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After near-collapse, Qwick eyes a four-day workweek to double workforce

April 4, 2022, 3:06 PM UTC
Qwick CEO Jamie Baxter
Qwick CEO Jamie Baxter
Courtesy of Qwick

Just two years after laying off 80% of its staff due to pandemic disruptions, the Phoenix-based hospitality app Qwick is joining a growing corporate faction that’s implementing four-day workweeks.

At first glance, the move might seem like a counterintuitive growth strategy for a company that was on the verge of collapse in the not too distant past. But as the startup looks to more than double its workforce and reach record revenue growth in the next year, its CEO Jamie Baxter believes a four-day workweek will be key to curbing employee burnout, recruiting and retaining talent, and fostering a culture of innovation.

“The more we’re able to grow the team, the more we’re able to grow our revenue,” Baxter tells Fortune. “If we’re only retaining talent that is burned out and isn’t showing up with their full energy or most creative minds, we’re not going to win the race of being innovative and creative.”

Baxter founded Qwick in 2017, after working at insurance brokerage firm Willis Towers Watson for nearly two decades. The platform connects hospitality workers with companies looking to fill an open shift. It’s a win-win for both parties; workers can make extra cash and receive payment as quickly as 30 minutes after their shift, while business partners have access to a wider talent pool and often pay less fees than they would sourcing workers from a temp agency, depending on location. 

At the start of 2020, Qwick was available in seven markets, including New York and San Diego, but the company hit a roadblock in late February as the hospitality industry shuttered its doors.

The dining industry alone saw the erasure of nearly 2.5 million jobs in 2020, and more than 110,000 eateries closed for business, either temporarily or permanently. Baxter cut Qwick’s workforce from 100 employees to 19, and remaining staffers took a 25% pay cut in exchange for company equity. (Baxter forfeited his salary.) Qwick also secured a lifeline in the form of $4.3 million from investors.

Things turned around in February 2021 with the vaccine’s arrival. Qwick’s revenue grew 664% from 2020 to 2021, and the platform has amassed 325,000 users to date. 

In June 2021, fresh off a $10 million Series A close, Baxter noticed burnout within his staff. Though the team was growing, it was less than half its pre-pandemic size, yet handling just as much work.

“Sometimes success brings more success, and then all of a sudden, you’re trying to keep up with that new bar that was raised higher,” Baxter says. “Now we’ve got to rethink the way that we do it, versus trying to hire more people.” A four-day workweek is at the crux of his reimagined workplace and, over the course of four months, the company will test out a Monday through Thursday schedule, with some employees working a rotating schedule to encompass weekends.

Several startups, including the fintech Bolt, have made headlines for trialing a four-day workweek, though Qwick is the first in hospitality to do so. A shorter workweek appeals to companies looking to stand out in a competitive job market and attract a more diverse talent pool, Baxter says.

It also allows employees to arrange medical appointments or other personal needs that must be addressed during weekday hours, and provides them with one less day spent on caregiving services, which Baxter notes is important for luring back the roughly 3.5 million mothers who left the workforce in 2020 and have been slow to return. 

Baxter’s efforts to differentiate Qwick as an employer brand are not only meant to attract talent but to appeal to investors.

“Investors are looking for companies that not only show amazing growth stories and have huge potential, but have different cultures that can stand out,” he says. “They’re also looking for companies that can be sustainable and are driven toward employee wellbeing and diversity.” 

Getting a handle on burnout early is all the more important when serving a high-turnover industry like hospitality, which consistently has the highest quit rate of any industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Qwick’s new work week trial will conclude in July 2022, at which point the company will assess three components: productivity, creativity, and health and wellbeing. The company will weigh factors like the quality of responses, its clientele, app store ratings, and employee net promoter scores.  If successful, Qwick will implement the four-day structure permanently. 

“We’ve put a lot of time and energy into reorganizing and redesigning a lot of our work processes,” Baxter says. “I think it’s going to be successful. But if it’s not, we’ll adjust and pivot and try again.”

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