The Okanagan’s Greyback Construction is looking to trial a four-day work week, which it also hopes will make the construction industry more attractive to new and existing employees.
“There is no question that this is being driven by the labour market,” said Greyback project co-ordinator Eric Bilodeau. “If you want to keep your people, you have to treat them well and give them the best work-life balance we can.”
Bilodeau said the company is looking to pilot the idea of a four-day work week on its Kelowna Movala condominium project, now under construction, where employees can choose to work four 10-hour shifts from Monday to Thursday to gain their 40-hour work week. These employees would have three days off.
If successful, the concept could move to other projects as Greyback, while based in Penticton, is active in the ICI market throughout the Okanagan.
“Greyback Construction Ltd. understands the importance of taking care of their employees and believes that by providing a four-day work week, employees will have the chance to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities that the Okanagan region has to offer,” said president Matt Kenyon in a press release.
The Okanagan area is known for its vineyards, wineries, orchards, summer festivals and recreational activities such as boating, hiking and winter skiing.
Bilodeau said the company is now collecting feedback from employees after making the announcement on May 8.
There is, as yet, no date set for implementing the trial. There has been positive feedback, but also some concerns, he admits.
“For some, it means one day less of child care they have to pay,” said Bilodeau.
It also means more time to enjoy the Okanagan’s life-style and family. The plan would also provide the option of individuals earning over-time on the Friday.
Others, he said, want to stay with the five-day work week as it suits their family life. Bilodeau said the company is looking to see how it can accommodate both.
He said concerns have been expressed about how to complete the work that Greyback, like others, see looming on the horizon.
“How are we going to do this? We are responding to this by asking how do we make it work – we need that conversation,” said Bilodeau.
Kenyon quotes research that shows the four-day work week has many advantages.
“Research is showing that a four-day work week can increase productivity, creativity and employee satisfaction,” he said.
The shorter work week reduces stress, burnout and absenteeism.
Kenyon’s comments echo a major U.K. research report.
A six-month trial in the U.K. was run on a variety of companies by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global and think-tank Autonomy.
A total of 61 companies and 3,000 employees participated in the study from June to December 2022.
It is billed as the world’s largest four-day work week experiment.
The experiment worked on a 100-80-100 model: workers get 100 per cent of the pay for working 80 per cent of the time in exchange for delivering 100 per cent of their usual output.
Companies participating reported positive results from both genders and benefits accrued to both large and smaller companies.
The benefits included an increased in productivity of 22 per cent, job applications increased by 88 per cent and absenteeism decreased by 66 per cent; the carbon footprint was reduced as employees were driving less and generally employers felt less tired and happier.
Bilodeau said employee health is also a concern for the construction industry today.
Not only is the work physically demanding but can be mentally stressful. A four-day work week could address some of the health concerns that construction workers face.
Bilodeau said the company is aware some logistics have to be addressed.
He said material deliveries could be dealt with as there would be individuals working five-day weeks and supervisory oversight.
As well, change-orders or other interruptions, would first be noted at the company’s head office and dealt with accordingly.
Office staff is expected to remain on the five-day work week.
Greyback is not the first construction company to move towards a four-day work week for its employees as it has been used in the U.S.
In Maui, Kimo Clark founded Truth Excavation in 2011, and since 2016 he and his employees have worked four 10-hour days per week.
Bilodeau said the company is still gathering feedback and it has been coming in as the company’s receptionist has noticed an uptick in queries only a few days after the announcement.
Greyback is looking to bring in new employees who want to settle and work in the Okanagan.
“Send me your comments,” said Bilodeau. “But, also your resumes.”