The battle for the hearts of high-tech workers in Israel is not new, but until now companies mainly stuck to offering better pay, options, RSU or day to work from home. Now, it seems like the playing field has changed as companies are taking less conventional steps to win over workers.

After Amdocs recently announced its “unlimited vacation” for Israeli employees, Sage, the Israeli R&D center for international technology, announced that their company was moving to a 4-day work with, without affecting employee’s salary or work conditions. It sounds like an employee's dream– but is it?

They saw it succeed elsewhere, so they jumped on board

Sage, the R&D center that specializes in small business management products, was founded in Israel in 2018 with the acquisition of the startup Budgeta. Since then, the company has managed to acquire another Israeli startup called TaskSheriff. Sage employs about 30 people in Israel. In a conversation with Geektime, Segev Baron, Director of Sage R&D center in Israel, said, “The idea for a shortened workweek came up in discussion three months ago. We held an offsite meeting with the team leaders to discuss how we can progress faster and more efficiently. One of the suggestions was to move to a shortened workweek, after realizing that we have been working around the clock, yet our efficiency isn't where it needs to be, due to burnout.”

Baron notes that he left the meeting and began researching the idea. He found other companies who have transitioned to a 4-day work week, among them an Icelandic company; Microsoft in Japan (which led to a 40% increase in output), and the startup Bolt, which employs about 500 people.

Baron explained that in all these cases, the companies reported the switch to be successful, as there was a decrease in employee pressure, an increase in involvement and no decrease in output, "there were also attempts to shorten the working days themselves, by switching to 6-hour workdays, but those initiatives were less successful."

Currently, Sage is beginning the program with a pilot that will last at least one year, and the company will monitor several indicators throughout, including employee satisfaction, their involvement, and the overall productivity of the development center, to understand whether it is something that can last or if they will eventually need to return to the 5-day work week.

How did employees react to the switch?

“There was immediate enthusiasm. They didn't expect such a move. But right after the enthusiasm came questions of ‘how will we be successful? What do we have to do for this to be prosperous? So, we created a group agreement with some rules to follow to keep everything working smoothly and efficiently. For example, we decided that there will be 3 hours a day of designated ‘focus time’ in which certain communications, such as Slack, Teams, meetings are prohibited. Of course, we are working on a trial error basis right now; we will try, we will make mistakes, we will correct them, and we will try again”.

Sage’s parent company will closely monitor the situation

The move was easy to convince to employees, but what about Sage’s British parent company? After all, they are the ones who have final approval. To our surprise, Baron said that the Global Sage headquarters actually approved of the move, and “intend to follow the whole process closely to see if it is successful; if it is, they will implement it in other places accordingly”.

Baron suggested that some of the reasons they are moving to a 4-day workweek are to improve employees' work-life balance; garner more efficiency, focused results, and 'impact delivery' within the company; maintain high employee engagement and more. Baron says that in his opinion, such a move will also increase the diversity of a company because now you will be able to hire people who have difficulty working full time, like working mothers or people with various disabilities.

Asides from freeing up more time to employees to enjoy themselves, spend time with family and friends, or run errands, Sage hopes that some of them will be able to give back to society in some way, whether it is volunteering or working on open-source projects. “We hope that giving employees this time will allow them to do such things”.

“We made it clear to employees that there is no expectation to work more”

Hasn't the high-tech world “gone crazy” with the amazing conditions it offers to its employees? The difference between high-tech employee terms compared to the rest of the market is already huge- is this not an exaggeration?

“Most companies are now facing the question of what benefits to offer. Some companies focus on extravagant indulgences, like frivolous parties and vacations in coveted destinations around the world, but such an approach is less suitable for Sage’s corporate culture. We believe that the best benefit that can be given to employees is free time to do what is most important to them. If a small portion of this time is paid forward to our society, we will be very happy. There is no reason why more companies shouldn't adopt this model, even beyond high-tech. "

Are you sure that this isn't a honey trap that will actually harm employees, just like “unlimited vacation” days do?

“Obviously our goal is to not harm the company or employees whatsoever, but rather to increase efficiency within. That's why the implementation process was decided as a collective. Plus, we intend to get regular feedback from our employees both from meetings and surveys, to monitor the situation and make changes if need be. Again, we made it clear to our employees that there is no expectation to work more on the other days, to make up for the new 'day off'.”