Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

A Quebec company adopts the four-day week as a staff retention tool.

Work less, work better

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Korem employees will work four days a week with no pay reduction.

  • Claude Bernatchez (View profile)Claude Bernatchez

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IN SOLUTIONS MODE – THE x27;year 2024 will mark the end of the transition to the four-day week at Korem, a high-tech company in Quebec that develops and offers geospatial solutions to its clients.

Two years ago, Sébastien Vachon, the president of the company, challenged his team: reduce the number of hours worked for all employees, without reduction in salary and without loss of productivity. Better, over the course of the meetings, the team set the efficiency gains to be made on hours worked at 15%. Korem is betting that it is possible to work less and work better.

To achieve this, all employees are involved in a work optimization process. In a company, it is estimated that around 10% of hours are wasted, explains Maryse Drapeau, vice-president of finance and administration at Korem.

We are tackling what Catherine Bourassa calls time wasters. She is a senior HR business partner at Korem. Meetings that are too frequent or too long are reevaluated. The recurring Friday meetings were eliminated to force change management a little, she explains. Managers and employees participate in training workshops on effective work methods.

Catherine Bourassa explains the concept of interruption.

This is a fairly new phenomenon according to Vincent Laverdière, president and consultant at Axxio, a human resources firm. Few of his clients tell him about the four-day week. This measure goes much further than allowing a worker to slow down by reducing the number of hours worked. When we really talk about the four-day week, with the salary maintained, […] I haven't seen that much.

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From the perspective of recruiting and retaining staff, it’s a cure-all, he believes. That’s 20% of the productivity force we take away. If there is no gain in productivity or reduction in company expenses, it is a dead loss in terms of revenue.

On the other hand, if the gains are there, the company's managers will have to make choices.

Are we using [earnings] to improve our financial results? To invest more? To have more liquidity or otherwise improve the conditions of our staff?

A quote from Vincent Laverdière, president and consultant at Axxio, human resources firm

In January, Korem will take a new step in its organizational transition. All Fridays can be taken off, while the measure was applied every other Friday in 2023 and one Friday per month in 2022. The last day of the week will become flexible. It could be a day of rest or personal work.

A parent who would like to do a 5-day week of 7 hours per day followed by a lighter week could choose this formula, explains Catherine Bourassa, senior HR business partner at Korem.

It also specifies that each employee will be able to manage their two weeks of 68 hours of work in their own way, provided that they respect the fixed periods from Monday to Thursday when everyone must be present in the office, or teleworking.

This is the kind of flexibility that employees seek and appreciate. Time in the middle of the week to visit aging parents, to manage the children's busy schedules or to plan medical appointments that are difficult to schedule when there is only the weekend to do everything.

Maryse Drapeau gives examples of the appreciative comments she receives from employees.

Once the project is completed, Korem will really know if the reduction in hours worked and organizational optimization will also improve productivity by 15%. Catherine Bourassa is optimistic. We will really see if we have reached our target during the year. But for now, it bodes very well.

We bet that, by working less, by working better, there would be greater rest, gains in creativity and innovation. Then it would also allow people to have a little more quality time with their family and for their personal and professional development.

A quote from Catherine Bourassa, senior HR business partner at Korem

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Maryse Drapeau and Catherine Bourassa de Korem see each other well eye the implementation of the four-day week in their company.

Already, the effects are being felt on recruitment cycles which are shorter than in the past, according to Maryse Drapeau, vice-president of finance and administration.

The four-day measure at Korem had a direct impact on attracting talent. This was a goal from the beginning of the project in September 2021. We operate in a field of information technology that is ultra competitive.

The competitive advantage that gives Korem is not negligible. Eighty-nine percent of Canadian businesses report having difficulty finding qualified professionals according to an analysis (New window) published by Robert Half, a firm specializing in recruitment. Sixty-four percent of recruiters say that in 2024 it will take longer to fill open positions than it did a year ago.

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