This Company Tried a Three-Day Workweek—and It Worked

A three-day work week might not be for everyone, but one restaurant owner's experiment led to 100% retention on the managerial level.

If experiments with a four-day workweek lead to increased productivity, higher job satisfaction, and overall employee happiness, what would a three-day workweek do? One Chick-fil-A franchise recently tried a three-day workweek and saw success.

Why are some considering three-day workweeks?

Staffing shortages are a huge problem right now, and they’re affecting a wide variety of industries, from nursing and law enforcement to almost every aspect of the service industry. Aviation crews are severely understaffed—which has resulted in high numbers of delayed and canceled flights and extreme amounts of lost luggage—but by far, one of the industries hardest hit by the labor shortage is food service.

In July 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “the rate of job quitting in the United States has reached highs not seen since the start of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey program in December 2000.” Quiet quitting is a major concern for employers, but so is actual quitting. “Quiet quitting isn’t new; it’s gone by different names such as “mailing it in,” “malicious compliance,” or “sticking to the job description,” points out Michael Levitt, Chief Burnout Officer of The Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego-based burnout media firm.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities for employees to reflect on their work life, and many have decided that they’re being asked to do too much,” Levitt says, “It’s definitely becoming a huge concern for U.S. employers, on top of all the other economic issues businesses are facing.”

The quit rate in food service is escalating at alarming rates, leaving restaurants so short-staffed they can’t open their doors because they don’t have enough people to cook or serve. Some restaurants have shortened their hours, and many restaurants have closed while they try to restaff and regroup.

So, can a three-day workweek work?

And then there’s Justin Lindsey, the owner of a Miami Chick-fil-A who decided to try something new. Lindsey recognized that his restaurant’s profitability might have been coming at the expense of his workers, many of whom were putting in 70-hour weeks. Recognizing that staff burnout is huge in kitchens—and that people want to have lives outside of work—Lindsey implemented a three-day workweek. The catch? 13-14 hours days.

The thing is, it wasn’t a catch at all—it was a huge attractant. After announcing the move to a three-day work week, Lindsey received 429 applications in one week for positions paying $15 to $17 per hour, with health benefits and Sundays off for everyone, which is a corporate Chick-fil-A policy. The way the scheduling works among Lindsey’s staff of 38 is that he divided them into two groups that work in three-day blocks and alternate weekly schedules.

Because staff can trade shifts with coworkers and work six days in a row to have eight days off, it improved work-life balance for people who like to travel or who live far from family. They can take trips and not even dip into their PTO. (By the way, this is the best day of the week to take time off.)

This schedule wouldn’t work for everyone—not everyone can handle 14-hour days—but for others, it’s a game changer. “It is important to remember that people are individuals,” says Bo Bennett, PhD, a social scientist and business consultant. “Although many workers will be drawn to this kind of arrangement out of pure novelty, only some will do well with a 13–14 hour shift. The individual will need to be both physically and cognitively capable of pulling it off long-term.”

Jeff Neal, an HR manager at The Critter Depot, said he’s not surprised to hear about Lindsey’s success trying a three-day workweek at his Chick-fil-A in Miami. “For the past three years, especially with the pandemic in the mix, we’ve seen a lot of employee turnover,” Neal says, “But once we offered the three-day workweek, we’ve had zero turnover from our warehouse laborers.”

Lindsey’s experiment has yielded similar results—100% employee retention at the manager level. “People want flexibility and autonomy in their work roles,” Levitt says, “Extra compensation can help, but it’s no longer the tool to entice people to work for your organization. Flexibility and trust are.”

Sources:

  • Nurse Journal, “The U.S. Nursing Shortage: A State-by-State Breakdown“
  • Police Executive Research Forum, “Survey on Police Workforce Trends“
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The “Great Resignation” in perspective“
  • Fortune, “Work three days a week, get full-time hours“
  • Bo Bennett, PhD, a Social Scientist and Business Consultant
  • Michael Levitt, Chief Burnout Officer of The Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego-based burnout media firm
  • Jeff Neal, HR manager at The Critter Depot