Lorne Marr Featured in the Toronto Star
Lorne Marr, the founder of the LSM Insurance, was featured in the Toronto Star on April 24, 2014. The article called “Stay-home Fridays becoming feasible,” written by the Star’s columnist Carol Goar, is about the four-day workweek that Marr implemented in his company in 2009.
The article is about Lorne Marr‘s decision to switch to a four-day workweek with flexible work hours for his employees. He made the decision after the recession in 2008 out of a lack of funds for motivating his staff.
The plan was to offer his employees a more flexible schedule that would reduce their commuting time, save them money on gas, and allow them to reap the benefits of a long weekend every weekend. The idea has worked! Employees are more productive and happier, which has boosted his company’s bottom line and improved morale.
The topic of a four-day workweek has got even more press coverage since April 24. Lorne Marr was mentioned in the popular Stafford Show with Mike Stafford on the Talk Radio AM640, and also in a quotation in a short blog post from April 25 called “STAFFORD: Would You Say “Yes” To This Approach to the Work Week?”
Marr was also interviewed by Tim Denis in the Tim Denis Show on April 28. Marr answers the questions about what led him to the idea of the four-day workweek and how his staff has responded to this idea. You can listen to the full interview below.
Lorne Marr and the topic of LSM’s four-day workweek were also mentioned on the waves Newstalk1010 on April 25.
Read the Toronto Star’s full article:
Since he switched his company to a four-day workweek, Lorne Marr has never looked back.
His employees are happier and more productive. They spend less time stuck in traffic. And every weekend is a long weekend.
The experiment began in the 2009 recession when Marr, who runs LSM Insurance with his wife, needed a way to motivate the agency’s staff but couldn’t afford to increase their pay. Nor was he in a financial position to provide cash incentives to the 60 brokers who serve the agency’s clients.
So he decided to offer everyone a compressed workweek. Under the new arrangement, employees could adjust their hours to avoid peak traffic. Everyone was free to come and go as they pleased as long as their work got done. “They have to be accountable, but we don’t care how they do it.”
The move seemed risky at the time. Today it is firmly entrenched at the Markham firm. “The benefits have been greater than we anticipated,” Marr said. Not only has it stabilized LSM’s workforce, it has cut employees’ gasoline bills and spared them a day of frustration on the GTA’s jammed highways. Staff morale has improved and employees get more done when they’re on-site.
They still work 40 hours a week. But they don’t have to punch a clock or worry about a boss looking over their shoulder.
Marr acknowledges the strategy wouldn’t work for every employer. LSM is a small (six full-time employees) business and the insurance industry lends itself to online work. His staff is older than average and most of its members have dedicated work space at home. None need close supervision and most remember what it was like being on a strict 9-to-5 schedule.
Reconfiguring work schedules would be more difficult in the retail sector, round-the-clock operations, hands-on businesses and on-call services. But he thinks more companies — even large corporations — could introduce a four-day workweek, beginning with selected departments or project teams. He also believes construction could be completed on deadline by extending workers’ daily hours to give them a three-day weekend. “Traffic is tiring for them, too,” he says. “Anything that will motivate your team to work harder is worth trying.”
The four-day workweek was originally conceived as a by-product of industrialization. The theory was that labour-saving machines would take over many of the tedious, mechanical tasks workers did, lightening their load and giving them time for leisure. What actually happened was that automation speeded up the pace of work. Leisure proved elusive.
In its next iteration, the four-day workweek was promoted as a way to save jobs in lean times. The idea was that cutting back workers’ hours (and remuneration) would allow employers to avoid — at least mitigate — layoffs. In the short-term, workers were willing to sacrifice to save their colleagues’ livelihood. But as time wore on, most wanted to go back to a full week’s pay for 40 hours of work.
The current model, championed by Marr and a handful of other entrepreneurs, is primarily a response to rising fuel prices, long commutes and transportation gridlock. “An hour of traffic is more frustrating than an hour at work,” he says. “There’s not a lot of downside as long as you have the right people and define the expectations at the outset.”
He can’t explain why the four-day workweek hasn’t spread. “A lot of people get stuck in a traditional mindset,” he suggests. “They don’t realize how much of a benefit it is.”
They’re under no pressure to change right now. It’s an employers’ market. With 1.3 million Canadians looking for work, they don’t have to be flexible or forward-looking. But that will change. The first wave of baby boomers has already retired. Over the next decade the exodus will swell, creating more vacancies than job-seekers. Recruiters will find the digital generation much less willing than today’s workers to sit in traffic for hours to get to a rigidly structured organization and sit at a desk five days a week.
That’s not why Marr is in the vanguard. What he is doing makes sense now. He likes free Fridays. He likes the improvement in LSM’s bottom line even better.
By: Carol Goar, Star Columnist, Published on Thursday, April 24, 2014