EKY non-profit implements 32-hour workweeks for staff members

Appalshop is shifting its definition of a work week, so that anywhere from 32 to 40 hours counts as a full week.
Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 10:30 PM EDT
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LETCHER COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Following a successful pilot program, Appalshop in Letcher County is reshaping its view of a typical work week.

Since 1940, when the Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect, 40-hour workweeks have been the standard for the American worker.

But that norm is evolving.

″For more than 50 years, we’ve been really exploring and trying to illustrate what’s possible in Appalachia,” said Roger May, who directs operations for the Whitesburg-based arts and media institution.

May says this move is just their latest iteration of Appalshop’s mission.

”It’s just a really great way to encourage folks to strive for more of a work-life balance,” May said.

May says they have an employee rights and benefits committee that proposed the change. It ultimately prompted a six-month pilot program, which produced very positive results.

“63 percent of our staff saw improvement in the quality of work, 74 percent expressed higher motivation, and 80 percent experienced a better work-life balance,” said May.

May says some workers wondered if they could pull it off - and he needed time to adjust, too.

“Even though we did the pilot program for six months, it’s taking a little bit to get into the notion of being off on a Friday,” May said.

But May said 82 percent of their team have been able to work less than 40 hours a week since the pilot started, with around half (47 percent) consistently working 32 hours.

So now, the store has formally adopted a 32-hour workweek policy, with Fridays serving as a “flex day”, and no meetings are scheduled that day.

“It really just depends on what’s going on at the shop during that work week, but we really encourage folks to take that time,” said May.

But he feels the flexibility will encourage creativity and show that they can shape the world they want to live in - even in the coalfields.

“Increased productivity, higher motivation - you can’t put a dollar amount on that,” May said.

May hopes their effort can serve as a model for other organizations in the region that want to try changing up their work week.