2019 marked the end at Excite Media of an institution that has been around in society for over a 100 years. For many years the six-day workweek was the norm with Sundays for attending church being the only respite from a life of hard work grind. Back in 1908 a cotton mill in New England, USA gave its workers another day in order to allow the Jewish workers to also take in the Sabbath on a Saturday. We probably have a hazy historical knowledge of the reference to God resting on the seventh day after creating the world. The idea came into life, that if God thinks it’s a good idea to rest, shouldn’t you. This was probably a turning point to what we know as ‘the weekend’ and what was meant to allow us to rest, restore, rejuvenate and repeat.
Move on a 100 years to 2019 and a global movement known as the 4-day workweek is gaining momentum. The increasing pace of life, workers struggling for focus against the distraction and mental health issues. Companies like Microsoft tout reports of 40% improvement in productivity. Andrew Barnes of Perpetual Guardian, a corporate trustee company in New Zealand, has become the poster boy of the moment after dropping the idea on his staff and leadership team in 2018. Now alongside Charlotte Lockhart, the new CEO of 4 Day Week, they are shouting the benefits, including a soon to be released book in Jan 2020 on the journey to a 4-day model.
Now, the 4-day workweek is said to be the 12th idea in the top 25 we will see change us in the 2020s. Some organisations are embracing a model of gifting the 5th day so that staff effectively work less hours for the same original week’s salary. Other’s have found a model where the original week’s five day’s worth of hours are completed in four days. Whichever, the model, teams are shouting the merits to both staff and clients. Productivity reports are up, profitability is said to increase and wastage days from mental health, sickness and ‘Monday blues’ or the problems of ‘Mondayitius are dropping.
For the last six years I have been working with Excite Media in Brisbane. The privately-owned Digital Marketing agency is a great example of a company focused on people first, profits second. Owners, Scott Maynard and Nathanael Hubbard (shown below) live their commitment to dealing with staff and clients in an empathetic and compassionate way while looking for opportunities for people to thrive. Over the time I have worked alongside these two mavericks, I have seen them bend over in significant ways to care for team members and empower them to follow their dreams. At the same time, I have seen their desire to get positive outcomes for clients in both partnership circumstances and occasionally difficult situations, after all, ‘stuff happens’. At all times they have looked to resolve issues and show they value relationship over reward.
Now we are facing a new turn in the road of the 14-year Excite Media story. It would be fair to say 2019 was not a normal or easy year. Circumstances from the market in mid-year definitely affected our income. Some blame it on the business sector, others on an election that caused concern about Australia’s direction. The result was a stall in momentum. Out of this situation, decisions needed to be made, that affected the heart and culture of the organisation. It was tough, but it revealed heart, commitment and good people knuckled down to see Excite Media through the dip that felt like a valley. From September on the financial scenario started to turn around and the faces of the team started to turn up again. But how do you build on this and bring your team back to place where the values of the organisation are back in focus through lenses that were previously clouded and hadn’t been wiped for a while.
Late in this year, we heard about reports of the value in a 4-day works week. News articles abound, reports from Microsoft and an agency in Melbourne that had been making it work for about three years. It sparked curiosity and probably a deep desire to reset and move forward with passion. What followed was a series of conversations and meetings, research and phone calls, that quickly gathered support. Water cooler type conversations in the office indicated a hunger for the idea. A conference call with Kath Blackman, Founder of Versa Agency allayed fears and it was time to put the idea to our team. A quick Slack channel announcement one Friday prepared our team to think about the concept. We would have a meeting the following week and take on everyone’s thoughts. From here we expected to confirm a trial period to see if ‘together’ we could make it work. We are on our way.
And the reason for this blog?
In 2020 I want to document the “Fifth Day”. While we all have 7 days a week, 168 hours to play with, life seems to have blended into one experience without definition. I want this gift of each Wednesday, this fifth day out of the so-called traditional working week, to have meaning. To do this, the fifth day needs intention, a plan and implementation of many dreams. I’m comfortable for you to come along for the ride so that I can be accountable for how each week’s fifth day is spent, and hey, I’ve even got what Jim Gaffigan calls the “Bonus Fry” because this is a Leap Year with 366 days to play with.
Circling back around to where this started, what can we learn from the original Sabbath and weekends? It was meant to be a time or day of rest. But we’ve somehow screwed up the recipe. We’ve opened shops and recreation centres to be available 24/7. The vicious circle spins at an incredible pace and doesn’t leave us time to get off. So how about a reset on these ideas. For me, I’ve been blessed to work for a business that sees the benefits and has opened the door for me to take a look at how I use my week. Out of this, I’m re-evaluating my week. What used to be crammed into evenings and weekends around work commitments, may be able to be reordered so that each activity, including rest, has a place and I can work the plan.
Curiously, I wondered, if God rested in the seventh day, what did he do on the fifth? In Genesis 1 v 20-23 we can read that he created the sea creatures and birds of the air. And like many of His creating days, he said ” Be fruitful and multiply…” now that’s a great example and encouragement of how to spend the gift of time.
I’m excited about my “fifth day” and look forward to sharing the journey with you.
But I’m wondering if you had my fifth day in your week, what would you use it to do? Answer in the comments.