My employer has got the better end of the deal by far - I'm as productive as I was working a 5-day week, but had to take a 20% pay cut. Still, it works for me, giving me extra time for family and side projects.
I think I'm more productive this way, because, after a 3-day weekend I generally have a fresh perspective and feel like I'm looking at the same tasks with new enthusiasm. When I worked 5 day weeks, even interesting tasks became drudgery and I'd stare at the clock continuously even when I wasn't working a strict 'clock-in' style job.
From my side, the biggest drawback was that it was a sort of golden handcuffs - I almost certainly stayed there longer than I otherwise would have because getting an equivalent setup elsewhere would have such a pain.
My impression was that the biggest drawback on my employer's side (after hashing out the initial bureaucracy/paperwork) was my more limited availability for meetings.
Would you consider freelancing? It usually affords more flexible working hours.
I spend more than 40 hours a week at work, but I actually work less than that whole time, because I have to wait for certain processes, or certain people, filling the gaps with activities like reading HN (as in right now).
I worked remotely for 3 years in a high-profile company. Being remote helps control your time better. Coordinating anything with other people takes more effort, though, because you can't just walk around, see if somebody is busy, or out for a coffee, etc.
This is definitely solvable with technology, and will increasingly be solved.
There's also economy in employees providing their own computers, internet connectivity, and (most importantly) office space.
The only time I really felt overworked was while working 4 ten-hour days every week. I had zero time and needed one day of relaxation to make up for it, so the day was wasted nonetheless. I'll aslo mention that slews of people aren't lucky enough to do anything but work-related things during work. This is especially true if doing a low-paying job, even if there is downtime. "If you have time to talk, you have time to clean". Looking busy enough to earn your keep is a major theme to many jobs.
The next best schedule was weirdly retail, though. Around 40 hours per week, but I usually only worked 2-3 days in a row before having a day off, plus I got every other weekend off. Downside was working holidays - it was a pharmacy, after all. It just wasn't as productive as having 30-hour workweeks.
Sounds like they are due a rise.
I'm sure there are plenty of people who were refused the chance (some companies can be atrociously dickensian even today...); but on average, flexible arrangements are less uncommon than you might think.
I just can't see it being so easy in most companies.
I've found one or two resources online  that discusses how to set up an arrangement like this, as it obviously requires some delicacy and evidence of competence, etc.
I am quite junior in the industry, but I am working in the direction of an official four-day work week.
I wonder if you might be able to share some resources that were useful to you, in working in this direction.
There are 3 factors I think made it so easy for me:
1. I'd been with the company a long time, had a senior architect role, and at the time there had been something of an employee exodus - I think they were a bit afraid of losing me at an important time in various customer projects, and wanted to keep me happy!
2. The company was Norwegian, and the Norwegians are famously liberal on employee welfare
3. In the UK, employers legally must seriously consider requests for part-time working
I'm in the US - there's a trend to over-work here, but I'm already comfortable pushing against that.
Now, I just have to get really really good at delivering value.
Then figure out some unique work arrangements!
Some places you can't negotiate down to 40 hours a week. Those places you quit.
Most jobs provide no real extra benefit. They have a bunch of fake gimmicks like "snack room" or "monthly social event" (read: mandatory team building event but free for the company).
Four-day week for five-day pay is a serious and tangible benefit that a smart company could provide and it would give them a strong hiring/culture advantage for a long time.
That's a 20% reduction in work hours. To me it seems very doable if you build a good high-productivity culture in the company. Meaning everyone kind of knows they have less time to screw around so you save all that for your 3 days off work, and 4 days it's high productivity work.
If this increases productivity by 10%, the cost to the company is the other 10%.
Also consider that 1.5 hours is 18% of the work day. Many companies easily and carelessly waste that much every day.
Large corporations have succeeded at crushing working-class unions and convinced most white collar workers that they're not in their interests, even as working conditions and compensation for white collar workers slide downward (either directly, through abuse of things like salaried status to get unpaid overtime, or as they're extracted by various forms of rent-seeking like healthcare or housing costs).
Since there's essentially no check on their power and the American economy is tilting more and more towards favoring corrupt monopolies, why offer anything more than what they absolutely have to?
Changing from that fluid "as long as shit gets done" schedule to a specific "you now work for days" gets really weird to me. Do I have to work at least 4 days now? What happens with crunch time? What happens if there's an emergency and I end up working on the 5th day, do I get overtime?
Then what happens during perf review? there's already a 500% difference in output between 2 random engineers, and it's already hard to figure out if they're just better, working longer, or what. Comparing the output of a 4 day/week vs a 5 day/week one to make sure the former doesn't get penalized gets tricky.
I mean, if it works at the likes of Google, so I assume people have the answers to these questions. I'm genuinely curious.
Managers actually plan, and stop relying on it. Crunch time is not something that should exist, as it's just punishing employees for the inability of management to make a sane schedule.
At most companies "crunch time" is just a label stuck on "squeezing salaried employees for every last drop of juice".
When there's no penalty on the company for needing crunch time, suddenly they find themselves needing a lot of it.
You can easily see how nonsensical all of this corporate garbage is by hypothetically flipping it around to the benefit of employees and think about how they would react instead.
Hey boss it's "quiet time" can I go home an hour early for 2 weeks? No ... DING DING!
So don't expect it to be ok to ask me to stay an hour late because it's "crunch time".
Same thing applies to "as long as shit gets done". They always adjust that so that somehow the amount of shit that is expected to get done is more than you can manage in a day. Never the other way around.
No company says "hey enough shit got done for today and it's 3PM so go home and see you tomorrow". No in that case you keep working and get more shit done.
Let's not dress it up, it's all corporate psychological warfare.
My current employer though? If we had crunch time and then told my boss I was gonna go home an hour early and do 4 days a week for the next 2 weeks to make up for it? No brainer, they'll say yes. It's also not that uncommon for managers to send people home if they shipped a lot of stuff that day.
I'm a manager myself, and I frequently had to have the talk with my reports to tone it down. The last thing I want is burnt out employees. I've actively told some to calm down and work less.
Which for an individual totally works and solves the problem. Just trust. Unfortunately people also like fairness in pay and compensation...and that start making things tricky.
Plus you can rent out the office on Fridays as shared office space. WIN.
* I usually have one or two major goals for the week, and four days to get there. I find it easier to reason about what I'm going to get done and how when there are fewer, longer days to work with, and I feel less interest in wasting time.
* I'm more comfortable focusing on days when I'm at work, and I'm more comfortable working a bit longer to get my stuff done, because I don't have to try to do my laundry and sweep the floors and get the groceries when I get home. (Although I realize it helps not having kids to look after, yet, so ymmv).
* I can do my dentist appointments and haircuts on my weekday off, so I rarely have to mess with my schedule or take off early.
* My weekends feel long enough. I always get back to work with a clear head. Mondays feel nice.
* I have not once told someone at work "nope, I can't do that, I don't have enough time." Will update if that changes :)
* I get to spend Friday hacking on personal projects when I feel like it. I haven't been able to do this in years, and sometimes it even benefits my employer. Free training!
I once worked at a place where everyone did a four day work week, and it was awesome. The big meetings were always on Tuesday, and we worked lengthy days (8:30-ish am to 5:30 pm), but that meant there was always room to do stuff right, without rushing. That includes taking time for tea.
They've apparently reported no drop in overall productivity, i.e. Four days' work is equal to the old five days work, an increase in productivity per day.
Plus on friday, people tend to be a lot less productive.
I agree with you, a lot of people in Silicon Valley are taking it easy one or two days at week while working from home, or leaving early while still pretending they are working 15 hours a day.
We should have a healthy debate about that
There's this strong concept of self-sacrifice as a way of ensuring company success. Sacrifice your life, sacrifice your friends and family for the sake of the company mission. It's only when people start demanding better hours and less abuse will a debate start to arise. And it likely won't be one with a respectful tone.
There is that whole narrative that was created that working in a startup/big tech company for long hour is really cool.
People are lying to themselves and to each other to fit into that narrative (Some are really working like crazy, but not the majority of the ones saying so).
I don't think it is going to change anytime soon.
It's an especially odd thing to say when you're all working on the same team, doing similar work: it kind of translates as "I'm so inefficient it takes me twice as many hours to do the same work as the rest of you! Go me!"
Also work is the only activity portrayed as useful and therefore meaningful, while spare time is expected to be filled with mindless entertainment.
I posit that it is, much like the trend toward open office plans (which have seen plenty of discussion, if not healthy debate).
It's an excellent way to protect yourself from actually having to work too much : always act and pretends like you're super busy. People will bother you less. My productivity increased a lot since I started acting busy to deflect non sensical requests and questions
Probably busy browsing social media and updating their pinterest. It's a lot more exhausting than people give it credit for.
It seems to me that the only way they could work a day less and not affect the companies productivity is if those employees did nothing during that day anyway. Say that in a work week an employee produced 100 units of work (feel free to substitute this with your favorite productivity microbenchmark). Thus, with the 5 day work-week each day the employee must produce around 20 units of work. Say you reduce that to 4 days, so now each day the worker must produce 25 units of work to be as productive. It follows that in order to work one less day per week the worker must work 25% more per day or overall productivity will suffer.
Imagine that your company implements something like this, suddenly per-day expectations go way up. Can you complete that meeting at 125% speed? Will your builds finish 25% faster? Can you increase your typing speed by 25%? Can you dig that ditch in 3 hours instead of 4? Can you clear tables 25% faster? I don't think anyone wants the consequences of this.
The only way I can remotely see this working out is for the employers of salaried info-workers in high profit-margin industries. For someone employed in a manual or skilled labor position it may be impossible or outright dangerous to attempt to complete tasks at 125% speed. I could however see this being a neat benefit that employers like the Silicon Valley types offer to outbid the competition, but I don't think this is practical for the economy in general.
An alternative would be that the 4-day schedule boosted employee efficiency by enough to make up for missing day 5.
Stress often degrades performance, particularly when it's chronic. I don't find it incredible that giving employees an extra day for their non-work duties/joys might increase their efficiency 20%.
Note that the employees must improve their efficiency by more than 25% for this to benefit the employer, and that they must do this every single day.
I can easily imagine that Monday mornings would be much more pleasant with a 4-day work week, but beyond that first morning I think it would increase stress. If every day I came to work knowing that my employer expected 125% out of me that day I think I would burnout much faster.
I think everyone who ever has had a tech job knows that yes, you can. Parkinson's law is a thing.
Another way to look at things is to use the 4-day week as the baseline. Add another day of work and people can only consistently perform at 80% without burning out.
Now, I'm not saying that I believe this is the case--that most companies can cut down to a 4-day week without hurting productivity long-term. Just that your argument isn't intuitive or obvious on its face, and I could see the data going both ways, or simply being a mixed bag.
This ignores the fact that employers don't pay you for how fast you run, but actually by how far you run in a day. Only the employee cares about how fast they can run.
Work is not divided into even units completed at a constant linear rate over the course of the day. It's a wide variety of different actions, and the time taken to complete each will vary wildly depending on tiredness, stress and morale.
Some tasks may take the same amount of time regardless, but some can drastically reduce. A well rested developer may realise the solution to a bug in a few minutes that would take them hours to solve on less sleep. Or indeed, avoid causing the bug in the first place.
You are correct, work is not distributed evenly throughout the day. But this doesn't matter to the employer. Your employer could care less how fast you complete a "days worth of work", all that matters is that each day you complete a "days worth of work". For employers of mostly hourly workers, this will change to an "hours worth of work", but the concept remains the same: the rate at which work gets done is unimportant next to the amount of work that gets done.
The criteria you give as affecting the productivity of workers is tiredness, stress, and morale, all of which I would assert decrease throughout the day. Wouldn't it then be more productive then for the employer to simply send the employee home earlier once they have lost their productivity? I think so, but employers would start to wonder why they ever paid for those non-productive hours in the first place, and that might have more sinister consequences for the worker.
It's not obvious to me that taking a day out of the work week is the best way to approach this. I think just talking with your employees to see how they're doing then adjusting their hours accordingly would be vastly more effective.
This sounds true to me, so let's assume that it is. If the average employee was unproductive for most of their day it stands to reason that employers would have a great incentive to only employ workers during their productive hours. Assuming the average employee is only productive for three hours a day, the employer is overpaying their employees by about 60%.
The problem seems to be how to eliminate the unproductive hours in a way that also benefits the worker. The way I see things working out is employers asking more of their employees for a smaller amount of compensation. Great for the employer, but I really don't think this is the kind of worker empowerment people are hoping for.
OR, if work-disrupting absences (appointments, etc) were all scheduled for the weekday off, rather than being distributed through the week and interfering with meetings, collaboration, etc.
"Staff stress levels decreased by 7% across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by 5%."
"Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non-work-related internet usage,"
tl;dr: (Sometimes, maybe, for some time) decrease of work time is compensated by increase in productivity,
How you derived that tl;dr is beyond me, you can't just draw your own conclusions and call it a summary.
All the quantitative measurements given in the article are about the employees' happiness. Of course they felt they had a better work/life balance! Of course they felt less stressed! Of course they said they had more time to spend with their family!
They'd probably feel even better getting paid for five days and working three - and why stop there? Why not two, or one, or zero?
I don't doubt that most people in white collar jobs can be just as productive in four days, with the right incentives, as they currently are in five. But it would be nice, if only to justify the headline, to see metrics from the company's side rather than the parenthetical mention of "employees performing better in their jobs". Did they set up more trusts? Did they draft more legally rigorous wills? Did their customers report higher satisfaction and bring more repeat or referral business? If the "studies" aren't complete nonsense, the numbers were measured for these things. But then why aren't they reported with the same breathlessness as "overall life satisfaction increased by 5%"?
As someone who went from working a 5-day week to a 4-day week, I feel like a 4-day week is a 'sweet spot' - I'm just as productive as I was working a 5-day week, but when I work any less than 30 hours a week (e.g. when I take a day off), my productivity always goes down.
Working four day weeks, every week I'd think "damn, is it the Thursday already?" and on Sunday I'd be looking forward to going to work on Monday
Perhaps - but I suspect it depends on the person and the details of both job and workplace.
I spent about 6 years working a 3-day, and it went really well. However, it was more vulnerable to constant-cost outside factors like "unneeded meetings".
Let me support with an anecdote!
It seems much more likely to me that the act of changing it has a positive affect on productivity - but this is obviously a more short term gain.
Based on the reported outcomes it seems like it may have tapped into some discretionary effort, but doing that over a short period isn't especially remarkable, and I'd say there are easier and more sustainable ways to achieve that.
As I was writing this comment I opened . Fascinating read.
"The front runners for lowest average weekly work hours are the Netherlands with 27 hours,..."
"The New Economics Foundation has recommended moving to a 21-hour standard work week to address problems with unemployment, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, overworking, family care, and the general lack of free time."
Let's get away from the notion that 40 hours is the norm.
On average, each year I use some of my PTO to be able to take some 3 day weekends which I really enjoy for going outdoor.
This means that I have had some ground to compare 4 day weeks and 5 day weeks.
Based on my observation, my output is almost exactly the same. I feel like in a 5 day week, there is at least one day where I feel unproductive, or just wait to coordinate with other people. Since I'm officially paid on that day, it feels like an unproductive day at work.
In a 4 day week, I usually feel like each day has been productive. I sometimes agree to connect on the 5th day, for very specific events, but with no guarantees or expectations on my side. As such, the 5th day feels like I'm 100% off.
I'm a contractor. I have to pick up the phone any time of day or night or I lose a client. Most of my friends and family work at varying levels of healthcare provision. They can't just send everybody home on Friday. They can't even do that at the weekend. And retail faces similar issues. Plus they're still fighting online sales.
Estate planners are basically the slowest possible service. They could probably work a two day week and let the answerphone and inboxes pick up the grunt work. It's neat that this works for them, but —and this isn't just jealousy— I don't expect this to become widespread any time soon.
The NHS in the UK —where the employees would most benefit from something like this— is right at the other end of the spectrum in terms of capacity. They are s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d. Long rotas. Unsociable hours. Poor cover. Almost no redundancy.
Throwing more people at the problem would certainly help and there are other issues to do with training and retention, but even if you fix that, it'll eventually come down to money.
With a 40% reduction in working hours, UK productivity dropped just 4%. (Government's own figures)
I'm not in the least surprised this experiment is a success. I am surprised such things haven't become more common.
Similar trails were conducted in the eldercare in Sweden or Finland, I have forgot exactly where. The conclusion was that a shorter work week meant that less work got done, resulting in worse service for the citizens. Which seems intuitive. This exercise can't be replicated in other sectors, like construction, teaching, social work or garbage collection, without resulting in worse service or product.
However I do believe that there vast amount of worthless work being done. If you ever worked at a large cooperation you properly shuck your head on multiple occasions when reports, evaluations, surveys and such were being carried out involving multiple departments and requiring multiple approvals only to end unused in the trashcan. I have heard a number as high as 40% of work being done is essentially worthless, it serves no meaningful purpose and the people who made it could as well go home. Perhaps the example in the article is exactly this, the company were simply doing too much worthless work and the real success is realising this, stopping the madness and branding it as a success.
I would be much happier if I could do 4x8h and have a 3-day weekend, but 4x10h works for now as well.
And yeah, the 10 hour days really give you a chance to spend longer periods of time being productive. You can get your meetings done and have bigger blocks of productive time during the day.
Obviously not an issue for everyone, but makes things complicated for a large part of the population with child caring obligations.
In some countries that rule is 35 hours/week. So there is a difference between 4x8=32 or 4x10=40.
Or, if the government in charge is hostile to immigration, it might not.
E.g. in 3 last companies I worked for they have an unlimited vacation policy. It is not required by any legislation, but it's somehow in vogue now, I heard about many companies doing the same.
However, I don't think it was for altruistic reasons. In New Zealand, if you don't take your leave it accumulates. You could take no leave for 3 years, and you'd have 12 weeks of annual leave accumulated.
They said that taking 2 weeks as a single slab is OK at any time, taking more than that requires a bit of coordination and paperwork. Taking smaller pieces along the year is trivial; I did it many times on a reasonably short notice.
That is, sometimes it's not a scam.
Your vacation time is whatever the company is required by law to pay out upon your separation from the org. Anything above that is “graciously” provided to you, at their discretion.
You're trying to remind me that the company is not my friend, it's a machine. I fully agree. But certain things, like not making me leave the company just to have a 3 months of vacation, are just profitable for the company. The same way paying me my salary is profitable for the company, and they won't cut it unless things would go really bad for the company.
I worked at a company with a not-unlimited vacation policy and this is roughly how shutdown periods worked anyways. You were forced to spend vacation or take the period unpaid. Unfortunately they rarely seemed to be communicated more than a couple of months in advance..
I wonder why do they pay me so much for my presence then.
Make no mistake, you’re out the door the moment you’re considered to no longer provide value.
> you’re out the door the moment you’re considered to no longer provide value.
I'm totally fine with that. My job is not my family. I'm not my job. I always keep a healthy distance.
We live in a world where companies go to extreme lengths to screw their employees over - everything from paying for overtime to healthcare. It might not be easy to change their mindset.
But I do agree it would be nice if good changes like this are achieved voluntarily, and not through legislation
Indeed, where workforce is hard to acquire, companies' best interest is to make it comfortable for that workforce to work. Where the workforce is abundant, there's no such incentive. This can be inside the same company, e.g. I bet Amazon has different conditions for its senior-position software developers and junior-position warehouse workers.
It does sound like your company is trying to do well by it's workers, so hopefully they'll not be giving into that bias.
The article does not seem to mention the resulting performance of the company as a whole. I think that should be as front and center as the work-life balance satisfaction figure.
> Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non-work-related internet usage,” said Delaney.
Employees eliminating non-work Internet usage on their own accord sound a bit implausible, adding to the general feeling of not listing all the salient points that the article invokes in me.
I mean, I can see how it could be an employer's initiative. If it's the employees' initiative, I think the situation might be a bit complicated inside. The complications could be an important part of how the experiment went on.
Source: salaried American software engineer.
Given a sub-40 hour week, and my own penchant to follow the path of least resistance, I think a happy medium between employer/employee would be making sure the employees are using the time help them help themselves. E.g., use the extra time for a massage, yoga, hiking, cooking class, or whatever usually gets ignored because of work/life interference.
All of Dilbert is a testament to companies not being effective at maximizing productivity.
It's a big change. Big changes scare people, and people would rather assume the simple view that if four days is good, five must be better. Another mythical man-month.
In fact, if five is so clearly better than four, why not six? The first company to do it would have an advantage while the rest caught up!
If you are already with a strong employer (e.g. banks, google, utilities, monopolies, university) then yay for u.
But if u r in a 2nd tier employer - then u lose the opportunity to out-compete them and advance ?
The top employers, are usually quasi-monopoly or rent-seeking. So these employees can in fact be a bit less productive, and can enjoy the 4 day week, and the employer can remain highly profitable.
The rest of the economy is a lot more competitive. These employers already offer lower wages. With 4 -day weeks, these employers will basically get 20% less revenue per employee, and have to cut back even further.
So now, the inequality between these 2 sectors will simply become even larger.
This is obviously a very gross generalization.
EDIT: the counter argument is that in an advanced economy, many many more employers are service-oriented and in the 1st group.
This is how we do it and it’s great. Honestly I don’t think employees even realize this is our reasoning.
You can visit job sites through your mobile phone whilst your having coffee or lunch and attend interviews when you're claiming to be sick or have some family commitments.
If I am looking for another job I can assure you I am doing it 7 days a week and having an extra day off isn't going to change that.