ELM & the 4-Day Work Week

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Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  – Genesis 18:4

Sustainable growth means preparing for the long journey.
Sustainable growth means preparing for the long journey.

by Amalia Vagts,
Executive Director

It seems like everyone is busy these days. I’m guilty of it myself. When someone asks how I am, I usually have to stop myself from replying, “Busy.”

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries IS busy. You’ve heard me say it often this year – we are fruitful and multiplying! And – in the midst of that, we are also embracing a culture of balance over the allure of “busyness.” After about six months of conversation and exploration and then a two-month trial, ELM is moving forward with a four-day, 36-hour work week for our full-time staff (myself and Program Director, Rev. Jen Rude).

The concept was introduced to us at Rockwood Leadership Institute, which Jen and I attended earlier this year. We’ve since talked with others who have successfully moved to similar schedules. The purpose is to create a healthy, sustainable, and well-managed work environment that sustains leaders over a lifetime of activism. Those who have done this successfully have found that their employees are happier, healthier, more efficient, better at time management, more alive in their work and more renewed following the weekend.

Jen and I are using techniques from Rockwood (and other places) to get the most out of our workweek. Here are some key points from Rockwood we are using: keep a clear task list, include personal to-dos, plan for each new day and week, keep portions of the work week meeting-free, know the POP (purpose, outcome, process) of each project & meeting, answer email in batches, turn off email/social media alerts, be clear with everyone about our schedule, and create efficient systems for team planning, accountability, and communication. (You can get more details in this article “You can take care of yourself and still change the world“).

Jen and I both travel extensively for ELM, typically over weekends, with very full days. As a balance, when we are in the office, Jen and I will work Monday-Thursday, generally 9 – 6 (and some evenings for meetings). Fridays are for the following kinds of activities: personal tasks such as medical appointments, household chores, volunteering, congregational work, time with friends, workout classes, and general renewal. For the most part, we will be away from email and our phones Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Jen and I tried this schedule during August and September and we both felt renewed, supported, more effective, and able to give our most and best selves to the work of ELM. At the September in-person meeting, the ELM Board of Directors unanimously endorsed this plan.

We know that many people do not have the choice of this kind of schedule for their employment. We know that pastors and deacons are among the most overworked people in our culture. It is my hope that ELM can model a healthy personal ecology for others and find ways to sustain ourselves and our colleagues for the long haul in their work.

I welcome your questions and feedback.

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