Is a 4-Day Work Week Possible for LSPs? - Our Analysts' Insights

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Is a 4-Day Work Week Possible for LSPs?

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Companies all over the world are experimenting with breaking away from the traditional five-day work week to move to a more condensed or shortened one. My husband, an HR manager, has implemented 4x10 (4 days of 10 hours each) at his company for over two years now and I have had countless discussions with him on whether language service providers could switch to such a model. I originally had some reservations because LSPs need to be there for their clients at a minimum of five days a week – if not more. That is, until I found an LSP that made it work.

The Benefits of Four-Day Work Weeks

Let’s start with reviewing why more and more organizations see benefits in changing the typical work-week model:

  • Improved work-life balance. A four-day week allows employees an additional business day off to schedule personal appointments, pursue interests, or spend time with family and friends. The derived employee satisfaction can lead to increased employee engagement and loyalty.
  • Increased productivity. Studies show that employees may be more productive when working a four-day week, as they have more time to rest and recharge. Teams are typically motivated to get the work done so they can enjoy their extra day off without having to touch up unfinished tasks.
  • Better retention and recruitment. A shorter work week can be an attractive benefit for employees and may help a company retain and attract top talent. It also typically comes with scheduling flexibility – such as finishing early on a work day to go to a doctor’s appointment and wrapping up the work on the off-day. 
  • Cost savings for employees. They may be able to reduce commuting expenses or childcare costs. Whether companies themselves derive financial benefits depends on the conditions they set. For example, some enforce a compensation reduction – which isn’t necessarily a best practice. Others may adopt the practice as a cost avoidance strategy by letting the new benefit offset the need for a pay increase.

Creative Words – The New Schedule

We interviewed Diego Cresceri, Founder and CEO of Italy-based Creative Words (#20 on our list of largest LSPs in Southern Europe). During an employee innovation challenge last year, a team member suggested the shift to a four-day work week. At first, the idea didn’t gain traction. But once Cresceri attended a webinar on the topic, he decided to implement it. And with just a single month of prep time, he launched a company-wide trial that he expects will convert to standard practice at the end of the year.

He used the following formula: 

  • Employees work 4x8, meaning four days of eight hours each within a week.
  • They retain 100% of their salary, but the company no longer pays for overtime – something it used to do before. 
  • To facilitate training and company-wide meetings, one day every quarter is a core day during which everyone works.
  • The company still services clients five days a week, so the off day rotates for each individual to ensure sufficient coverage every single day.
  • Weeks that include two or more national holidays aren’t assigned an extra day off.
  • Days off are planned well in advance.

How They Did It

What was the key to their success? Cresceri commented, “The staff was somewhat anxious, but I asked each team what they could improve to make the switch possible.” Here are seven examples of what they had to implement:

  • Better communication. Teams now document in written form client preferences and other crucial information. More onboarding and kickoff calls are conducted to ensure that everyone remains on the same page.
  • New communication tool. In addition to its translation management system, Cresceri implemented as a tool to log the status of projects at the end of each day. He compared it to the report a project manager would prepare before going on vacation – except that PMs now do this daily.
  • Improved automation. Scalability of the solution requires creating lights-out efficiencies wherever possible.
  • Implementation of distribution lists. Clients were used to a single point of contact and now they email a distribution list so that the off-day PM backup can have access to the email back and forth.
  • More outsourcing. The team is now more likely to outsource linguistic tasks than it was before the shift as PMs work a fifth less hours than they did before the switch.
  • Fewer meetings. Creative Words reduced the number of individual and team meetings – something Cresceri said he should have implemented long ago.
  • A more structured time-off strategy. The shift requires more logistics to track hours worked and making sure bandwidth remains for people to still be able to go on vacation or to have a buffer if staff is out sick.

The Results

Aside from minor comments tied to the anxiety of the change, the switch has been seamless for staff, clients, and vendors. All manage to take their time off consistently, including the leadership team – only two executives are sometimes unable able to. Cresceri admitted that stress levels sometimes increase, but with time, teams will learn new responses to deal with the challenges. He reported an impressive benefit: “Despite paying people 100% and getting 20% less of their time, it has not affected our profitability.” However, the company is only three months into its trial and more time is necessary to prove the model’s sustainability.

The CEO of a mid-sized US-based LSP reported having attempted the four-day work week, but backtracked from it because project managers didn’t manage to turn off on their day off. Despite having reliable backups, they wanted to deal with project issues themselves, which defeated the purpose. Being out of the office can make you feel out of touch and vulnerable. So, success depends a great deal on the culture, environment, and tools available to support the effort.

Why don’t more LSPs try to make the switch? Most likely many of them are nervous about how to make it work without affecting client satisfaction or burning out staff. LSPs still need to refine the magic formula that will make it successful for everyone. We expect that, as innovative work schedules gain more ground in business in general, more LSPs will consider this as a way to remain an attractive employer.



About the Author

Hélène Pielmeier

Hélène Pielmeier

Director of LSP Service

Focuses on LSP business management, strategic planning, sales and marketing strategy and execution, project and vendor management, quality process development, and interpreting technologies


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