Landscaping is a demanding industry. One possible way to help provide a better work-life balance for you and your crews is moving to a 4-day workweek.
Various industries have been considering and implementing a 4/10 schedule as a way to provide more flexibility to their employees. With many landscape companies often already working 10 hours a day, or close to it, making this change can be beneficial in a number of ways.
The main benefit of the 4/10 schedule is the 3-day weekend it provides employees.
“For the employee, the biggest pro was the 3-day weekends,” says Bill Gardocki, former owner of Interstate Landscape, based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. “For some employees, it allowed them to pick up a part-time job if they wanted. Some decided to take their children out of daycare on Fridays, which saved them daycare costs and gave them more time with their children. The 4-day week gave the employees a mental and physical break from their job. For us as the employer, it basically eliminated overtime and the costs associated with overtime. We asked employees to make any personal appointments on Fridays so as not to affect the workweek. That turned out to be a huge benefit.”
Terra Phelps, the handler for Utopian Landscapes, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says they noticed their team members were getting burnt out each week and were using their weekends as recovery time vs. quality time. Once they rolled out the 4-day workweek, she says they knew they made the right choice.
“Our teams were coming in smiling at the start of the week vs. groggy,” Phelps says. “It’s usually challenging to get feedback, but the consensus on the 4/10 schedule is that we had to do it. And we’re better because of it.”
Kelly Slater, VP of Pleasant Landscapes, based in Awendaw, South Carolina, says they implemented the 4-day workweek four years ago with the hopes of attracting more local staff and the 3-day weekend seemed like a great incentive for new hires and their existing staff.
“The team loved it,” Slater says. “They had been accustomed to working 8-11 hours per day anyway during our peak season so the official rollout of the new schedule really didn’t change too much for them. I think knowing they had that 3-day weekend to look forward to really improved morale and I noticed a slight increase on their motivation too.”
Not only do employees enjoy this additional time off, but owners have found the downtime helpful for themselves as well. Phelps says this schedule is more sustainable, as she and her husband needed the extra day as well. Gardocki says the schedule freed him up to do his sales work on Fridays.
“Before the 4-day workweek I would do sales and meet customers during the week in the evenings and on weekends,” Gardocki says. “The 4-day workweek freed up weekends for us as owners as well.”
Another benefit of the 4-day workweek is the ability to take care of maintenance and repairs with less downtime. Phelps says they can fix equipment on Fridays and have it ready for Monday without impacting the schedule.
Slater says with the 4-day workweek they can use the fifth day as a buffer day if they run into bad weather.
“It also allows us to take on more business and increase sales without the fear of needing to buy more trucks, tools and hiring additional staff,” Slater says. “In round numbers, we can add 25 percent more business by just having that extra day each week.
Similarly, Gardocki says he always told crews if they had a rain date during Monday through Thursday, they would work that Friday.
The biggest drawback for Gardocki with the 4/10 schedule is the weather. He says if employees already made plans for Friday that they couldn’t change, they’d end up with a skeleton crew. He says makeup days on Friday were occasional but in years with record-breaking rain it would have a much bigger impact.
“We found we needed to make sure customers knew of our 4-day workweek,” Gardocki says. “Almost all customers did not have an issue with it. The key was communication to let them know we would not be on-site Friday, Saturday or Sunday.”
Slater says from a business perspective, there aren’t any cons to operating on this schedule. She says they do have some employees who miss the overtime. Gardocki says if there is an employee who wanted a few extra hours on Friday, they could always find things for them to do like finishing a small job or taking care of equipment maintenance.
Phelps says one con is how call-offs are more cumbersome if a person misses one day out of four versus five, but they do have call-offs less frequently with the 4/10 schedule.