PwC’s Return Policy for New Parents Is a Natural Experiment in Shorter Workdays

PwC’s Return Policy for New Parents Is a Natural Experiment in Shorter Workdays

Last month, PwC rolled out a $45 million investment in its employee wellness program, including a suite of new benefits for working parents, Glassdoor’s Amy Elisa Jackson reported at the time:

  • $1000 bonus to all staff to spend on wellness-related activities;
  • Four weeks of “Paid Family Care Leave” for all partners and staff to care for certain family member with serious health conditions;
  • Eight weeks of paid parental leave for staff of any gender with a new child (currently six);
  • New “Phased Return to Work” transition, with the option of new parents working 60% of hours, at full-time pay, for an additional four weeks following a block of paid parental leave;
  • $25K reimbursement, per child, for adoption (currently $5K);
  • $25K reimbursement, per child, for surrogacy (traditional and gestational) expenses;
  • Pro bono membership to sittercity.com (childcare, housekeeping, pet care services);
  • Six hours of free Eldercare consultation (home assessments, implementation of care, etc.)

These expanded benefits, which according to Amanda Eisenberg at Employee Benefit News will go into effect on July 1, mirror what many other large US employers are doing to make their family benefits more generous and more inclusive. The point of interest here is PwC’s Phased Return to Work program, which the professional services firm says is the first of its kind. Offering this benefit up-front and actively marketing it to employees avoids the trap wherein new parents are afraid to ask for the flexibility they need out of fear of being seen as uncommitted. Closing that loophole was the motivation for Adobe’s returning employee flexibility program, which allows employees returning from at least three months of leave to work a non-traditional schedule for at least four months and requires all returnees to meet with their manager and HR to discuss this option.

Paying employees a full-time salary to work only part-time may sound absurd on its face, but we’ve seen a few other organizations experiment with shorter workdays in recent years. PwC’s policy will be worth watching, as it will provide another data point in how a limited workweek affects employee productivity, particularly among the highly stressed cohort of new parents.

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Making a Five-Hour Workday Work

Making a Five-Hour Workday Work

Stephan Aarstol has made a splash in the business world by running his company, Tower Paddle Boards, on a five-hour workday, where employees work from 8:00 to 1:00 with no lunch break, for a total of 25 hours per week. That’s obviously quite a bit less than the typical employee: Our Global Talent Monitor indicates that the average employee worldwide works 43 hours a week. Not only does a shorter workweek seem intuitively appealing for employees, but there is also some research indicating that employees who work a shorter week are more productive. This notion of a shorter, more productive workweek underpins Aarstol’s management philosophy as well as ongoing experiments with six-hour workdays in some European countries.

We’ve talked with companies about this idea, and the objection that keeps coming up is that managers just don’t see a way to get a shorter workday. At Talent Insider, Aarstol offers some brief insights into how his company made it work:

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A Six-Hour Workday? Make That Five

A Six-Hour Workday? Make That Five

While some European employers have been experimenting with a shorter, six-hour workday, the notion seems unlikely to catch on in the US any time soon, even if these experiments prove successful. However, David McCann at CFO profiles one small California business whose CEO claims to be running his organization successfully on an even shorter, five-hour day:

One year ago today, during a year in which Tower Paddle Boards made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing companies in America, it implemented a workday of just five hours. Think that’s a joke? It’s not. The company’s CEO and founder, Stephan Aarstol, states unequivocally that it’s been a productivity booster. He’s even written a book about the policy, “The Five-Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness,” a self-published effort scheduled to be released in July. …

The common workday of eight or nine hours “trains the work force to be lazy,” he says. “Time is like a sponge. If you have eight hours to do something, you take eight hours. But if you tell people to get the same amount of work done in five hours, they start working at a faster pace and find creative solutions to stuff.” …

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