Insomnia Cookies shifts to a 4-day week at its new headquarters

The downtown Philadelphia facility also features an innovation center, but no offices. It's been designed to foster collaboration.
The Quad at Insomnia's new HQ provides a place for employees to gather. | Photos courtesy of Insomnia Cookies

Twenty years after being founded in a nearby dorm room, Insomnia Cookies has moved into a 26,000-square-foot headquarters steeped in the young company’s culture, with features ranging from cookie-themed meeting rooms to a bakery-cum-idea lab on the ground floor. 

Yet one differentiator is a complete departure from what employees and customers will encounter in one of the brand’s 265 stores, now or ever: being closed on Fridays.

The 100 “insomniacs” stationed in the downtown Philadelphia office are expected to work a 36-hour week, or nine hours per day, Monday through Thursday. The facility closes on Friday, making Insomnia one of the first companies of scale in the restaurant business to adopt a four-day workweek.

It's not as if the whole chain shuts down that day. “We’re a seven-day-a-week business, from noon to 3 in the morning on a Saturday,” says founder and CEO Seth Berkowitz, who began Insomnia while a student at the nearby University of Pennsylvania. “That’s seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

With a sales window that wide, Berkowitz once held to the convention that home-office hours should extend at least from Monday through Friday. But, a few headquarters ago, he noticed a definite ebb and flow to the workweek.

“I wasn’t seeing a lot going on on Fridays,” he said. “I saw a lot of [teleconferencing] cameras being off, a lot of meetings being poorly attended.”

Between that headquarters and the one Insomnia just opened, the company moved into a temporary space that was too small to house the whole team. The insomniacs were divided into two groups, one working Mondays and Tuesdays, the other Wednesdays and Thursdays.  During that time, the chain grew exponentially, yet no catastrophes ensued. 

When the new facility was ready, Berkowitz decided to scrap Fridays as a concession to the staff. The official hours were set at 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, for everyone.

“It felt pretty natural,” said Berkowitz.

His main aim for the facility was to foster the collaboration and informal brainstorming that comes from having everyone together, sharing ideas. The new headquarters has no offices. Employees can gather in a multi-level known as The Quad.

TheInsomnia Cookies Flagship Bakery on the ground floor serves as a more-structured innovation center where new products can be brainstormed, tested and readied for rollout.

“I’m a big test-and-learn kind of person,” said Berkowitz. “This store is built with experimentation in mind.”

The innovation lab also provides a way for members of the office staff to learn how bakeries work and what it’s like to work in one of the brand’s stores.

“Any time I’m in the office I carve out a half hour, hour where I go down to work in the bakery,” Berkowitz said. The payback is getting direct input from staff and customers.

Operating four days a week, what happens if some crisis arises in the field on a Friday?

“The same thing we would have done at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night beforehand,” responded Berkowitz. “We’ve never had seven-day-a-week office time.” Protocols are in place to address extraordinary situations whenever they arise, he stressed.

So far, the four-day workweek has been a non-event, Berkowitz said. The bigger thing for the company has been gathering the whole support team into a facility where they’re immersed together in the world of Insomnia.

“The Insomnia brand, it speaks to them all the time,” he says. “You’re surrounded by our culture. You walk in and you feel Insomnia. It’s been pretty special.”

Plus, he says, “There’s a lot of energy that comes from newness.”

The headquarters, housed in a former bank, is located in the heart of Philly, at the intersection of Broad and Chestnut Street.

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