Mark Douglas was addressing his employees at a recent team-wide meeting when, out of nowhere, he began to go off-script.
Douglas, the CEO of the marketing and advertising company SteelHouse, began reading off the list of company holidays for 2017.
“I’m sure everyone was wondering, where’s he going with this?” Douglas tells Business Insider. (Wouldn’t the holidays be the same they always were?)
“And then I said March 17th is SteelHouse Day,” Douglas says, and people’s eyebrows started to go up. “And then I said April 14th is SteelHouse Day.” A few more eyebrows. “And then I announced it.”
Douglas was announcing SteelHouse had adopted a new policy: Effective January 1, 2017, the company will observe one three-day weekend each month that doesn’t already come with a company holiday. In addition to the existing ones, there will now be SteelHouse Days in March, April, June, August, October, and December.
SteelHouse Days aren’t the product of careful cost-benefit analyses tracking people’s work habits, Douglas says. They’re part of the company’s mission to trust its employees to the greatest extents possible. Since 2011, SteelHouse has also paid its employees $2,000 a year to go on any vacation they choose.
In Douglas’ eyes, three-day weekends are the next logical step in making SteelHouse a great place to work. In the last three years, only five people out of 250 have left the company, three of whom left for reasons unrelated to the job itself. “We have virtually zero turnover,” he said back in September.
Douglas says he’s wanted to implement the idea since the end of the summer. He’s read innumerable news articles about the benefits of time off, many of which criticise the American obsession with work.
When he brought it up to his management staff there was complete, automatic support.
Eventually, Douglas hopes to make three-day weekends the norm by shifting to a four-day workweek. For that, he and his team would need to look more closely at how the time off affects sales. In the meantime, SteelHouse Days will offer a glimpse.
Still, he’s not taking the company’s pulse every five minutes.
“It doesn’t take a lot of science” to see that an extra day off each month makes people happier when they come in to work, he says. “It’s just a matter of having the courage to do something different and believing that there will be a net gain from it.”
The first SteelHouse Day is Friday, March 17th — St. Patrick’s Day. Something tells us the SteelHouse staff will be celebrating a little extra this time around.
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