Breaking the Habit: A Four-day Workweek?

COVID-19 forced many of us to work remotely and as lockdown conditions continued, work-life balance eroded. My team and I at Friday Pulse have always passionate about improving the world of work and, today, we’re practising what we preach by focusing on our own wellbeing – and moving to a four-day workweek.

August 28, 2020 5 mins read

Friday Pulse has always been about improving the world of work and, today, we’re practising what we preach by focusing on our wellbeing. My team and I are moving to a four-day workweek. But that doesn’t mean we’re slacking off. On the contrary, we’re still providing the top-quality service that our clients have come to expect of us.

And, if there was ever a time to switch to a shorter workweek, it’s now.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Work-Life Balance

COVID-19 forced many of us to work remotely and as lockdown conditions continued, our work-life balance eroded. At Friday Pulse, specifically, work-life balance scores were averaging 88 prior to the outbreak. However, as the pandemic continued, we hit a low — 67. 

In the chart above, you can see that across all of our clients, the average work-life balance score was 74 before lockdown, which then dropped to 66. Even now, while happiness scores are improving, work-life balance scores haven’t.

It’s been a few months since those darkest times but the whole course of events started me thinking: what could we improve?

I’ve always liked the idea of a four-day workweek (I just had a hard time figuring out how to actually implement it). Yet, it wasn’t until I listened to a podcast featuring Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Shorter: How Working Less Will Revolutionise the Way Your Company Gets Things Done,that the pieces started to fall into place.  

I take employee wellbeing seriously, and I expect my people to take their wellbeing seriously too. So, after discussing it with my team, we’re now turning Friday Pulse into a four-day workweek company.

What a Four-day Workweek Can do For You

A four-day workweek is not a new thing. A growing number of firms in the UK, and internationally, are experimenting with the format. It’s not limited to spunky start-ups either. Companies like Microsoft in Japan switched to a four-day schedule and found a 40% increase in productivity and a 23% decrease in electricity use. Even countries like New Zealand and Finland have suggested employers switch to a four-day workweek, to address persistent work-life balance issues.

There are different ways of approaching a four-day week. While some firms opt for a compressed schedule that squeezes a 40-hour week into four days, we are adopting a ‘true’ four-day workweek means that employees’ clock in 32 hours each week. Yes, there is less time to work with, but the benefits are immediate.

More time for you

Time is one of our most valuable commodities. A shorter workweek means more time. All the salary in the world doesn’t compensate for lost time. In our busy world and schedules (especially with uncertainty around schooling for children), time means families can juggle childcare and work much better.

Shorter workdays also reduce the number of sick days taken and having a three-day weekend every week is essentially an additional 52 days of time off.

So, what kind of effect does all that time have on people? I took three Fridays off in June. During that time, I was able to think about other things that weren’t necessarily work-related — back burner thoughts and ideas that I didn’t previously have time to examine. I was also able to indulge in neglected hobbies and, overall, felt energized for the week ahead. I was amazed to have this time to myself and if I craved this time off as a CEO, then what about everyone else? Now, I’m looking forward to hearing how my people use their extra days.

More focus

With “less” time to get things done, employees are more focused and companies can reap a bump in productivity right away. Work becomes less of a ‘face time’ affair and is respectful of people’s time. Meetings are on point. With extra rest and leisure time, people aren’t limping to the finish line on a Friday afternoon.

Reducing the carbon footprint

While many companies are still working from home, a reduced workweek also reduces the costs of running the office and commuting – and let’s be honest, a lot of time is wasted in the office. Without this, overhead costs should go down together with reduced environmental impact. Just the sort of win-win situation that I covered in my TED talk 10 years ago. 

Are You Ready For a Four-day Workweek?

Not every company is ready for a transition into a four-day workweek. However, here are some of the considerations we went through in deciding if we were ready. We hope these policies help you think about the transition.

Keeping track of time

The question we had to answer was “how do we spend our workday?” Time is the most precious commodity in a four-day week. When we were trying to make this decision, we kept time diaries to track how we were spending our time. We looked at what was essential, what added the most value, and what kind of downtime we had.

Trim the fat

What could we cut? Concerned with efficiency and productivity, we looked at the length of meetings, how we could give people uninterrupted time to work, and the activities that added the most value.

As a result, we’ve reduced the number of meetings we’re having. We’re also capping the number of people in a meeting to make sure that it’s more focused and we’re getting the most interaction out of people.

Rotating schedule and communication

One thing we wanted to make sure we continued was our quality of service to customers, every day of the working week. It’s clear that not everyone can have a Friday off — some would have to have Mondays or other days off, instead.

To make things easier on ourselves, we settled on what channels we were going to use to communicate with each other and who would be “on-call” if anything was to arise. To ensure that people had time to focus on their work instead of fielding questions all day, we determined an ‘office hours’ set up for everyone that they were available and online to field questions and interruptions.

Join Us on this Adventure

Like many of you, we’re working on improving our happiness scores. Over the next few months, we’ll be paying careful attention to the impact of a four-day working week on our happiness and work-life scores on the Friday Pulse platform. We’ll be reporting back in the next few months to discuss the things we learned from this transition.

How Friday Pulse Can Help Your Organization

Our people platform asks employees how they feel at work. Throughout this ongoing pandemic period, that question has never been more vital. That’s why we are continuing to offer companies and teams (50 – 1,000 employees) free access to our people platform for 12 weeks. To find out more please contact our Head of Helping People, Clive Steer at [email protected].