Can a 32-hour work week drive productivity? A Providence company says ‘yes!’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Companies across the country are competing for skilled employees. Some offer perks like free food. Others offer college loan repayment assistance. For Lotuff Leather in Providence, a 32-hour work week is part of the unique employee benefits package.

“For any artisan who maintains their own studio practice and gives us at least 32 hours a week, they get full health care, dental life insurance and disability,” said CEO Ellen McNulty-Brown. “For us, that was a turning point in terms of being able to attract the kind of talent we needed for the business.”

Lotuff Leather is known for its high-end leather bags and briefcases. The bags typically take about four weeks to construct, according to the company’s creative director, Lindy McDonough. Buffing, stitching, and painting are all done under one roof, a studio with a soaring ceiling on Sims Street.

“This is a craft,” McDonough said. “It has to be passed on.”

So the young company can’t afford turnover in its workforce. McNulty-Brown said the full-time 32-hour work week not only attracts talent but bolsters employee retention.

“I don’t know of anybody who does exactly what we do,” McNulty-Brown said. “It still gives them enough hours to actually devote to getting their own businesses, their own enterprises, off the ground. At the same time, because of what they do in their own practices, we were getting people whose attention to detail is second to none.”

The “side” studio work varies, from print-making to illustration, painting, jewelry-making, and upholstery.

“Getting to do work that’s creative every day and also then getting to go pursue something else that’s your passion is a really big part of what makes the energy of the people who work here so great,” McDonough said.

Lotuff Leather products are sold in about 150 stores worldwide.

The company is hosting an open house Friday, June 23 from 6 to 9 p.m. at its studio at 1 Sims Avenue. For more information, email Lotuff Leather.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.