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Denver nonprofit adopts four-day work week as need, stress grow

Metro Caring warehouse
Posted at 5:54 PM, Aug 15, 2023

DENVER — The four day work week is having its moment, with Colorado law enforcement, counties, and businesses making the switch and reporting improvements in productivity and employee satisfaction. The Denver-area nonprofit Metro Caring jumped on the trend this month in an effort to counteract the growing stress and pressures its team is facing.

Metro Caring operates as a “choice model” food pantry, allowing recipients to visit its market and select the foods and quantities they need. The nonprofit reports the number of people coming in for food assistance has tripled since the pandemic, with employees and volunteers now overseeing about 12,000 pounds of food coming in and out of its market each day.

Cory Scrivner, food access manager for Metro Caring, said the large increase in need from the community has brought emotional and physical strain to her and her teammates.

“The amount of emotional labor that we’re putting into procuring and distributing food is huge,” Scrivner said. “But then there’s also a physical demand, too. I mean, we’re physically bringing all this food in and physically taking it all out, too. So I think, not only in this organization but in the nonprofit sector in general — unfortunately, folks are so passionate that they burn out.”

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That burnout has led to higher turnover at Metro Caring, according to CEO Erik Hicks, which led him to the paradox that Metro Caring has now adopted: at a time when the team is busier than ever, Hicks is giving them an extra day off every week. The hope is that a four-day work week will lead to a more balanced, resilient team that has staying power in a community that desperately needs it.

“We wanted to look at this from a holistic state of mind,” Hicks said, describing a series of conversations he had with employees and volunteers regarding their stress levels and work-life balance. “What came out of that was, how do we implement thinking about how we can provide a healthy balance for our staff, that they can balance their professional and personal lives a little better? How can we provide a four-day work week? And thinking creatively and innovatively about how we can provide that not only to our community but also for our staff to where it’s having a positive impact for all’”

Denver nonprofit adopts four-day work week as need, stress grow

Metro Caring’s four-day work week has launched as a six-month pilot program, in which leadership will monitor impacts on employees, volunteers, and recipients of services. While the nonprofit will now be closed on Fridays, hours of operation will be longer Monday through Thursday when it tends to be busier with recipients. At the end of the six months, Hicks will decide with his leadership team whether or not to make the change permanent.

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As for Scrivner and her teammates in the market and warehouse, the extra day off is already doing wonders, she said.

“We’ve had one four-day work week, and my life has changed,” she said. “Like, I’m not kidding. It was like one Friday off, and I was like, ‘I’m a new person.’”

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