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Rocket revolutionizes work-life balance with four-day work week

July 24, 2023  By Nithya Caleb

Based in Atlantic Canada, Rocket ensures work-life balance for employees with a four-day work week. Photos © Rocket

Rocket is an Atlantic Canadian company with production facilities in Fredericton and Halifax. It is a full-service print and communications firm offering digital, litho, wide-format, mailing and omnichannel marketing solutions. It employs approximately 55 team members across the two locations. Rocket began as Taylor Printing Group in Fredericton in 2005. In December 2019, Taylor acquired Halifax-based Bounty Print, which had, at that time, been operating for more than 40 years. In spring 2021, the group was rebranded as Rocket.

In August 2022, Rocket piloted a two-month four-day work week program, which has now become permanent.

“We chose August because it is a month heavy in vacations and September tends to be a heavy production month. We felt these two months together would be a good test to see if we could actually do it and to determine where any deficiencies might be that we hadn’t thought of,” explained Scott Williams, CEO, Rocket.

It is well known that the print industry is struggling to attract skilled labour. Williams realized he had to look at new and innovative ways of retaining and acquiring team members. Inspired by the four-day work week trials in the U.K., he decided to test it out at Rocket.

Scott Williams, CEO, Rocket.

Productivity increases

The pilot program was a success. Williams said it was well-received. “We actually gained production capacity because some team members wanted to come in earlier while others preferred to come in later. This resulted in an expanded production capacity,” he added.

Williams’ observation mirrors recently released results of the world’s largest four-day work week trial. The pilot program—conducted by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global, the U.K.’s 4 Day Week Campaign and think-tank Autonomy—guided more than 60 companies in the U.K. and almost 3,000 workers through a six-month trial of a four-day week, with no loss of pay for workers. Post-trial, 91 per cent of participating companies said they’re continuing or planning to continue a four-day week. Companies rated their overall experience of the trials an average of 8.5 out of 10. According to the survey results, revenue rose by 35 per cent over the trial periods and hiring increased while absenteeism decreased. Companies also reported that the health and well-being of employees improved, with “significant increases observed in physical and mental health, time spent exercising, and overall life and job satisfaction. Rates of stress, burnout and fatigue all fell, while problems with sleep declined.”

Given the findings, it’s not surprising the Rocket team embraced the four-day work week from day one. “They knew that it would mean longer hours, but the extra day has been more than worth it. We haven’t had a single complaint,” said Williams.

Matt Keilty, shipping co-ordinator, Rocket, loves the four-day work week, as he gets to spend quality time with family.

A four-day work week has meant that Rocket’s employees are able to reduce childcare costs; spend an extra day with family; not do chores on the weekend and do the same quicker on a weekday; save 20 per cent on gas and travel; and having more time with friends and to do things they normally hadn’t had time for.

“The four-day work week has been amazing! Work-life balance has been perfect. The productive work week flies by and being able to wake up Friday morning and have coffee with my significant other is really nice. Every weekend being a long weekend has given us more time to plan/enjoy our adventures with no rush. All of North America needs to adopt this work schedule,” said Matt Keilty, shipping co-ordinator, Rocket.

His colleague Pam Fraser, accounting administration at Rocket, is all praises for the new schedule. “What can I say about the four-day work week—I love it! Having the extra day off each week gives more family time as you can unwind, get household chores done and still have the weekend,” she added.

Brian Holland, bindery operator, has been able to save on commute time due to a four-day work week. He said, “I live about an hour away and one less day to travel to and from work is great. I’d much rather stay at work a couple of extra hours over four days and have every Friday off. Fridays now are for running errands, booking appointments, and getting work done around the house and leaving Saturday and Sunday for fun activities.”

Contrary to popular belief, a four-day work week increased Rocket’s production capacity.

Industry response

While the Rocket team thoroughly enjoyed the change, there were a few minor challenges such as deliveries and receiving, but Williams explained, “Those things worked themselves out fairly quick. The response from clients and partners has overwhelmingly been one of envy more than anything else.”

Client reaction was one of the major concerns that Williams had about the four-day work week switch. However, those concerns were “quickly alleviated after having conversations with several long-standing clients and being able to assure them that their delivery times would not be affected,” he explained.

Rocket’s innovative plan has garnered some criticism too. “Being one of the first private businesses to adopt a four-day work week has resulted in a few negative comments like ‘it must be nice’, ‘wish we were making your kind of money’, and ‘glad business is so good for you’. None of these are true or the reason for our move to a four-day work week. We did it to look after our team members,” shared Williams, who would highly recommend the four-day work week to all privately owned businesses.

“With the pandemic, lack of available labour, and the stresses on families that seem to be continually building, we need to look after our employees. Our team members are our most important resource, and we need to make sure they have a legitimate opportunity for work-life balance. A four-day work week helps achieve this goal. There will also need to be flexibility on the part of the employer. Some team members may need to be accommodated due to family responsibilities etc. We do have some employees that work a hybrid five-day week, and you need to be open to some of these concepts. The idea of a nine to five, five days of work per week concept is dying, if it isn’t already dead. Accommodation is key,” he explained.

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