at one point, he’s explaining “when you are a parent, you work every day of the week, and in the evenings and weekends you still work to take care of your children”. At that very moment, it clicked: I completely identified myself with this situation. I work quite a lot and I am very involved in my role as the father of two young children. And in my case, I am privileged because I do a job I am completely passionate about.
If I identify with this situation, I imagine that others do too, and I decided to document myself on the subject.
At the beginning of July 2022, I decided to talk about it with a few people in the company, and I saw that the subject excited them. Xan, our production manager, who manages a significant portion of the workforce says“no problem, we can do it, let’s start in 2 months!”. Cécile from customer service told me she would be able to do her week in 32 hours, and as I spoke to more employees the sentiment was the same. In short, it is a “gunpowder” subject where a simple match sets everything ablaze. Our management philosophy at Voltaire is to liberate, not to get in the way: when we saw the speed of the conflagration, the evidence imposed itself on us.
4. The announcement
On July 27, 22, we held one of our regular meetings where we brought together the 90 employees of our workshop in the south of France. In particular, we announced our financial results, we discussed the latest news and we thanked the teams for a great year. To conclude, we submitted the idea of the 4-100-100 week. We asked who is interested, and there the hands gradually go up, with an overwhelming majority in the end. Hence, the project was set into motion with the launch goal of January 1, 2023.
Why did we really decide to go for the four day workweek?
With hindsight, we realize that in every way this project embodies the values of the company and our perpetual search for innovation.
Ensuring a personal life / professional life balance for our teams is really a key factor and refers to freedom, one of the key and founding values of Voltaire Group.
The taste for challenge that we share and our collective conviction that we can achieve the same ambitious goals while working less reflects our amazing team ownership.
The desire to develop our “productivity muscle” to do as much in less time is the mirror of our culture of performance.
And finally how could we have given a better proof of trust to the teams, than to follow them on this project?
To conclude, let me quote Stéphane of our logistics team, who told me:“I had heard of companies that did the four day workweek, and I thought it was something that we would be able to do at Voltaire”. To be sure, it will take our trial period, but it is proof that this social innovation resembles our teams who are ready to take up any challenges. Thank you and congratulations to them.
The rest of our adventures on the four day workweek is coming soon: how we prepared for it, how we hope to do as much in less time without working faster, our failures, our successes…
Voltaire Group, created in a garage in the South of France in 2010, has become one of the world leaders in high-end sports saddlery thanks to its bold innovation strategy. Voltaire Group is: 6 brands (including Voltaire Design and Equisense), over 200 employees worldwide, and a modern Group that places its social responsibility at the very heart of its corporate mission with the objective of “unleashing your potential to excel”.
Brice Goguet is the President & Founder of Voltaire Group