Zachary Toth told his workers they could have an extra day off each week. That’s when they started coming in on weekends.

Toth, who runs a small manufacturing company in Toronto, told Business Insider he and his fellow managers decided to try a four-day workweek after reading about the success of pilots in Japan and elsewhere.

What Toth didn’t expect was that some workers would show up on weekends — at first without him even knowing.

“They just came in because they knew there was a project that had to be finished and they didn’t want productivity to fall. They wanted to make sure we keep doing the four-day workweek,” Toth, who’s owner and president of Metex Corporation, said.

By giving his workers the option to work less much of the time, they were willing to do more when it was needed, he said. “I’ve never had that before. It was just great to see it,” Toth said.

That extra buy-in is something that’s emerged at other workplaces that have gone on a workweek diet. Workers tend to call out sick less often and quit at lower rates. And while it’s unlikely that loads of employers will soon slice a workday off their employees’ schedules, Toth’s experience represents another bit of evidence that asking less of workers can be good for business.

At companies that adopt a four-day setup, revenue often holds steady or even ticks higher. Workers report being less stressed and burned out. And they might work smarter. The added pressure that Toth’s employees felt to get certain projects done can make workers more efficient because they’re facing a tighter deadline.

At Metex, Toth said, he’s seen productivity increase “in every single way.” The company, which makes equipment for monitoring water quality in industrial settings, saw the lead time for many of the systems it assembles drop from two weeks to just over a week. He credits workers with being more productive.

“The guys are also using their time more efficiently,” Toth said. “When people were there, they were also present because they knew they had an extra day to do whatever else they needed.”

A Metex worker troubleshoots equpiment
Metex has workers staggered so the company is staffed on weekdays.

Metex set the schedule so workers’ extra time off didn’t all fall on the same day. That way the company wasn’t ghosting customers over a three-day weekend. Still, Toth said, some outside the company were skeptical about the switch.

“We had a few people that told us that it made us look like an unprofessional business,” he said, adding that some of them were more than a generation older than Toth and his fellow managers, all of whom are in their early 30s. “So I do chalk it up to a little bit just, you know, it’s not what you grew up with.”

There were a few kinks the company had to work through — mostly around keeping coworkers up to date. “Internal communication fell off a little bit. And so we had to really get on that,” Toth said. That meant, for example, making sure a worker left detailed notes on a Friday for a colleague who would be handling a customer request the following Monday.

“We’ve cleaned that up since and it’s working fine now. But at the very beginning, there was a lot of angry customers calling who said they just never heard back,” he said.

Toth said the company’s small size — it only has 18 workers — makes it easy to redraw what the week looks like. Metex began the short-week pilot in August and plans to make it permanent in January.

“There’s nothing we’ve encountered yet that I would say is a deal-breaker at all. It’s all just growing pains,” he said. By making the switch now, Toth said, it’ll make it easier for the company to continue to expand, especially now that the response from workers has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Early on, the good vibes weren’t universal. Workers who’d heard about a four-day week were “ecstatic” about the switch, but others were worried they would lose pay, he said.

When Toth sat down and explained the company wasn’t looking to trim paychecks, skeptical workers quickly got behind the idea. “You’re just literally having an extra day to yourself,” he said. “Some of them were in disbelief. They didn’t think this was a real thing.”

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