October 17, 2022

Nectar's Case for a 4.5-Day Work Week

In Company 10 min. read

Previous article
Written by
Maximilian Cherney
Next article

Written by Hannah Thomas with significant contributions from Max Cherney, Marie-France Laperrière and Marc André Roberge.

Something is changing in the world of work

Call it a rethink or a reshuffle; something is changing in the world of work. The tumultuous past few years  forced people to question why they work for their employer, and to prioritize their time outside of work. “It feels like we’re living through a reckoning between people and their relationship with work, and how it got to this unhealthy place.” Max Cherney, Nectar’s COO said. “The pandemic set off the dominos, but it’s something people have been feeling for a while.”

As a tech startup founded in the mid 2010s, Nectar’s founders felt external pressure to adopt a 24/7 hustle mentality to succeed as quickly as possible. “This was promoted as the best approach to your life - not just your business,” Marc André Roberge, Nectar’s CEO and Co-founder said. “The idea was to prioritize work over sleeping, taking weekends, vacations, spending time with friends and family, or even watching a movie unrelated to your business. Every waking minute was to be devoted to your company,” he recalled. “It was unhealthy and permeated the whole startup culture.”

In the past few years, attitudes have changed. “Now we’re seeing this shift where people are going against hustle culture. It doesn’t mean they’re not working. They just want to work smarter and towards a cause they believe in,” said Marie-France Laperrière, Nectar’s HR Business Partner. 

Like many other businesses, the pandemic has been a transformational time for Nectar. At its onset, advice from investors and advisors centered around being careful about cash flow and runway. A couple weeks into the pandemic, the message changed. “Our investors were making sure I was mindful of myself and my employees. Startup founders were dropping like flies because they were overwhelmed with all the sudden changes,” Roberge recalled.

As the pandemic continued into the second year, the challenges of running a tech startup changed. In 2021, investments into tech companies soared. This led to many companies getting funding and trying to attract top talent to join their team. “Because of remote work, you suddenly had companies from San Francisco hiring fr.... So Nectar, and other Montreal tech startups had to compete with that,” Roberge said. “It really affected the way we needed to be thinking about recruitment and retaining our team.”

Leadership was already considering a reduced work week in response to a general feeling of burnout within the team, and recruitment challenges were the final push they needed. A reduced work week seemed like a benefit that would make Nectar more competitive for recruitment, and it aligns with the company’s value of work/life balance.

At Nectar, promoting work/life balance is a way of respecting and investing in the team. “We’re not about burning people out and replacing them with their professional equivalent just to fill the role,” Roberge explained. “We’re not only investing in a software developer, we’re investing in the person that happens to be a software developer.”

While a four day work week is a trendy topic at the moment, well-intentioned initiatives don’t always have the impact on employee wellness that they purport. Internally there was a lot of support, but we wanted quantitative employee-satisfaction data to support the right strategy. “There were no signs that this would not be a success,” Laperrière recalled, “However, we really wanted to make sure that the data was on our side and that the feedback from the team members was very positive.” Thus the idea of the half-day Friday experiment was born.  

Experimental Design and Approach

While the 4 day work week is amongst the trendiest perks, Nectar was looking for something that could be smoothly implemented while truly achieving its intended objective. The team was conscious of limiting unintended consequences that could make things harder for employees. For example, research shows that when companies offer unlimited vacation time sometimes less vacation time is taken overall. There was concern that perhaps employees might work longer days during the week or on the weekend to make up for the missed time on Friday, completely missing the objective of improved work-life balance.

A 4.5 day work week seemed more accessible, and also gave the team time to continue to deliver anticipated updates to their clients. By only eliminating a half-day, Nectar didn’t extend any project timelines, and the product roadmap remained the same. Laperrière explained, “We have our mission at heart, and we wanted to find a better balance between working on that mission while also having more personal time to recharge.”

The team already had a culture of building products with constant feedback from its stakeholders. We designed an experiment based on employee feedback to test out a reduced work week. Changes would be rolled out incrementally, and feedback was to be collected at every step. 

The driving force behind half-day Fridays became Laperrière. She felt that incremental changes would be easier to sustain over the long run. “We’re taking a sustainable approach to building our product,” Marie-France said, “So it’s also in our culture, in our DNA to take a sustainable approach towards working. It just makes sense for us.”

In March 2022, Laperrière drafted the experiment and presented it to Nectar’s leadership team for feedback. At first, “not everyone agreed on the formula,” she said. “There were interesting discussions that took place.”

After several iterations and much debate, the plan was confirmed and presented to the entire Nectar team. Beginning on a Friday in early May, the experiment ran for eight weeks, with anonymous feedback collected every week. Survey questions were developed to gauge work-related stress levels, employee satisfaction with their work/life balance and company ambassadorship. Each week, all responses to the survey were summarized and presented to leadership.

Laperrière consulted with HR groups, looked into UX research best practices, and leveraged her own network to develop the questions. Most were scored on a scale from one to five, to keep the survey simple and engagement rates high. 

The concise timeline of the experiment was important to the team. “We knew we wanted to have something attainable fairly fast, but not a two-week thing where it’s rushed,” said Roberge. 

While the team reduced their weekly hours from 40 to 36, there was no pay cut.

Anticipated Challenges

Loss of flexibility was highlighted as a potential challenge when the project was first proposed. Nectar employees love that they can work whenever they want, and leadership was concerned that this benefit would be reduced by selecting a specific afternoon off. “The way we ended up seeing it is we’re just creating a bit less space to work from. Instead of working Monday to Friday, we’re now working Monday to Friday at noon,” said Roberge.

Another potential challenge identified was ensuring that employees actually took the afternoon off during the experiment.

We really wanted to make this a dedicated time in the week when you’re not going to get messages from other people. We wanted everyone to know that this was their time and they should feel legitimate in taking it

Laperrière said. Roberge added “If we gave people the choice of day or afternoon, they may feel obligated to work or answer messages or maybe not take the afternoon off at all.”

The final anticipated challenge was difficulty in meeting deadlines on collaborative projects, or finding time to meet with teammates. These concerns were addressed with the decision that everyone would be taking the same afternoon off. Laperrière explained “We’re a small team, so everything we do has a really big impact. If one person takes Monday morning and another takes Monday afternoon, then they lose a full day of potential collaboration time. By setting a dedicated day we avoid this problem.”


Employee feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and the survey response rate was over 80% for all eight weeks of the experiment.

Work-life balance satisfaction score started high and went even higher throughout the course of the experiment. The average work-life balance satisfaction score for the duration of this experiment was 8.6/10. People reported less stress and less pressure, especially because everyone was off at the same time. 

The most common piece of feedback received from employees was that it helped improve their focus and productivity. “People said it forced them to look at their week and consider the most efficient way to work together,” Laperrière said.

Cherney agreed that the team worked to make the experiment become permanent. “The fact that it was done via a test made me take a critical look at my week. I decided I was going to figure out how to better use my time to make it work. Because who doesn’t want a half-day vacation or longer weekend to do cool things?” 

Employees reported having more time for their personal lives. Many people took the extra afternoon and used it as “life admin” time, scheduling appointments and errands they would normally do on the weekend. This left people’s weekends free for activities, and spending time with friends and family. Others used the time for personal development, by reading more about their field or taking a class. 

A couple of Friday afternoons were filled with optional team bonding activities, such as playing basketball or bouldering. Respondents noted feeling there was a “general wave of positivity for working at Nectar” among the team.

There were not many challenges reported, however the most common issue was people having trouble or forgetting to stop work at midday.

Scheduling and collaboration have not been challenges so far. The team is still learning as they go, but it’s been taken as an opportunity to be more mindful of schedules and efficient in their collaboration. 

Next Steps

Half-day Fridays are now permanent year-round at Nectar. Team members report high satisfaction with work/life balance, and recruitment timelines have shortened.

While the success was no surprise, Nectar is growing and learning to work and communicate better. However, the data collected so far is a great start. “This is the picture we have now, what’s to say it won’t evolve or maybe not. It’s just a starting point to the iterative approach we like to take, both in building our products and improving things for the team” said Laperrière.

Feedback collection will continue to monitor and maintain employee happiness. Follow-up surveys will be sent out to team members in the fall. The success of the experiment has sparked a larger initiative to collect more employee feedback on a variety of topics. 

In conclusion, Nectar was able to take a trendy perk and make it our own by designing and running an experiment. By sharing this process, we hope to contribute to the conversation about what is and isn’t working in the workplace. 

We’re curious - what is your team doing to improve the future of work? We’re interested in learning about innovative work/life balance initiatives from other companies, so please leave a comment or reach out if you’d like to share. 

About Nectar

Nectar started in 2016, and is based in Montreal, Canada. The company has over twenty employees and a hybrid working structure. The team runs a 100-hive beekeeping operation used for research, commercial pollination, and honey production. Nectar offers BeeTrack, a SaaS product for commercial beekeepers. 

Interested in learning more about Nectar and our open positions? Click Here.

About the author

Maximilian Cherney

Maximilian Cherney is the Chief Operating Officer at Nectar Technologies, a precision beekeeping technology startup. Max joined Nectar in early 2018 and has helped the startup develop their vision around how they could improve the state of affairs for pollinators and the people who work with them. Today, Max works closely with a cutting edge group of early stage collaborators who share Nectar's vision for the future of beekeeping. Those partners include commercial beekeepers who aim to make more data-driven decisions, and applied beekeeping researchers, who are working to provide those same beekeepers with actionable, context-specific learnings from their research. Prior to Nectar, Max spent time on a regenerative farm. There, he was particularly inspired by the wellbeing of the farm's wild and managed pollinator populations.

Join a thriving community of beekeepers making a difference.

Request a demo