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What I Learned from Working 32 Hours a Week (atomicobject.com)
151 points by ingve 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments

I've often felt that a 5 day work week is about availability, not raw productivity. I could easily compress all of my weeks work into 30 hours or less, but that's not what my managers and clients value. What they value is the fact that I'm making progress on my tasks, and that my reachability is not preventing anyone else (people above me or below me) from making progress on their tasks

That's what i notced with my friend in the managerial position. He can spend most of the time in Work From Home mode, has really good pay grade, and can't rest. He's looks like he's on a wrist band leash getting mails every 2-3 minutes and needs to somehow react on 10%.

He doesnt do much other than be available 12-16h 6-7days a week. It's taking more toll than one would expect.

I could never understand why would someone accept these jobs. What's so great about becoming a manager and work 60h/week? How's that better than 40 a week as a subordinate and letting someone else worry about all the office drama?

It's just a different set of skills and you create value/feel rewarded in a different manner. It's not better or worse, it's just different and appeals to different kind of people. Take some other example from video games:

- Why would anyone pick a healer in an MMO group ? What's so great about becoming a healer ? How's that better than playing a DPS, actually contributing to killing the boss and letting someone else worry about your health bar ?

- What is fun about plying support in DOTA ? I mean the fun is being the carry and killing everyone on the other team to win games ? How can anyone willingly waste his gold to buy visibility wards, that is really not fun at all.

The healer/support/manager (="helper") position appeals to people who like to focus less on the pure "productive" task at hand. They like to focus on getting a full picture of everything that is happening, anticipating potential issues, fixing them, and allowing the DPS/carry/engineer (="producers") to be in the best possible position so they can perform their job. This can be fun for some people even if you don't see it that way. This often is really not an easy task. This often is critical for the success of the team.

And just like there are good and bad "producers" there are good and bad "helpers". The skillset is different, the measure of value creation is different, and the fun is different.

What a fantastic analogy, and aligns almost 100% with why I like management and leadership.

I've often struggled to articulate the reasons I enjoy these positions over a "producers" role. This will help - thank you.

Great analogy. I'm going to use that. I'm currently the "healer" in my "party"

Also healers get placed in the dungeon ASAP - high priority because there are so few. I play a tank, and feel similar status effects.

I want to know the analogy of healers that rage quit (they do so more than DPSs or Tanks) with the entire manager/subordinate thing ;)

Easy. 50% of devs promoted to management go back to dev within 12 months (or so I keep hearing).

Thank you, that helps me understand.

That's a fantastic analogy!

Let's say things are humming along swimmingly in your career. You find yourself in a very decent position in a company that has a nice IC ladder.

A decade later, you are an expert in the technologies that company uses, are paid well, and have good working conditions. But a recession comes, the company has a couple of bad years, and is taken over by a private equity firm. They decide you are too expensive and you're laid off.

You have 15 years experience as an IC, are a master of your craft, and no one wants to hire you. Principal engineers are promoted from within rather than hire from without. You are willing to start lower down the totem poll at a new place, but hiring managers believe that you'll leave at the first chance, or be disgruntled at the pay/seniority cut, or are just plain intimated by you. Realistically you are looking at a couple of decades of contracting. That's not the worst thing in the world, there are some upsides, but it's not the pure IC work you had been hoping for--it means decades of hustling.

Now look at the other career path. 6-7 years as an IC, 2-3 years as a engineering lead, 4-5 years as a engineering manager. If you get laid off at that point, besides all the engineering manager positions you can go for, you can also position yourself as a engineering VP / CTO of a smaller company. No one is overqualified for that, and the CEO that does the hiring isn't going to be intimated.

I'm not saying that you need to decide that reduced career risk (and probably extra money) are worth moving to the leadership track from the less stressful IC track, but isn't some incomprehensible choice.

> You have 15 years experience as an IC

I really hope that by the time I get there and get laid off in a recession or restructuring, I'll be retiring. I love software, but not enough to do it for longer than I have to and for someone else.

If extreme early retirement appeals to you, that's great. But given that this discussion started with "I could never understand ..." you can see that EER isn't for everyone, right?

Cannot speak for all but usually its money. Many companies cap technical tracks pretty fast while management is uncapped. Next as as you go further in your career then management as a nearly universally considered a valid next step. For me, my manager was fired and rather than having to deal with hiring my boss (for second time), I took the role even though I knew I would dislike the politics/drama.

I used to never want to be a manager. Now I'd rather be a manager than have someone incompetent and new tell me what to do. I think this is a common trope.

For me it was protecting my people from bullshit drama. Making it so everyone could be effective and fulfilled in their job is a real thing. Most mid and junior level employees think it's bullshit, I did when I was young, but so much happens because people don't know what they want or someone doesn't have budget that is solved by asking people to work late, be on call, or work on weekends because no one said no.

I'm guessing it is something to do with money in most cases.

1.5x the pay for double the hours isn't a trade-up though.

If you're paid 100 units [after-tax] and your expenses are 80 units, you're left with a (higher than average) savings rate of 20% or 20 units of currency.

If you double your hours, raise your pay to 150 units and inflate your lifestyle by 25% (from 80 units to 100 units), you are now making 150, spending 100 (with more luxury), and saving 50 units (250% of what you were saving before).

That might be considered a trade-up (and is more or less the path I chose).

and probably a portion of that luxury is stuff like cleaners and other labor saving services which means that a lot of time that was spent on non remunerative work is now spent on the work.

Tell him that there is no need to reply outside of the 9-5 schedule

This is a valid point, managers and clients value availability and that's mainly the reason why they want you full time.

In fact IMHO many prefer availability to productivity. Being available 40-50h a week is rather tiring though and it can affect productivity.

For example I found that I perform better on a 32h/week. The availability problem can be solved by having the team cover the full week (different shifts with overlapping days).

I think "the reason why they want you full time" is usually because they can (very few people push back) and/or they are in roles where more time put in equals more work done. For example, as a manager doing 1:1 is still tiring, but if you aren't paying 100% attention, that doesn't cost money unlike bugs in code.

Almost nobody can do more than 3 hours of heavy concentration/flow work regularly. Add another two or three hours for meetings, answering emails, triaging bugs, etc. and you get ~30h per week. When I'm in a position to do so, I tell my team that I'd rather have 3 hours of great work than 6 or 8 hours of mediocre work full of mistakes.

Still, it's an uphill battle culturally. And sometimes even developers don't like it, since they can't hide a lack of output behind hours in the office. I think this is a positive, because as a team lead you notice issues quicker, e.g. if someone is having a rough week. But it's also a good way to "unmask" people who e.g. embellished their skill level during the hiring process and maybe aren't a great fit for the role. That way, you can get them the training they need, or find them a different role.

> they are in roles where more time put in equals more work done

This is partially true if:

1) you only hire young folks 2) you don't care about long term health of your team

Based on this philosophy I could work 90h/week and get even more done i.e. there is always work to be done but IMHO this way of working is unhealthy and not sustainable.

Personally for me it takes more time than the average to recharge so having a shorter working week helps with recharging and do well next week and be productive. And by that I mean being equally productive to a "full time".

> if you aren't paying 100% attention, that doesn't cost money

I'd argue it can cost you money, in different ways.

I'm saying managers or clients aren't always technical, and for some of these non-technical roles, time is correlated to amount of work done, so they assume technical work is also like that.

that's an interesting twist of thing. What about making it explicit, like: "I can answer the company chat quickly, but I'm painting a mountain with my friend Bob right now".

I guess it can only go so far because some social time with family and friends have to be focused.

This is why working remotely is fantastic for work life balance. I can do my personal tasks, travel, visit my family, etc. and still be available.

How are you available when you are traveling and visiting your family?

Take the computer with you. Once in a while you have to pop it out. Rarely.

> Once in a while you have to pop it out. Rarely.

I think "working from home" means something different to different people...

Yeah, it can go either way. I tend to spend more time "working" than I would in the office because I get more invested in things or am just more comfortable. If I went into the office ever I would 100% just shut off at 5, and if I was asked for significantly more I would tell them to shove it.

Some of my coworkers view it differently though and it becomes difficult to collaborate because they are running around doing other things during core hours. It is kind of an internal battle because I don't want the privilege taken from me.

Family: Laptop, internet at family member's home, work in the day.

"Vacation" travel: Haven't done this myself (outside visiting family) but have had colleagues who did it without issue. Available and worked in the day, did vacation things in the evening presumably.

I've done vacation travel before. Worked out well as we were able to take a longer trip and relax a bit more (traveling with two kids under 2 can be stressful). I only ended up taking 3 days vacation on a two week trip.

Sounds like a sensible course of action. Hopefully we see remote work become more of a standard than an exception.

Doesn't that problem disappear if everybody switches to the same shortened schedule?

I've held a number of "exempt" positions (salary, no overtime pay) where the workload is typically high but there are the occasional slow periods or an abnormal personal schedule demand.

When they want you to work extra hours, there's no argument. There's the project and the deadline.

Come a slow day or two, though, or the need to take an hour or three for a personal task (see the doctor, for example), and there's no automatic, corresponding flexibility from them.

Oh, your manager may grant you the time, but it's always at their discretion and a "favor" in return for your "good behavior."

Gee, thanks. :-/

By the way, the positions are "exempt", but there's no hour-by-hour management of associates that requires constant attention. The whole definition of "exempt" is skewed to fix labor costs rather than provide (and pay, at a higher fixed level) for real "management of employees". Hell, often I'm not even directly interfacing with anyone who is non-exempt.

Butts in seats. In my mind, it goes along with the "open space" paradigm. It's not actually about being "efficient"; it's about appearances, and control.

Like the one petty tyrant manager who wouldn't let us upgrade woefully outdated and overly expensive process, because he might lose some headcount. His status and "security" were, in his mind -- and perhaps even correctly -- tied to that headcount.

And... I suppose low cube walls helped to "show it off."

P.S. I actually got along pretty well, including with my management. Perhaps too easy-going.

As I've had time to reflect back upon all this, my resentment has grown and hardened. A LOT of wasted time and energy.

If/when you start feeling this way, look around not just at the ostensible work you have to complete, but at the system and environment in which you are expected to complete it.

Which are the real problems?

you might want to give the developer hegemony[1] a read - the author mentions this specifically: the output of a developer is hard to quantify, so now instead of being paid to build things (as might a traditional labourer), you're instead paid for your time, during which the company can assign you any work.


> is about availability

That's what I've found especially with my current job.

I can sit for a whole long time doing Nothing. I mean literally Nothing. I could tap out to see a 2.5h movie, come back, and nobody would have noticed.

But "I'm available". Oh but of course, I'll press this button for you. Let me refer you to the "subject matter expert". And no, there's nothing explicitly for me to actually do.

I can't wait for this contract to be over.

Never thought about that, but availability is probably closer to what employers are looking for.

One thing my colleagues always value that I’m willing to respond at any time. It means most people come to me with their problems and my value to the business has increased (removing blockers from others).

Wow, you really put in words what I have unconsciously felt for a long time. This is very true in my job as well. Btw, 32 hours is almost the norm in my country but you have the same issues ;)

The problem is that the actual limited resource for workers is not time or effort, but attention. If you're available at work, you're spending that resource.

This is a good point. If you're a go-to expert in some category at your workplace, your availability and responsiveness might be too valuable to give up.

you might want to avoid having "go-to" experts at work because when they leave you might be screwed

Yep, definitely agree. Increasing the bus factor is always a good idea.

We've been doing 4-day/32-hour weeks at Wildbit for over a year now, and it's been great. We're a remote-first team of just under 30 people spread across quite a few time zones. It's a mental hurdle at first, but the company has continued to grow and be as productive as we were before.

We're all just much more mindful of how we each spend our time these days. We also strive to reduce meetings and lean more on asynchronous communication in order to reduce interrupting each other. That lets everybody focus more and get more high-quality work done in fewer hours.

Our initial write up: https://wildbit.com/blog/2017/05/31/experimenting-with-a-4-d...

The follow up with what we learned and what we adjusted: https://wildbit.com/blog/2017/10/19/4-day-work-week-update

Programmer here. I worked on a 4-day week for about a year between 2017 and 2018 for a small consultancy company.

The company needed the help of a senior developer but could not afford a competitive salary, so I offered to take a pay cut along with an extra day off each week. Of course, I was flexible in case my day off needed to be moved around for something important, but that almost never happened.

Thursdays were my off days, and I think this actually boosted my productivity. Aside from what other comments already mentioned about making better use of your time, this setup allowed me to return every Friday recharged and with some fresh perspective and ideas about my current tasks.

The quality of life improvement was great, and my work did not suffer at all. This makes me wonder: if working 32 hours/week can make you more productive than working 40, why the hell do people often put in way more than that?

Sounds like working 80 hours/week would create almost as many problems as it would solve, leaving you with some very questionable "progress". The only way I can imagine doing this is if you do two or three separate jobs, e.g. coding, design and marketing, so you don't get tunnel vision.

> This makes me wonder: if working 32 hours/week can make you more productive than working 40, why the hell do people often put in way more than that?

I work in a very competitive field, and there are times where I must put in 12- to 16-hour days to ship a project out on time. We get compensation days in lieu of ovetime pay, which has its pros and cons.

I've been in a similar situation in another company, where the whole team was working 12 hour days for a week or two to meet a deadline, but those didn't really feel productive... and the project ultimately failed. I believe it was mismanaged, which caused the overtime in the first place and made all those extra hours not worth it.

On the other hand, I've heard lots of stories like yours, where the project was only possible due to the pure grit of everyone working on it. Most of those stories were in game development, which seems at least twice as chaotic as regular software development.

I've recently started taking vacation in half-days. I have some flexibility to work remotely, and I've taken a couple of weeks away -- staying in an airbnb with friends, we work short days and go hiking or whatever in the afternoons. It's marvelous, and beneficial to my mental health.

This winter, I had an excess of vacation, so I took 3 weeks half-off. With only 4 hours, I find myself very focused -- I'll set a reasonable goal, and stay on track for the full time. At the end of my work day, I've accomplished one or two tasks; I feel good about what I've done and still have energy and time to take care of personal business. At the end of a half-time period, I don't feel behind the ball like I do coming back from a full vacation -- I have time to put out fires, respond to requests, etc.

I'd estimate that I get as much done in a 4-hour day as I would in 6 hours of a normal 8-hour day. Honestly, I'd be happy to work half as many hours and take a 25% paycut... if only my employer agreed

Related: "How to become a part-time programmer" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17131691

I would love to be in a position where 20% off my salary is not something to worry

How much would you love it? I of course don't know your situation but I suspect that many here in have salaries that are a lot higher than many others but have adjusted their lifestyle to their salary (which is pretty common).

It is all about what you value most in life and what sacrifices you want to do to reach there.

If you can't cut your expenses, getting better at negotiation will help you with both parts. Given how much Google and the like pay at the top tier, and the availability of remote work across geographic zones, it's highly unlikely you're at peak pay for your experience level.

So you can:

1. First, get a higher salary. 2. Then, go down to 4 days and take the 20% cut.

Example: when you get a job offer, merely by saying "can you do better?" you can quite often get a 10% higher offer, because usually initial offer is at the bottom of the pay range.

The main problem here is that I went for hardware engineering, which almost no one is willing to hire as remote work.

I also happen to live in spain, comparing with other friends working in the same sector, I’m likely above top 10% in salary/age ratio.

Sadly in this country, at age 30 this is 40k€/y that after taxes becomes 29,700€.

Rent alone takes more than a third of that, I take ~3500€ directly for savings, and I need to stretch the rest to cover the rest of my costs, including stuff like medical insurance, gas, etc...

I know this is partly my chosing and the first comment that will come to a lot of people is “move”, but I can’t do it without heavily disrupting my girlfriend’s career (she’s still finishing her studies and working part time). Our hope right now is that her current job might give her the option to (legally) move to the US.

It's definitely harder in some fields, yes—mostly I'm talking about programmers, who have an easier time.

That being said, I'm told negotiation can still help even for hardware people (but I don't have personal experience with how that works).

That page was worth a visit just for the Rosario font.

Something about it feels satisfying.

I think it ticks several boxes at once:

- It's a sans-serif with contrast, which is a rarity per se, doubly so with stroke widths that don't look weird (considering that the brain is unused to sans-serifs with contrast and usually begins mildly panicking at seeing them in body text). Triply a rarity with interesting letter shapes. Rosario has the perfect contrast: just enough for it to be noticed, but not so much as to look unnatural.

- It has humanistic features, but with sliiight hints at serifs. The glyphs are playful as heck if you look closely, but again just enough to not overstep the boundary of taste.

- Stroke widths, the blackness, is perfect for reading the body text, at least on the screen. It's not one of those twiggy and feeble grotesks. At the same time, its (semi)bold doesn't look like a forest of black concrete slabs: it again has just enough weight to stay out, but not more.

It would be a perfect font for me! If not for one ailment: it only has variations on Latin scripts, and no Cyrillic. Sigh...

Correction: a sans-serif with stroke width contrast, i.e. varying stroke width―as exemplified by Optima and other 'antiquas without serifs,' and occurring pretty regularly in decorative titling on posters but not in body text.

I'm very grateful that I came across this article.

For a long time now I've been struggling with balancing work and life. I've recently started playing with the idea of exchanging a pay cut for a 4-day work week (I haven't brought it up to my employer yet though). It seems obvious now, but I haven't previously considered using my vacation days to do a test run.

Most of the points in the article are solid, but the one about improved focus struck me as odd. It seems that the author is conflating the change in work hours with a change in his process. Even without any schedule changes, you'd still benefit from thoughtfully planning your day out. Then again, maybe less time forces you to be more proactive.

From personal experience working 4 days a week, and talking to others who have done so, the change to shorter hours is definitely a forcing function: you end up prioritizing better and planning better because you have to.

I talk about the contrast between the "work longer!" attitude and the "work less hours but still produce the same" here https://codewithoutrules.com/2018/02/11/working-long-hours/ and here https://codewithoutrules.com/2016/08/25/the-01x-programmer/

My $0.02.

I've been working a 4 day/week schedule for 1.5 years now. Initially, I took the time off to lead a nonprofit volunteering project but quickly got burned out (4 days work, 1.5~2 days nonprofit work = 5.5~6 days/week). I've since reallocated the extra day to hobbies and am quite happy with the setup. As I've explicitly taken an independent contributor role at work, I feel no need to be 100% available, and my colleagues respect that.

Overall, I'm very happy with my current schedule and will fight tooth and nail to keep it. If you can afford it and have the drive to do something with your extra free time, I highly recommend it.

How did that conversation go with your manager when you first wanted to reduce your hours?

I had a similar conversation about 8 years ago, moving from 5 days to 4 days.

My boss at the time wasn't too happy with the proposal, and suggested it might just be easier for them to replace me with someone who wanted to put the full effort expected in.

Typical response is never "awesome, let's do that" because... why should they? They'd prefer you to work 5 days a week. So they'll push back.

But, as an existing employee you're valuable: you know a lot of things that take a lot of effort for new employee to learn. And so quite often the answer is just "yes", or stalling but "fine, ok, yes" if you push at it.

Of course, some places the managers have no respect at all for employees or understanding of your value. You probably don't want to work those places at all, and if you do this won't work.

If you want a detailed howto, I wrote a book about it: https://codewithoutrules.com/3dayweekend/

I have been working 24, 32 and 40 hours for longer periods of time.

While 24 hours is great for personal time I felt like I got out of touch with my company, collegues and work in general.

40 hours a week is just 'getting those 8 hours a day full'.

I felt when working 32 hours I was most productive and did the same work as in a 40 hour week. Every week I started fresh and felt more relaxed over all.

If you are doing 7-5 days, is that really... 32 hours?

Maybe that includes 1h lunch break plus some short coffee breaks?

I think that, in Germany, lunch break does not count towards the paid hours in salaried jobs.

Yeh, he was including a lunch break which is not in the paid hours

It's still not 32. 7 to 5 is 10 hours. Subtracting 1 is 9. Times 4 is 36.

Maybe subtracting two per day, or the "leave by five" had an implied "at the very latest." Surely he did the math before putting the number in the title of his blog post.

He worked four 10 hour days and called it 32 hours a week. We don’t have any reason to trust his math.

There is a reason why it's called a 9-5 job, and a 40-hour work week. They are the 'standard.'

I think he was saying before his 32-hour work week experiment, he was working 7-5

I did a similar schedule once,

7 to 9:30 30min coffee break 10 to 12 1h lunch break 13 to 15:30 30 minute break 16 to 17

The author had a lot of vacation days left, and instead of taking them all at once, decided to give himself a bunch of 4-day work weeks. I wondered recently about the feasibility of doing this, does anyone know how open the average employer is to this sort of thing?

I've been doing this every summer for the past few years:

  | S | M | T | W | T | F | S | 4-day work weeks:
  | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 4-day weekend
  | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 2-day weekend
  | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 4-day weekend
  | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 2-day weekend

I've never minded when my employees do this (and can't imagine why I would). I've also done it myself fairly often because of the PTO rollover limits.

You've earned the vacation days. If your vacations happen to be every Friday for 8 Fridays in a row because that's what you prefer, that's none of my business.

Some employers ask you to take holiday in longer blocks because they want people to be able to properly relax and recharge and they think you can't do that in just blocks of one day.

(Not saying I agree, but that's what they say.)

Some jurisdictions even require it, e.g. in my country you get 26 vacations days per year, but you are expected to take at least 10 of them continouosly (which, if you add weekends typically results in 16 days without work)

There's also the theory that if you are doing something illegal, improper, or incompetent, having your assignment covered by another individual for a bloc of time increases the likelihood of revealing any problematic issues.

That sounds like a grotesque lack of trust and set of priorities. If I ever found out an employer used my absence in such ways, I’d immediately start looking for new work.

It appears to be strongly encouraged by the FDIC in the US as a mandatory banking policy. Websearching "mandatory vacation" will turn up other examples.


You should probably take it up with regulators then who, especially in the financial services industry, recommend or require it. e.g. https://www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/1995/fil9552.html

That’s fair enough, you know what you’re getting into. Thanks for the info!

I suggest not working for employers who attempt to dictate how you use your PTO without a legal leg to stand on.

In some countries it is mandatory by law to have 14 days in one block per year.

One finance job I worked in had that regulation. (But it wasn't a general thing in that country.)

Policies like that are often designed to (or at least conceived/fantasized to) ferret out/prevent single-actor fraud.

Forcing someone to take two contiguous weeks out of the office means that someone else will need to be briefed for continuity and there's an enhanced chance of detecting "weirdness" that might be associated with a fraudulent scheme.

Yes, 'conspiracies' of more than one person are much harder to keep under wraps. That regulation was directly in response to the high-profile cases of rogue traders.

> without a legal leg to stand on

What makes you think they have no legal leg to stand on to dictate when you take your holiday?

My understanding is unless you have some contract saying otherwise, they can tell you to take your holiday whenever they want to, and you have no inherent right to take it whenever you want and for whatever length you want.

That's not even just the US - even in countries with stronger employees rights like the UK I believe this is the case.

For example this is the guidance from a union in the UK

> You do not necessarily have the right to choose when you take your holiday and your employer can tell you when to take your leave.


Following up: Vacation time isn't a required benefit (in the US), so as long as your employer doesn't prevent you from taking accrued vacation time without compensation before it expires, they can otherwise control when you take vacation. An employer that prevents an employee from using expiring PTO must either compensate them for it or they violate state and federal DOL rules regarding (contractually guaranteed) benefits. Generally the punishment is that the have to compensate the employee, any legal counsel, and pay a rather hefty fine to the appropriate DOL, so it's never worth it to prevent an employee from using expiring PTO. (And if the employee is so valuable that the employer can't afford for them to take PTO, that should have been negotiated into the contract.)

However, if the employee "chooses" not to use up all their accrued vacation time before it expires, generally compensation is not required...

Some employers ask you to sit at long sweatshop benches instead of giving you a proper desk, let alone office, because it "fosters collaboration".

Your boss's stated reasons for compelling you to do a thing are often not his real reasons.

I did this this Winter. The year before I tried dealing with Winter depression by remaining sober, but four day weeks seemed to work better. Granted where I'm at in my life has varied quite a bit between those two years

Employer prefers this arrangement. I'm at a small company, if someone leaves for a week.. it's hard, because a client may call & you're the person who can handle their issue an order of magnitude faster than anyone else

When you take a week off, it's hard to readjust to being back. & now you've blown most of your vacation time, so there's nothing to look forward to. Whereas I spent every week feeling a day fresher than everyone else (I took Mondays off, not Fridays). Additionally during Winter I find that a two day weekend isn't long enough for me to recharge, the first day I spend exhausted, & the second day I spend resigning to the fact that it'll all be over the next day. Yes, I realize this is a terrible mentality. But with a three day weekend I was able to really enjoy the middle day

Some industries have mandated downtime (reduce the impact of finding backfills and no flooded inboxes).

Financial Services sometimes require everyone to have a mandatory 2 week continuous vacation with the idea that fraudulent transactions may turn up.

In both cases I bound it’s a majority.

Two scenarios but both related to having kids.

My brother in law works at Deloitte in Australia and is taking Fridays off for most of the rest of the year using his paternity leave. Sounded like they were pretty supportive but may have to keep an eye on email during that day...

My sister is at a big bank and does 4 days a week but as she describes it "instead of doing 5 days a week and 60 hours, I do 4 days a week and 40 hours". She's still on calls and definitely on email on that "day off".

Vacation days are fine for short-term, but why not negotiate a permanent 4-day workweek? Lots of programmers have done it, e.g. https://codewithoutrules.com/2018/01/08/part-time-programmer... (also linked elsewhere in the comments).

A lot of them don’t like that kind of stuff.

Most are reasonable, if your department has coverage you’re okay.

Different people can function under different workloads, and there is no magic formula that will make everyone happy.

I've been clocking in ~50h/week for a couple of years now as a contractor and it's worked well for me. Working remotely helps a lot as there's no commuting and I can start being productive 15 minutes after waking up. I'm also able to distribute the weekly workload as I please (except daily standups). Some days I'll clock in 12 hours, and other days work barely at all.

All clients were happy with this kind of arrangement so far.

I keep lowkey looking for studies on how much actual free time a person has in a day—really free, subtracting all chores and commuting. I've heard that some people have timed that and the results were rather surprising compared to the ‘common knowledge,’ but I'd like to have a source to cite.

To build on top of that, I'd want to see how much of that truly free time is in a "high energy state". What I mean by that is a free time where you're awake/energetic enough to do something meaningful – read a challenging book and take notes, write a thoughtful email to a friend, host a party, try to build a new friendship, etc.

On most workdays I find myself so spent that a) I don't want to see people, b) I don't have any mental energy left. I can only do such things on the weekends, but then I'm also fighting with all the chores that have accumulated over the week.

A 4-day work week sounds very appealing because of the challenges mentioned above. An extra day with free and high-energy time would be amazing.

I can say that for me, working 4 days wasn’t like getting one extra day per week - it was more like getting any actual weekend at all. Saturday used to be “I’m too exhausted to do ANYTHING, let’s stay in”, and Sunday was, like you say, a chore day. On Monday I’d still be tired, and demotivated because my weekend was such a waste.

On 4 days I finally feel like I don’t have to spend my weekends preserving my energy. I can actually plan things to do without thinking “oh no, I shouldn’t, that’ll make me too tired for chores/work.” I can have a life!

edit: also, a benefit that people don’t tend to consider is that getting certain chores done is much faster on weekdays. You won’t find queues at the shops, bank, opticians, doctors etc on a Friday morning!

This. My free time at least in winter months is a slow collapse. A day off would give hobby time, home improvement time etc, and do so in a way that doesn’t affect the kids who are in school anyway.

Of course, the numbers depends greatly on how you organise your affairs; and on how much money you are willing to spend for other to do your remaining chores.

(And a bit also on how you count. Does spending time with your kids count as a chore or free time?)

One other minor perk of working fewer hours is lower taxes. The first hour you work in a week is taxed much lower than the last hour you work. (In countries with progressive tax systems.)

Isn't that simply a consequence of having less money in your pocket in the end?

It is. But working 80% looks more attractive, when you work 80% for 84% of net income, rather than looking at the 80% of your salary.

This assumes your employer will pay you less linearly, my previous employer had paid the half-time staff about a quarter of the full time salary for 25 hour weeks.

The past decade I have worked about 24 hours or 3 days a week, only making more hours (or full days) when it could not be avoided. I would advice this to everyone.

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