7 lessons from companies that implemented a 4-day workweek

Sometimes less is more.

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It sounds like a dream: fitting your workweek into four days, and enjoying one more day of the weekend. But there has to be a catch to the four-day work week, right? Apparently not, according to companies that have tried it.

Microsoft’s Japan office implemented a four-day schedule last summer and reported a productivity boost of 40 percent and a 23 percent drop in electricity use. New Zealand estate planning firm Perpetual Guardian found productivity went up and employees reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance. Shake Shack expanded a four-day workweek experiment after it found success with its first trial.

To get a sense of the benefits and challenges of a four-day workweek, Inverse reached out to leaders of small companies who shortened their schedules by a day. Here’s what they had to say.

7. Work can fit into 4 days

“Working four times a week made me realize how possible it really is to squeeze in an entire week's load of tasks into a four-day routine, as long as workers are more focused on accomplishing every single task,” says Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery. “It also complements the need for a social life despite a tight and heavy workload. I highly suggest more businesses look into adjusting their workweek schedules permanently as it gives employees the chance to do something beyond and apart from work, making them more loyal to the company and more enthusiastic and passionate about their duties and responsibilities.”

6. Employees have more focus

“Instead of summer Fridays, we adapted a four-day workweek, since we noticed people were generally not productive on Fridays,” says Neal Taparia of Solitaired. “When we went to four-day workweeks, we continued to set the same aggressive benchmarks that we had during a five-day schedule. Our team would work up to 10 hours a day, and we found they focus more to make sure everything was done by Thursday. There was greater communication and collaboration, and we saw team members concentrating more. We learned that being goal-oriented under a tighter time frame forces your team to prioritize and focus.”

5. The team’s bond has tightened

“My biggest takeaway from implementing a four-day workweek is that the setup actually makes everyone feel happier, including myself, because there is at least one additional day given to pursue personal endeavors,” says Willie Greer, founder of The Product Analyst. “It gave us all some space to breathe and plan on how to mitigate the effects of the global situation we are in. In fact, the freedom this has afforded us has tightened the bond we have.”

4. The schedule isn't always constant

“Transitioning our staff to a four-day workweek required a lot of comfort with change on our end,” said Ben Aston, founder of The Ecomm Manager. “While we initially assumed that the four-day workweek meant taking every Friday off, we soon realized that it wasn't so simple. Some members of our team are able to take weekends off, while others enjoy a three-day break during the middle of the standard workweek. Staggering our crew like this allows us to still work eight-hour workdays, but drop an entire day off each week. We have the same coverage as before, with less time in office. The only sacrifice is that the occasional meeting comes up on someone's previously scheduled day off mid-week, so they need to adjust their schedule the week prior or following. That flexibility is part of what the four-day workweek requires.”

3. Procrastinating is not an option

“Since employee work hours were getting scattered all over the place, with some working remote and others part-time, a four-day workweek was a logical step forward,” says Dusan Goljic, co-founder of DealsOnHealth. “This way we were able to compress the work hours into four days, with Friday off. In efforts to keep employees connected, we encouraged online activities on Friday such as team-based role-playing games and casual hangouts. We are now working 30 hours per week flat, however, we had to shorten the lunch break to half an hour which we thought was a fair compromise. You don't actually need eight hours per day to get a full day of work done. When there are only six hours to work with, procrastinating is not an option and the work gets done more efficiently.”

2. Lots of time wasted in the office

“A four-day week has allowed for the team to have some extra time with family, and overall has been better for everyone's mental health,” says Andrew Roderick, CEO of Credit Repair Companies. “We have been working nine hours a day for the four days, and sure, those days are quite busy, but once they are done you can relax more with that extra bit of time off. One of the biggest things I have learned is how much time we spend wasting hours in the office. I think that people get burned out with the regular working week. Having an extra day allows them to recover better, and come back to work ready for more the next week. I would tell other business leaders that there is no harm in trying a four-day workweek for a month to see if it works. You may be surprised by the results.”

1. It allows for other types of success

“Working a four-day week has meant that employees could use that extra day to go for training, take a class, learn something new at the library or relax, but do something they’d not normally do,” says Daniel Foley, director of Assertive Media. “One employee took the time to build their own brand, a cookery blog, and now uses their day to make content and expand their audience. Productivity can come in many shapes and forms, it does not always have to mean sales or however your company rate success. If employees are bettering themselves, this is another type of success.”

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