With the labor market becoming increasingly tight, lawn care and landscape company owners have to consider a number of ways to differentiate themselves. One option is to offer the perk of 3-day weekends by working on a 4-day, 10-hour workweek.
Landscape companies that have opted to go this route have reported their staff is better rested, more efficient and their net income has not been negatively affected.
Is It The Right Fit?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to 4-day workweeks. In the case of Interstate Landscape, based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, when former owner Bill Gardocki proposed moving to a 4-day work week 20 years ago, he received considerable pushback from his staff.
“Many of them had young children in Little League, T-ball, etc. and they wanted to be home by 5:30 p.m.,” Gardocki says. “Many of our employees had been with us for years. As their children got older and more independent there was more flexibility to their schedules. We approached the topic again in 2013 and there was much more acceptance of the idea of the 4-day workweek. The appeal of 3-day weekends had become very enticing.”
For Les Lightfoot, president of Lightfoot Enterprises, Inc., based in Houston, Texas, he says they tried 4-day workweeks for a couple of quarters hoping to minimize start-up, shut down and travel time. What they found was their team was burnt out and less productive after 8 hours.
He even tried opting for an 8-hour, 6-day schedule for a couple of quarters, but this was ineffective as well as one day off per week was not enough time for their employees to relax.
“As always measure productivity, quality, and safety,” Lightfoot says. “These are the things that matter to our employees, customers as well as other stakeholders.”
The schedule also doesn’t have to be an all or none situation. Terra Phelps, the handler for Utopian Landscapes, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says in their case, they switch back to a 5-day workweek in October due to limited daytime hours.
“Our holiday lighting services pick up at the same time we’re converting back to a five-day schedule,” Phelps says. “As a seasonal business, we need the extra day to fit a lot of work into a short amount of time.”
Pleasant Landscapes, based in Awendaw, South Carolina, opts to have one month out of the year where they run their production crews the 5th day for the entire month. This is to appease the employees who enjoy the overtime.
“This also meant pushing our sales and marketing teams,” says Kelly Slater, VP of Pleasant Landscapes. “The results were amazing! Our sales team increased their closing ratios by 8-10 percent, our production staff was happy with the overtime and the company as a whole had a near-record month. Specifically, in over 30 years we had only had 4 other months with these record sales. The additional labor costs were controlled in this situation so the impact to our bottom line was very minimal.”
Implementing a 4-Day Workweek
If you’re wanting to try to shift to a 4-day workweek, it’s important to communicate to your employees what the benefits are of making the change. You very well could have a staff with younger families where working more hours isn’t worth the 3-day weekend.
Phelps compares it to the Band-Aid analogy. It’s never going to be easy to make a change, but it’s best to do it all at once.
“Observe other industries and how they’re accommodating their teams,” Phelps says. “We should always be looking for ways to accommodate ours. If we’re not improving, we’re not growing.”
Slater agrees it’s best to just do it all at once. For Pleasant Landscape, it is just their production team that operates on the 4/10 schedule, while their sales and admin staff still work a 5-day work schedule to accommodate customers during normal business hours.
“In all seriousness, poll your staff, see how they feel about it,” Slater says. “Make a plan on how it will work, then roll it out. And if you are not sure where to start, shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d be happy to help.