Is a four-day workweek really feasible? Daniela Barroso and Mafalda Soeiro from NMBRS share their company's experience with this increasingly popular idea.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to work a four-day workweek, then don't miss this exclusive audio interview with Daniela Barroso and Mafalda Soeiro, HR professionals from NMBRS, as they discuss the company's successful transition process to a four-day workweek with Tap My Back CEO, Vítor Soares. In this interview, they delve into the trigger for the change, the risks involved, and the benefits of the four-day workweek.
NMBRS is an HR and payroll software company based in the Netherlands and Portugal and has already expanded to Sweden.
Mafalda is on the talent acquisition team and joined a year ago, while Daniela has been with the company for three years as an employee experience specialist.
We invite you to listen to this insightful interview and discover the reasons behind NMBRS' decision to adopt a four-day workweek.
Hello, and welcome to this special interview about the four-day workweek. I'm Vítor of Tap My Back, a platform to recognize and engage people in your organizations. And today my guests are Mafalda Soeiro and Daniela Barroso from NMBRS’ recruitment and employee experience areas respectively. Mafalda and Daniela, welcome and thank you for your time.
Could you please introduce yourselves a little bit to the audience? Basically, you know, what you do, what you do at NMBRS, and of course for people that don't know yet, what NMBRS does itself. Who wants to start, Mafalda or Daniela?
Okay. I can, I can start. So Vítor, first of all, thank you for having us and allowing us to share our experience and our vision.
So I've been working at NMBRS now for three years, as an employee experience specialist. And NMBRS’ business is basically an HR and payroll software for the Dutch market. It's a Dutch company, but we have now been expanding and now developing our software for other countries as well.
Cool. Thank you. Daniela. Mafalda can you?
Hi Vítor. I appreciate it as well, the time to hear us. So I'm Mafalda and I'm in the talent acquisition side and I joined NMBRS a year ago, so yeah. And I'm very excited about the four-day workweek.
Oh, cool. Because that's the topic that we will be discussing today.
So NMBRS, as far as I know, was a pioneer company transitioning to a four-day work week. Do you remember exactly, or do you know… Because I don't know exactly when in time this transition happened or started, but do you remember, or do you know, what was the trigger for that change? And also why making this, you know, as many people say, kind of risky move from five days to four-day workweek.
Can you, can you describe it a little bit?
Yeah. Mafalda, you can go.
So, I think we have very present the moment we share with the company, and it was in June. So before we had a meeting internally with our CPO, and when we heard the idea, we were very excited to share it in our summer event where we have a hackathon and we, as teams, we built some things to improve or new projects for the company.
And we shared with 140 people, that we were going to start this four-day workweek. There was complete silence for one minute or two because people were processing, I think, followed by big applause and big smiles when people realized that we were actually implementing it. And yeah, it was real!
I think everyone was super, super, super happy. We won the hackathon with the idea, just to share [in the interview]. And yeah, the reasons behind, I think, maybe Daniela can also, say a little bit more.
Yeah, well, but basically, of course, we have already heard a bit, that this was a trend in the market.
But more than a trend, we started to believe that this can be the future of work. And we are an HR software company, so our focus is employees. As our clients and also internally of course. So we thought, we started thinking about our own employee wellbeing, about, the future of work. The model that we have now with the five days week is a traditional model from more than 100 years ago.
Times changed. Technology is here. Everything is at a faster pace. So also, for instance, social responsibility wise, like with the four-day workweek, we have more time for our community to take care of our loved ones, to do volunteering work, to even relieve some services that right now are at pressure like hospitals for instance.
If we have more time, then we are not all of us going at the same time to use those services, let's say. So also even to relieve that pressure. and also because again, being an HR software, we have been, and we are drivers for change in HR. So we also felt the need to have our system ready, when new companies in the future want to start implementing the four-day work week.
Those were the main triggers, let's say.
It really makes sense. That last part, I never thought about it. But maybe some of your customers will need payroll type of systems, HR type of systems that adapt to a four-day work week or a more type of flexible work week and about flexibility.
So, when you say four-day work week, it's like Monday to Thursday, or it's more flexible than that. How does it work?
Yeah. So, yes, our model is of 32 hours a week. So some other companies have other models like 36, and then they compact the days. But with us is really Monday to Thursday, eight hours a day.
So what we do have is sometimes, not sometimes, but always, we have people working on a Friday, because we still need to ensure that we are providing the service to our clients, but then they take their Monday off, and then they still get the long weekend. That's what we aim to have with the four-day workweek.
So they feel more now, more rested and with more energy.
Yeah, that's actually part of the criticism that some people say, okay, but I have customers on Fridays and, somebody has to be there. Okay. You can adapt, your teams, to be there on Friday and then they will rest on the other days.
Exactly. Of course, you can have scales.
Yeah, you have to adapt. There's a little bit of work there, but I guess in the end, everybody will, be happier and the customers will not be, impacted in a negative way, I guess. And talking about customers, do you know if some of your customers are already adopting also 4-day workweek, do you see that already? If you know.
Yeah, we are actually not sure, but I would say it's not a very common trend yet. And again, our system is implemented in mostly in the Netherlands and in Sweden, but we don't see it as a frequent trend there yet in those markets.
Yeah. Yeah. I don't have the stats, but what I know also from our, you know, Tap My Back customers and, from colleagues and friends and et cetera, is that there are still a lot of room, for companies to, you know, some companies do tests, but not like you that, you know, have been doing this for, you know, Nine months now?
Started in September. Six months.
Yeah. You announced in June and then you started in September after the summer, let's say.
But let's be, be clear that all, even for ourselves, this is a pilot. So when we started, we decided to make it from September to December. So four months to try this out. But then what we understood is that we needed more time, also to measure how it goes, and keep adjusting because we also needed to have a longer coverage of seasonality.
So for instance, anything can happen in January, but then, it's not because it's 4-day work week related, but then we need to be prepared for that. So we still need to try out things there. So that's why we decided to keep it longer. So we also have a better track of, for instance, one year. We will end it by June, by the way, and then decide if we implement it fully or not. But we understood having a longer coverage would help us to keep adjusting. And getting it better.
I guess it makes sense that you have to look at the metrics and see the impact, of course. You are not like blindfolded then just let's do it, do this for the coming years.
Yeah. But not, but not even that Vitor, sorry. It's also about things that can happen that we didn't foresee, or that we didn't think of. And then, if they happen, then we can still adjust it. Let's say, adjust a process or something. So it's not only about the metrics, but improving the processes as well.
Like for instance, with sales, if it's sales season, then we know it's a peak. Then we know maybe there we need to make an adjustment. Those kinds of topics, let's say.
Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. In any case, there are some types of metrics that you can share? Not exactly the figures, but some metrics that you are looking to, to see the impacts so other companies can also, you know, think about that and also look to those metrics.
There are, Mafalda.
So we can say for example, regarding sickness we have been seeing a decrease in the sickness hours reported by our employees by two half, for example, for the same period last year, it dropped by half more or less. Regarding engagement, we almost double the eNPS score from our employees.
Employee retention as well.
Retention, I think increased like 10%.
So the level of exits has decreased.
Yeah. Decreased the [employee] turnover 10%. And Mafalda, on the recruitment area, do you see any impact like, candidates, you have more candidates now, or candidates are more, you know, enthusiastic in the interviews?
I think they are, it's very strong… we advertise it in our job ads, of course. And they also say “oh, you have a four-day work-week, this really sounds great!” So they're really enthusiastic. So I'll say attracting more talent is key nowadays, as we know. The market is really, really, really on fire.
So it's really hard to get the best talent. So retention-wise and attraction, I think it's a plus that comes out of it, and I think it's really smart for companies to follow this, regarding talent management, I'll say attracting and retaining key people as well.
Yeah, it seems so, like in the one hand you are retaining people, so you have fewer needs for hiring and on the other hand, it's easier to hire. Yeah. So it seems like a perfect solution for those or for the problem of retaining and adding talented people to the company. And besides the employee eNPS, do you have any other type of feedback from employees so far? Or did you run other types of surveys or collect feedback in another format?
Yeah, since the beginning we start with surveys asking people how they feel even before the [pilot] started, like how energized they feel on a Monday and on a Thursday or Friday, and how they were adapting to these new ways.
So, in the end, the goal here is not to work less, is to work smarter. So we, everything that we want to, that we can automate, we will automate. We just got some meetings that were pointless or that we didn't have many topics, but they were there consuming time. We made several adjustments, small adjustments, but really that had a big impact.
For example, we just adjust the lunchtime because we work from Portugal and the Netherlands, so our teams are divided. So it was like two hours that we were not working together. For me, for example, doing interviews, there were two hours that I was not able to do interviews because either I or my colleagues from recruitment in the Netherlands were lunching.
So we made several adjustments and the goal is really to work smarter. So more focused because we are also more rested because we have like three days to rest or to enjoy, to travel, to do anything. But on Monday we will be more focused, and we will automate more tasks. So technology came into our lives a few years ago, and it's changing the way that we work and that we live, right? It's…, we cannot compare, 20 years ago with nowadays.
Okay. Interesting. And, it's good that I'm hearing from you some examples that I read in this book, which is “Friday is the new Saturday”. I think it's how, how it's called. It's from Pedro Gomes, a Portuguese Economist.
And some of the examples that you are giving, he also said that in the book, so it is real. It's not just a professor, you know, telling some stuff that is just theoretical. No, it's the reality.
Really happens. He knows what he's talking about.
Yeah. It seems so, it seems so, and, I hope that I'm not saying the title of the book incorrectly.
In any case, do you have also examples from employees, like if they share what they are doing now with their free time, or even both of you, if you do some stuff now that you were not able to do in the past with the more free time that you have.
Yeah, definitely. So, before we did a survey, that was kind of a formal question to understand how they were doing on their Friday, what they were using the day for, but also now naturally people will just talk about their Friday, what they have been doing.
And it's a lot about having more time for their family, dedicating themselves to a new hobby or, even dedicating time to invest in themselves in their training, for instance, because a lot of people feel the need to learn and on the daily work, it gets harder when you also have other chores to do.
So for instance, investing in their development, traveling, volunteering. So people are just cheerful to share that on Friday their kid is not to the kindergarten because they're, spending the day with them, for instance. It really makes a difference for them.
It seems like about freedom.
Basically, you do whatever you want to do. You can, you know, rest and sleep or you can go and travel or training hours as you were saying, or even side projects, who knows?
Exactly. And in the end, the goal is really to have our employees happy and energized. So in the end, if they just don't want to do anything with their Friday, that's on them of course, if they are well, and if they're being productive in the other four days. So what we really want to facilitate is that you feel well here at the workplace, let's say.
Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. Okay. And, so we have been talking about positive stuff about this process, but do you also have some examples of stuff that didn’t go so well that you would prepare or do in a different way?
Like, you know, if other companies that are listening to us want to adopt also the four-day workweek, there are some kind of recommendations of what not to do or how to do it.
Yeah. So of course it's not all roses, let's say. And any challenge can come up. A lot of challenges will come up. But what we believe was key at NMBRS in implementing the four-day workweek is that we listen to our employees. So we built the whole structure of the four-day workweek pilot with their input.
We are a no-managers company, so maybe in a traditional company, you would have the manager of each team, checking for their team what would need to, needed to be adjusted. But here that doesn't happen because we have no managers. So here we really gave it to the teams to figure out also for themselves, to their team, to their workload, their responsibilities, their projects, what they felt needed to be adjusted.
And then, altogether across the organization come to common guidelines. So we empower them to participate in this, and we believe this was key, because they are the ones on the, let's say, on the field, and they know better than anyone what can have an impact on their work. So that for us was the key.
And this is, actually, one of the pieces of advice I give to other companies if they're listening, is that don't just build this policy or these guidelines alone, let's say by the management team or, by HR, but really listen to their employees' input because that will be… you will get very innovative, and interesting solutions.
That you're not even seeing because you're not on the ground, on the field, let's say. But yeah, so, that was one of the challenges, like not to get their input, but to work with them, to make things better. But then we realized that this worked for our company, for our structure, for our culture.
So what I mean by this is that we know that there are other companies in the world, of course, that don't have our structure, that has managers that have hundreds, thousands of employees. So it might not be easy to get their input, of course. And, it's not scalable. So, what we believe in is that you should be flexible and open, and try to find out within your business model how you can make this happen.
And in our case, it's 32 hours, but maybe in another case, in another company, the 36 will work best, because a factory cannot stop. Right? So maybe they need to make shifts. So for us, it's important to keep an open mind and flexibility, because not all the companies are the same of course.
I think it's really key to understand your business, your needs, and not one size fits all, but just to adapt to your reality. And of course, in the beginning there were more people struggling to fit the volume of work in four days because they already felt like overload or, but yeah, of course we talk with them and guide them, to delegate or like, what is the urgency just established? What is the priority? It's really necessary or it's just like you want to do everything? So, and it's part of the process, right? Because if we didn't feel any change, it was because we already were doing something wrong, right?
If you want to do four days, five days into four, and we didn't feel any trouble or problems or difficulties adapting that something was wrong in the beginning, right? So I think they will all feel a little bit, okay, “how can I do this? How can I work smarter?” And just the way that we did, for example, for ourselves, the small changes that every company can do. And different ideas, different strategies that will make this a dream come true, let's say.
Yeah. Thank you. Also, Mafalda, what you are saying now, maybe not only with a four-day workweek, but maybe with five days, five days workweek, people are already with a full timetable and stress to manage everything.
So maybe the problem was already there. It's just now maybe more visible with the four-day workweek. But now you have the opportunity to fix that and help people to manage their timetables. I think so, definitely. I'm talking by myself, okay? I have problems sometimes managing my timetable, so I have to rethink and start again.
Okay. We are, we are heading now to the final part of this interview and we were already talking about some examples to other companies how to do, you know. You are… Well, we are from the IT sector, from the tech sector. But what about other industries?
What about services? What about public services? Do you feel that this four-day workweek can be applicable as far as you know at least, but your experience from what you see to the other industries and sectors as well? Do you believe that this will be the reality for the future for, you know, all the employees?
I think so. I also read at the beginning that in New Zealand, for example, even in healthcare, they were already starting it. I mean, maybe they were the pioneers in this. So I think it's possible that any industry, like with shifts with the… Maybe not everyone stops on the same day, but there are a lot of companies that are, the persons can choose the day that they prefer, for example.
In our case, we decided that will be a specific day for most of us. Only the contact centers are, and some prevention teams of course, if there's a problem with our project or something, they are on call, but it's more like there are companies that you choose the day that you are off because it's more meaningful to you.
In our case, we thought like if we are working and someone is not, we tend to check the mail, check the message, or we don't rest like when we are on holidays, but everyone is working and we just like, if you're off, I want to know if that candidate was hired or not. So I'm gonna text my colleague, and he saw like, okay, now let's stop.
Maximum we can at the same day, so we really can rest and not think about work. But other companies can choose like, okay, I choose Wednesday because Wednesday I need to pick up my son earlier and the other person chooses a Tuesday. So it's not that we stop everyone on the same day. So I think it's really doable for any type of industry.
Yeah. And if you think about the impact in the long term, even economically, if you have, I think this is the future, but I don't foresee it coming so soon. I think there is still a transition period and a lot of companies are still waiting, on the results of a lot of pilots now, to learn from those experiences.
And of course, there's always a factor which is their economic situation because we cannot forget that we are paying the same salary for 20% fewer worked hours. So we are aware of that. So if a company is not financially stable, then maybe this is not a priority for them.
But what I mean by this is, if you think about it, even economically, if you have people working four days a week, it'll simulate that you even hire more people. And we have a lot of unemployed people right now in the market. So you'll need to hire more people to cover those other days or shifts.
Also from another point of view, if you have more people available with time off, it's not like they're going to stay home and do nothing. Maybe they are going to travel, maybe they are going to go outside. It's not like we are stimulating people to consume more, waste money, but then they're also more available to enjoy life, right?
And you can enjoy life by having different experiences. Some of them come with a price, of course, but we even think that from both sides economically, this can really even help the economy. But it'll take, I believe, still a few years until then, yeah, in Portugal.
We will start, a country pilot… well not a country pilot, but in June, I think a lot of several companies also want to participate.
So let's see results if there are, like UK results and if maybe it's a trigger for other countries to follow.
Yeah, yeah. I think that, well, two things, before we end: so I hope that by the end of your pilot, of your full cycle pilot, and that's actually very good advice for, to other companies.
Don't do just one or two months. Maybe you need a full cycle of a full year to see the effects. Yeah. And to learn with the process. But I hope that by the end of that full year, you can see that even though you are working fewer hours, the output and the outcome, you know, the P&L won't be affected or maybe will be better than in the past, higher with less. Exactly. I really hope that, and, if it happens to you, I believe it happens to NMBRS. If you can share it with the world, please, please do. To stimulate other people. And I hope also that some lawmakers and Portuguese lawmakers or, or any others can also listen to this episode and learn from your experience.
I think, I really think you were brave. NMBRS was brave being one of the pioneers doing this, and now the others can learn, learn from you. So thanks a lot for that, really.
You're welcome, Vítor. And we are here if, any company wants to reach out as well. Of course.
Thank you, Daniela and Mafalda for your time and availability.
So thank you also to all the listeners. And feel free to reach out, to me as well, on LinkedIn, for instance, or to the Tap My Back team or via email to [email protected], in case we have any more comments about this topic or any other questions about employee experience as well. Hope to hear from you soon and thank you all.
It's no secret that engaged employees tend to be more productive and deliver better results for their organizations.
By recognizing and engaging their employees, organizations can create a culture of trust, communication, and collaboration, which can in turn lead to higher levels of engagement and better overall performance.
So if you're considering a shorter workweek for your own organization, be sure to check out Tap My Back to start engaging your team before the transition.
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