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What happens when employees get a three-day weekend every month?

Amy Freeland Johnson is Chief People Officer at Highspot. She’s a thought leader in HR service delivery, leading M&A centers of expertise, and developing talent strategies to execute business success.

Between quiet quitting and the ongoing struggle to attract and retain talent across many industries, burnout is as bad as ever. According to Indeed, 67% of all workers believe burnout has worsened over the last two years. As a working parent, I felt the impact too. The blurred lines between work and home life mean I feel the pull of multiple priorities at all hours of the day, from my team to my family.

Engaging and retaining employees has become increasingly important amidst the changing world of work and a challenging economic backdrop. Yet, the current reality has made the already tall task of keeping employees engaged even more daunting. What engaged employees at one point in time now might cause frustration. For example, virtual happy hours were common until research revealed this tactic was backfiring.

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Google’s laundry service and Meta’s breakfast buffets were once the prized perks of the working world. Now, what employees want goes beyond cold-pressed green juice. People expect a company that prioritizes the employee as a whole person, from their well-being to their personal values.

As the Chief People Officer at Highspot, a sales enablement company, it’s my job to enhance the employee experience and enable our people through the broader external shifts, which has meant restructuring the workplace accordingly. Here are four practices your company can implement to adapt your workplace and prevent burnout.

There’s more to office life than perks

At Highspot, we decided to offer something that would make a bigger impact than perks alone. We implemented a monthly company-wide, three-day weekend for all employees. Each month we asked all employees to take a designated Friday off, adding 12 extra days off to the existing unlimited PTO policy.

The impact was bigger than anticipated. We immediately saw a shift in productivity, energy, and morale, which continued throughout the year. Our annual company-wide survey validated this shift as results showed nearly a 10% improvement in response to “Highspot motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere.” We also saw a 5% increase in our employee engagement, a measure of people’s connection and commitment to the company and its goals – 3% higher than the industry benchmark for new tech companies. The difference an extra day made for our employees’ well-being was clear. What started as a temporary pandemic tactic has since become a permanent part of our company culture, called recharge fridays.

Recharge Fridays reflect a tidal shift in what people care about and expect from their workplace. Listening to, and acting on, what matters most to the workforce today can make a big difference in your employees’ experience.

Fortune favors the flexible

The findings of the Mckinsey & Company American Opportunity Survey reflect sweeping changes in the workforce: For the first time in history, 58% of jobholders – the equivalent of 92 million people – say they can work at least part of the time remotely. People have embraced flexible work, and they want more of it. However, when employees don’t receive flexibility at work, they are twice as likely (pdf) to report being dissatisfied.

Remote work has become a necessity for some. Beyond parenting, millennials are also taking on even more broad caregiving roles, with the average millennial caregiver spending 21.2 hours a week assisting a loved one, whether supporting a parent, grandparent, or sibling. Flexibility for me looks like having time to drop off my kids at school in the morning and having the space for quality time with my family in the evening.

While providing a monthly 3-day weekend supported our employees, we also needed to be mindful of how these new practices and policies reflected our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Not everyone experiences work the same way, resulting in different work styles, needs, and preferences. For some, being in the office is essential. For others, working from home is imperative. Guided by our principle to inspire and empower people to do their best work, we made the conscious decision to keep our office doors open after establishing Covid-19 safety procedures and offer various options to work remotely.

It’s okay to not be okay

Despite being swept under the workplace rug for time immemorial, mental health at work is now a topic at the forefront of people’s minds. A 2021 study showed that half of employees who quit did so to preserve their mental health.

A little time away can do wonders. In fact, 43% of workers listed encouraging time off and offering mental health days as ways their workplace could better support them.

I’ve watched the impact of additional days off manifest in our employees’ LinkedIn stories about how they spend their Recharge Fridays. On Mondays, photos of family hiking trips, candle-making, and NYC foodie tours fill my feed. One of Highspot’s recruiters shared, “As a first-generation daughter, I am beyond grateful to be able to spend a day taking my mom to upgrade her cell phone. Although she speaks English, it’s tough for her to translate anything business-related. Everything I do is because she did not have the same opportunities as I had.”

Beyond recharge fridays, Highspot continuously works to nurture an environment where employees can bring their full, unique selves to work every day. From empowering managers with training on how to lead with vulnerability and empathy to launching employee resource groups that foster inclusivity and build community, we believe this work is non-negotiable in creating a culture where all our people belong.

Mission-forward is mission critical

Gartner surveyed over 3,500 employees worldwide in October 2021, and 65% said the pandemic had made them rethink the space that work takes up in their lives.

Values are the new salary. More than half of U.S. employees said they would be willing to take a pay cut to work at a company that shares their values. And 56% said they wouldn’t even consider a job at a company with values inconsistent with their own.

Companies are now getting involved in areas they used to steer clear of, including divisive issues such as voting rights, abortion access, and climate change. Values are only as legitimate as the real-world actions they drive. Businesses should be prepared to walk the talk with corporate stances, policy changes, or public executive statements. For example, following the Roe V. Wade decision, Highspot launched new benefits to equalize access to reproductive and gender-affirming care.

Where we go from here

While Highspot’s decision to provide a 3-day weekend each month, institute recharge fridays, and provide additional benefits has helped our employees, it also helped our business. People are the power behind our product – and Highspot’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) exceeded our growth targets during the pandemic.

As you reflect on what you can do to combat burnout and support your employees as whole people, consider tactics that provide flexibility, nurture holistic wellness, and put your corporate values into action. People always have been, and will continue to be, the most important investment any business can make.