Laurent de la Clergerie, CEO of Groupe LDLC, poses during an interview with Reuters at the company’s headquarters in Limonest near Lyon, France March 10, 2022. REUTERS/Lucien Libert
March 16, 2022
By Lucien Libert
LYON, France (Reuters) – When French company boss Laurent de la Clergerie decided to let his employees work a four-day week with the same pay as before, he knew he risked hurting his bottom line. “Some people thought I was crazy,” he recalls.
But a year later, he says, the opposite has happened: His LDLC company, which sells consumer technology, has increased its annual sales by 40% without hiring additional staff.
The secret, he said, is that his company’s 1,000 or so employees feel trusted and valued, and as a result are more productive.
“At the end of the day, the team only benefited,” said the 51-year-old de la Clergerie.
As the world recovers from a pandemic that has prompted many to reassess their work-life balance, companies and workers around the world are asking if, like de la Clergerie’s company, they could work less hours.
Microsoft gave its 2,300 Japan-based employees Fridays off in 2019 and said it had increased productivity by 40%. Consumer group Unilever launched a four-day trial week for local staff in New Zealand. Spanish telecoms company Telefonica has piloted a four-day week for 10% of its local workforce.
Johann Peters, who works in one of the LDLC stores near the headquarters in a suburb of Lyon in south-eastern France, uses the extra day off to go to the supermarket and get his weekly shopping. He then takes his daughter, 9-year-old Melissa, to her tennis practice.
“You come to work after your day off much more rested and operationally more efficient,” he said.
De la Clergerie said before agreeing to the move, he calculated that even in the worst case, it would increase labor costs by at most 1.5 million euros a year. He said he thinks it’s a manageable risk.
Since then, absenteeism and sick leave have decreased and the company has not had to hire new employees to compensate for the reduction in hours worked.
Though the four-day week wasn’t the only factor, de la Clergerie said it helped jump sales from around €500 million before the change to nearly €700 million ($769.86 million) since.
Celine Henniaux, a 36-year-old who works at one of the company’s distribution centers, said she has no desire to go back to the way things used to be.
“No, no,” she said. “We’ve developed a taste for having a day off during the week.”
($1 = 0.9093 euros)
(The story corrects the company name to LDLC, not LDCL.)
(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jane Merriman and David Goodman)
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