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A 32-hour work week helped this company’s employees juggle self-care, side hustles, pets, and parenting ‘without feeling like they’re going to be penalized’

A mother and her children walk to schoolAt vChief, where most full-time employees are parents, an extra day off helps them to juggle parent teacher conferences and their kid’s doctors appointments.


  • 4-day work week trials have found a shortened work week can improve employees’ work-life balance. 
  • For working parents, the benefits can be obvious: an extra day off to help with childcare.
  • vChief says its 4-day work week helps employees juggle jobs as parents, self-care, and side hustles.

Madeleine Niebauer, the founder and CEO of startup vChief, is also a mom.

When it came time to hire her first full-time employees in 2021, Niebauer asked herself: What if her business could set a different example around work-life balance?

She decided that vChief, a startup that helps fill part-time executive positions, would become a workplace entirely designed around a 4-day work week capped at 32 hours. Each employee gets to select the day off they prefer in the week — as long as it’s properly communicated with team members. 

“I thought the 4-day work week was a great way to draw in and keep great talent, and that you could still get work done and run a growing business,” Niebauer told Insider.

Niebauer said that the 4-day work week has helped the company with employee retention, and they’ve also attracted over-qualified candidates for the company’s roles. While some companies that have switched to 4-day work weeks have cut pay to 80%, Niebauer said vChief uses a different tactic: their employee salaries fall toward the middle of what their competitors offer. 

“We’re gonna land more towards the middle rather than towards the high end, because we believe that we’re providing value through flexibility,” Niebauer said.

The company’s staff is small, with 20 full-time employees and 150 part-time contractors. There are still busy periods when the staff may end up working over that 32-hour benchmark, Niebauer said, but she doesn’t want that to ever become the norm.

While it’s possible that some employees may skimp on even the reduced 32-hour work week, Niebauer said that this has been incredibly rare for vChief, especially since they’re focused on hiring the right people.

An extra day for parenting, pets, self-care, or side hustles

The shortened work week remains effective, Niebauer said, in part because her team is years into their careers. While startup culture may call to mind freshly minted college grads or twenty-somethings, the average vChief’s employee is in their mid-thirties, and most of vChief’s full-time employees are parents, she told Insider.

“We have a really grown-up team,” Niebauer said. “They come to work. They get the work done. They’re responsive. You just don’t have to babysit anyone.” 

For vChief’s team, that extra day off gives people time to juggle side hustles and other responsibilities, said chief of staff Nisha Dass, who helped draft the company’s 4-day policies. She said one vChief employee does Spanish translation work and bartends. 

Dass, for example, has been able to adopt and train a dog, and she’s taken on consulting work with companies outside of vChief on other topics she’s passionate about, including voting rights and gender equity.

For parents, the additional day has helped them to juggle their jobs as parents.

“It enables them to take care of a sick kid, manage emergencies, or be available for parent teacher conferences or doctor’s visits in the middle of the day,” Dass said. “Without feeling like they’re going to be penalized for it, without feeling like they’re going to look like they’re distracted at work.”

For Niebauer, during her day off she says she gets to spend more time with her husband or her kids after they return from school. But some days she takes that time for herself — she goes paddleboarding or out for a lunch date.   

“I really believe that people shouldn’t live their lives for work,” Niebauer said. “I think people should live their lives for the people and the passion in their lives. I think, for the majority of us, that consists of things outside of work.”

Read the original article on Business Insider