With this framework, people will take breaks whenever they feel like. They go doing sports, play with their kids, run errands. They even take whole days off to go surfing or skiing. And I really don't mind. Because I do the same.
But then, if a server goes down late at night, people all the sudden show up by themselves and fix problems. Also on a rainy Saturday or Sunday, people will all the sudden be online and working.
Give people the opportunity to be in charge of their own work schedule, give them the responsibility, make them feel that they're actually responsible and they will shine.
We also just released our company handbook which goes in a lot of detail on how we run a 20+ people remote business:
* https://mobilejazz.com/company-handbook (landing page, if you want to get email updates)
* https://mobilejazz.com/docs/company-handbook/mobile-jazz-com... (direct link to the PDF)
EDIT: Added some more details
This, combined with colleagues visibly taking advantage of the time off available, helped ensure a healthy approach to unlimited time off.
Thats doing it right. Or pay people for the vacation time they don't use.
As a result employees can't just bank their vacation hours and get a big payday when they leave. It tends to only take a couple years to get up to the max, and you end up with "use it or loose it" pto.
Which is why employers almost always cap in some form or another; the exact mechanism is partially determined by state law.
I worked for a company once that, during a bad spell, eliminated an accrual cap to encourage people to bank vacation. The result was that a not small number of people who weren't really into taking vacation just let their balances balloon. The company eventually forced people to work down their balances.
From the business perspectice services rendered previously is "nothing", because you can't get any more value from that
This is is why it's important for team members to explicitly encourage each other to take breaks and vacations. I've often told a coworker, "stop working! Take a long weekend!".
The best UPTO environment I've ever seen had managers who asked about time off in one-on-ones and pushed people who said "none" to take more. It also had a lot of acceptance for 'aimless' PTO; justifying your trip to the Andes is easy, but people take PTO more consistently if no one's expecting a better story than "sleep late and run some errands" or "play a new-release game".
Also once teams and management get used to people taking time off, the business processes also become more resilient to people missing for a week or two and taking PTO becomes less of a problem for everyone. Suddenly someone missing for a week is just not a big deal.
It occurs to me that Google somewhat famously adds artificial downtime to their services to make sure no one is relying on 24/7 uptime. I don't want to reduce people to server-equivalents, but I'll bet high vacation rates are a pretty good way of making sure no one relies too much on individual knowledge. Even from my personal experiences, lots of things get documented when the person who knows them well is heading out of town and there's a sudden scramble to formalize that knowledge.
I'm exactly opposite, and had no problem taking PTO when I worked at a company with an unlimited plan. Now that I have limited PTO again I hoard it and take less time off.
I don't feel inconvenienced when others take PTO, and I don't expect my taking PTO to inconvenience them.
"Unlimited PTO" is a marketing farce, no more, no less. If you want people to take 25 days a year off, give them 25 days of PTO and be on the hook for the liability if they leave. If you want to give them more time than that through an approval process, offer it! But don't say it's unlimited, because it isn't. And if you don't want one of your business perks to be pointed out as fraudulent, don't advertise it as such.
A poorly codified policy is an implementation problem, and will be a problem for both limited and unlimited PTO policies.
> "Unlimited PTO" is a marketing farce, no more, no less. If you want people to take 25 days a year off, give them 25 days of PTO and be on the hook for the liability if they leave. If you want to give them more time than that through an approval process, offer it! But don't say it's unlimited, because it isn't. And if you don't want one of your business perks to be pointed out as fraudulent, don't advertise it as such.
The entire point is that the employer doesn't care how many days off people take each year. Employees can be responsible for deciding that for themselves. Some people don't want that extra responsibility, and I'd agree that they probably won't like unlimited PTO policies.
It would be ludicrous to outlaw unlimited PTO policies just because some people don't like them.
The entire point is that the
employer doesn't care how many
days off people take each year.
I don't know how many times I need to repeat this, but if your company doesn't communicate expectation it's a problem with the company, not with unlimited PTO policies in general.
I also disagree that my comments haven't been helpful. There's a difference between the concept of "unlimited PTO" and any particular implementation of it, and it's important to know where a problem is coming from. Perhaps there should be regulations around it, but getting rid of it entirely, as suggested elsewhere in this thread, isn't the answer.
We wouldn't ban all cars because one brand is unsafe, so let's not get rid of all unlimited PTO policies just because some companies do it wrong.
Great observation! Statistically, there are more anecdotes in this thread with employees with negative experiences with good ones. I think that's a great starting point.
If I take one day off 30 times a year nobody raises an eyebrow, but if I take 30 days off in one go it might.
I can appreciate this opinion if you've had a good experience with an Unlimited PTO policy, but regulation isn't for the best experiences. Unlimited PTO is an HR/Marketing dark pattern.
EDIT: > It's disappointing so many people want to ruin things for everybody because they've worked at crappy companies in the past.
@jlarocco: I am disappointed you prioritize protecting your arrangement than the well being of others at crappy companies. As I mention in my other comments in-thread, you can still arrive at something similar to "Unlimited PTO" while still instituting regulations to prevent worker abuse (minimum PTO days issued + a process to request additional days). I do not understand the disdain for regulation that simply enforces what is being offered.
Say I booked the entirety of June off this year. Are they still cool with that? How about if I also decide I'd like July off too. That's an extreme I know but there's a limit somewhere.
FWIW we did have somebody take an entire month off to visit family in China. He was responsible for tons of code and functionality, and it worked fine because management knew about it and planned around it.
If you can't handle the responsibility, don't ruin it for everybody, just go work somewhere else.
In a strict PTO environment that would have been almost impossible for them to do.
Some people are going to respond and be upset that they want to work exactly 8 hours, get exactly 41.5 hours of PTA and get paid that way. That's fine, although I hope they are giving the company back money for browsing HN.
I on the other hand like the freedom and flexibility that unlimited PTO provides along with a flexible work schedule. Do I end up working more? Probably, but I have way less stress. I much prefer working that hour on a rainy Saturday instead of the beautifully sunny Friday.
Only ever worked at UK companies where we get 5.6 weeks PTO as standard. Never had a request denied as long as I've given 2 weeks notice of a long'un
If you requested your 5.6 weeks off all at once and over an go-live date that you were 100% responsible for, you might receive a request to see if you could move those holidays a bit later
Our European team colleagues? Not so much.
Current place I work has unlimited PTO, and I really like it. You do need to be careful not to fall into the trap of not using it, though.
Then there’s still normal vacation trips to consider.
I can easily see myself using 40 days of PTO in a year.
It seems to me like it would be fair for companies to offer unlimited PTO as long as employees can cash out unlimited money when they leave. But for some reason, this is not often offered.
As I mentioned upthread, I've never had a job where I didn't work when and how much I wanted, go into the office when I felt like it, etc etc. I'm subject to the same pressures you describe, but it turns out they're really easy to handle: keep a rough eye on how many hours you're working.
The other day they had a rare beer release I wanted to go to in the middle of the day, on a Friday. I didn't have any meetings, so I "WFH" and worked 3-4 hours that day and spent the rest of the day drinking and getting dinner with a couple funemployed friends, including checking my email and responding to important ones for a few minutes every couple hours during the workday. I could've (and have in the past) written off those four lost hours of work as coming out of my effective productivity, but since this is a new job and I'm trying to hit the ground running, I just made it up in dribbles of an hour or two over the next week.
The dirty secret when people talk about being pressured at work is that 90% of the time, your employers are relying on you to do the work of pressuring yourself. If my employer wants me to work extra and go above and beyond, I make sure that it's explicit and metaphorically "on the record". Pulling all-nighters during crunch time or forgoing vacation for a long time should be banked as something you can draw on, giving you cover for taking a longer vacation or working shorter days after crunch time.
It's really up to you to set your work life balance, and the fears most people have about the consequences of doing so are largely (but not entirely) illusory.
The one major caveat here that I haven't ever had to face is if you're both at an abusive company and highly replaceable (eg feel like you couldn't get a similar quality job). In this case of effectively having a better job than you'd otherwise get, the power dynamic is markedly shifted and employers can get away with a lot. The only saving grace in this situation is if your more in-demand coworkers have healthy attitudes about work/life balance, since it's hard for management to crack down on individuals in a way that's perceived as unfair.
There's ALWAYS a limit. Try taking a year long holiday and see how that goes. With UPTO the limit is up to your manager.
So even if you have a set number of days, your manager can still fire you for taking them. Your manager can fire you or not fire you for any reason. So you could take 30 days off and not get fired if your manager doesn't want to.
With "at will" employment there really aren't any concrete rules in play. Everything is just at the discretion of the employer. Regardless of the employee handbook, PTO or really anything. You could be fired for coming in too early. Coming in too late. Not working on the weekends. Working on the weekends. Probably even something as silly as gaining too much weight. Really anything unless it is within a few specific protected classes such as race or sex.
The only variable that exists is whether or not the terminated employee would qualify for unemployment benefits.
Edit: I should mention this is US specific as most US states have "at will" employment laws.
For doing something that is specified in the employment agreement? Pretty sure that would fall under fraud/misrepresentation.
What makes you think I haven't, are you saying that there is no fraud exception? You don't go into any detail to support your "absolute" confidence.
I'm mildly affected with Asperger's. There are many aspects of workplace culture that are obvious to other people, but which I take a long time to clue in regarding. This has included figuring out the reasonable boundaries for unlimited PTO in the past, especially when it required having to "read" my manager to figure out the acceptable timing and quantity of PTO.
My current employer strikes the perfect tone for me: they offer unlimited sick/family leave, but ask that we shoot for approximately N days of actual PTO per year. (Where N is clearly stated.)
There are two outcomes in that situation.
1. Great, so you've gotten Service Foo stable! It now needs minimal dev attention. Since there's no shortage of work that needs to be done, and you've got 3 days/week free, it sounds like you're free to work on Service Bar, in addition to Service Foo.
2. Great, so you've gotten Service Foo stable. Now that it needs half the development attention that it used to, we no longer need a full-time person on it. Since we don't have any more work, we're laying you off (Or, in a fairy tale, where, for whatever reason, your manager values your contributions for what they were, laying one of your co-workers off.)
Personally, I prefer outcome #1. I'm paid to be at work, and do things, and if I get my work done faster then estimated, I'll get more work. And that's fine. The alternative is much worse.
It's to the point where it reminds me of jobs that force you to dress up in a certain way: I can't imagine your workplace respects you if they're enforcing how you get your work done or what you're wearing.
I should be clear that there are situations in both cases where it can actually make sense: anyone working customers doesn't get to decide that customers are irrational for judging attire, so dress codes are reasonable in that case. Similarly, if your work heavily involves constant communication, then enforcing work hours can make sense too. But there are a TON of jobs that enforce rules like work hours and dress code for no reason other than lack of trust and respect for their employees, and I just hope I continue to avoid ever being in a position like that.
As you are saying that, as the business owner/manager you do the same, I think it shows a great example and helps people feel they actually can do this.
The opposite might also be very true, where if the manager is working harder than what is expected/accepted, people will follow and do the same too. Do you think that is true?
Regarding owners/managers working less, I see it the same as you: leading by example. And generally I don't see a problem with that, as everyone is mostly working very responsibly (in our case). However, what we've noticed over the years is that it still needs some people with a global company vision and also visionary mindset to push the company to new frontiers and help people to look beyond what they're currently working on and to think outside the box.
I think this is a serious risk for unlimited PTO. It's easy to miss, because well-meaning managers are least likely to notice the problem. Sure they were busy and came in all year, but they genuinely wanted their reports to take more time off!
In that sense, it almost has to be a responsibility at the management level; visibly booking time off and disconnecting is part of making a PTO policy usable for everyone else. Fortunately, it's the sort of responsibility that also helps keep management and founders from burning out or already being exhausted when crunches do hit.
From Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard.
Morning slack message (which isn't the same thing as a standup): "Hey, I'm going to do X,Y,Z today but I'm also going to run a few errands after lunch so I'll be MIA from 12-2 CET but available after until 6 CET".
"Work when you want" doesn't have to mean "I have no idea when you'll be available today".
People confuse the two all the time! Flexibility and reliability have to go hand in hand, if you cannot be reliable when left unsupervised, you need to expect I cannot leave you unsupervised. On the plus side, when people are given this explanation they often self manage into a good routine.
The work-when-you-want is easily leading to a - show me the evidence on why I should trust you to have done something productive today.
It forces someone to just push for quick wins and avoid anything that is not leading to directly accountible results.
Here's a perfectly great update that didn't result in a quick win:
"I spent all day debugging that null pointer issue like we discussed. I thought maybe it was because the API was sending nulls across, but I looked at the logs and couldn't find any instance of that happening. I thought maybe it was a type coercion issue too, but I wrote a few tests to rule that out and it turned out not to be the case. Then I remembered reading about a memory corruption issue that sometimes happens in our runtime version, so I spent the rest of the day reading about the situations where that occurs and figuring out if it applies to us, but didn't get enough time to finish that up completely."
"This morning I sketched out three different possibilities for the new client check-in service. First draft of the spec is in progress, I expect to send it over to Jen and Andy tomorrow for their feedback."
"I made a dozen or so mockups for the new landing page. I have a couple more ideas I want to try out tomorrow, then I'll figure out what the best four or five are and show them to the team."
"Since we don't have any feature work pending right now, I've been experimenting on a branch with using $TOOL to do $THING better. It looks good because $X, although $Y might be a problem."
"We talked a while ago about doing $THING with the user's documents so they can $WHATEVER more easily, and I wasn't sure it was even possible. I've been looking into that today. It looks like there might be a way, so I'm continuing to investigate."
"We've wanted to replace $FRAMEWORK for a while now. I've identified the parts of it that we actually use, and I'm putting together a plan for what we can swap in and/or get rid of. It looks like, since we made $CHANGE last month, we can actually do most of it ourselves without much trouble."
If someone is lying, it will eventually come out. That fake report one day will turn into a week and eventually they will get fired. But, don't kill your entire team on the off chance that someone is trying to game the system.
The first one says they're writing a spec. Well, three days later, where's that spec? Next one is producing some designs, so same. Sure someone saying "$TOOL/$NEW_FUNCTION/$REPLACE_FRAMEWORK just didn't work out", could be cover for "I was playing Pac-man all day", but if you ask for details, BS should become clear pretty quickly.
And again, that's starting from the position that you think your teammates are probably slackers who would rather lie than work. Which is not really a great position to hold, IMO.
Look, if I'm leading a group like this, I'm going to have an idea of what your output is like in an average sense, both compared to your historical output and the group as a whole. If you blow off a day it's not really going to matter. (although I'd rather you tell me you needed to blow off a day than try and hide it, sure).
However, if you blow of enough days we're going to have a conversation about how your performance is dropping, and why, and discuss your ideas about how to turn that around. If it doesn't, we'll have another conversation, and so on. Eventually if none of this works we'll have a different conversation (about why you are leaving).
This doesn't actually have anything to do with reviewing daily/weekly reports. Those are for different things.
1) Take place in a typical corporate setting--which is the context here, nobody's asking studio musicians to do stand-ups.
2) Have 0 artifacts of progress being made. Even brand design goes through iterations.
3) Are so abstract that it's impossible to distill your thought process into a small summary each day
If it's really impossible to summarize what you did all day, I'm going to question if you were actually doing anything at all.
This is how work sometimes look. A good manager will accept your vague description, trusting that something of value commensurate with time spent will come out from the other end. As long as you actually deliver, a sane manager will not mind.
(That said, if asked for details, I always could explain what my main concerns and areas of exploration were at any point in the design process. The story about what you were doing is proportional to how much work you actually put in. If you can't elaborate beyond "I was thinking about $X", maybe you weren't really thinking about it? Conversely, I find forcing myself to write down and structure my thoughts to be an excellent way to unblock myself when my mind is running circles, or feels like watching Netflix instead.)
> As long as you actually deliver, a sane manager will not mind.
The problem is that these are very rare.
EDIT: If anything, the problem may be that the "bad manager" doesn't trust you. (Yes)
Maybe I'm lucky, but for all the failings of various people I've worked under, I've met none who wouldn't understand it when some work requires more cognitive effort than code.
If anything, the problem may be that the "bad manager" doesn't trust you. But that's a completely different issue than them not understanding the concept of abstract work.
And this is a terrible mindset.
> The work-when-you-want is easily leading to a - show me the evidence on why I should trust you to have done something productive today.
No, start from the stand point of trust.
> It forces someone to just push for quick wins and avoid anything that is not leading to directly accountible results.
It does force someone to think about results, but not necessarily quick. Even a result that takes months, has many steps along the way that can be communicated.
"work when you want" to me requires more than that. multiply your simple example to 2-4x a week, xN employees, that's a lot of noise
The two weekly stand-ups, one is actually work related (the team meeting) and people are encouraged to be there and not go surfing just during that specific hour and the other one is the MJ Weekly, where we just exchange personal and professional learnings for about 1 hour, which is a great way to get to know other people being a remote company.
That said, making those things "required" is not that bad compared to requiring people sitting 8 hours in an office. Again, my personal opinion.
However, it can still in my opinion work for a large amount of people. Anyone whose job has parts that can be done alone (programming, compiling reports, writing articles...) can benefit from a more relaxed schedule.
The result/claim makes intuitive sense to me but..... The problem trying to study this is that "productivity" of many/most white collar workers is basically impossible to measure.
Some do. Customer support can be benchmarked (and prodctivity-pushed) But... customers support jobs don't lend to this 4d workweek thing. The jobs that do lend to it, don't lend to measurement.
This difficulty can lead to all sorts of wierdness. Tyler Cowen claimed that office worker productivity has not been (measurably) increased by office computerization. IE, going from secretaries, fax and typwriters to Google docs hasn't produced any economic gains.
Strange claim. Difficult to measure. David Graeber (anarchist that reckons most office work is pointless busy-work) quotes the same stat this white paper quotes, people spend about 2/8 hrs working and the rest procrastinating on social media.
Measurement is also not incidental here. Measurablity changes everything. Once an employees job productivity is measurable, it can be optimized and already has been.
It's a Shrodinger's product evangalist problem...
That said, I like the jist.Lets shorten the workweek. Science-wise... well...
If I was being paid for my outcomes I would manage my time entirely differently and would find ways of being more productive than I already am so that I could work less hours. I think this is a hard pill for people's bosses to swallow, that their employees do have the capacity to be more productive but they won't because we're being paid to be at work and so incentives are not aligned.
My boss is very happy with my productivity and I am very productive. I don't think he could conceive of me being any more productive. But I know that if I could arrange my own days and hours I would be more productive. But this would be inconvenient to him and so he would likely rather have me predictably available than fully optimised. Which is an understandable tradeoff if frustrating from a personal perspective as you feel as though you're wasting time. It's just that your wasted time is actually valuable to someone and that's hard to grasp intuitively.
I'd make a third distinction though. You can be paid for time, work or outcomes. Outcomes and work aren't the same thing, necessarily.
And all three have uses. It seems like one of the common mistakes we make when talking about labor productivity is underestimating time as an output. We see a job's time-per-task decline and ask why it remains a full-time job, but in many cases the answer is that part of the job is being available 8 hours a day, and more dead time between tasks hasn't changed that.
If I was making 62 burgers an hour it would be easier to quantify but rarely are things so fixed
And soon some genius will come in and think "How about we worked a few hours more? This would give us even more output" and soon we are back to normal.
If the productivity gain really was about improved focus and energy, they'll be wrong and waste everyone's time. But there are some hints in the article that it wasn't just that; other companies have seen productivity rise than fall back, while Perpetual Guardian implemented performance improvements to offset the change.
I assume diminished hours directly improved productivity some. But if half the gain was from process improvements or increased motivation, then some clever wag is going to come along and notice that they can use those gains to cut staff instead of hours.
Same for recruitment department to see if hiring rate is the same.
Just throwing it out there that not all white collar job productivity is unmeasurable.
Claim one is that time off recharges and focuses us. We get more sleep, are less distracted by outside tasks (e.g. calling a doctor who's only open during work hours), burn out less, and still get the full benefit of outside-work productivity like having a new product idea at 10PM. Some parts of this make sense; outside-work insights still progress at seven days per week, and an hour off work for calls and errands is an hour that can be directly recovered. But the rest is puzzling; why should rest and recreation repay themselves so precisely in work output?
Claim two is that productivity isn't limited by office-time in the first place. A powerlifter who doubles their workout time won't see any benefit because they're hitting physical limits already. This makes much more sense; we've all had experiences like struggling with a problem that looks obvious the next morning, or sitting around unproductive because our most urgent work is blocked by some external factor. But again, the shape of the result is surprising; surely not all of that lost time is recovered by taking time off. Mental fatigue would be better answered with 6-hour workdays, and some of those external blockers are always going to be unpredictable and unscheduled.
There are a few other views that make more sense, but are rather less promising. The article mentions that other companies trying this see a productivity spike and then lag, which could imply it's just a reaction to the novel approach. The discussion of productivity plans, and the interviewed employee who reduced multitasking, imply that this might just be a loss offset by other noncontingent process gains. (The matching result, then, presumably consists of people seeking process gains until the loss was offset.) The company could simply lack 40 hours/week of substantive work, which again could be cured with reduced hours or increased work.
Or perhaps employees were output-limited not by mental fatigue but by, essentially, giving-a-shit. One of the big insights of productivity studies is that "can't do more" and "won't do more" aren't clearly distinct when you're relying on internal motivation; there's no clear way to say that "won't" is happening on a different, volitional layer. If people were working 40 hours a week with 25 hours of 'drive', constant productivity makes more sense.
> Measurement is also not incidental here. Measurablity changes everything. Once an employees job productivity is measurable, it can be optimized and already has been.
And then there's this, yes. Uncomfortably often, Taylorism isn't about process improvements but squeezing relaxation and well-being out of a job. If you can't measure productivity well externally, then a move like this might get employees to 'Taylorize' themselves because the harder work will be offset by the wellbeing from more time off. If you can, then they'll get Taylorized from the outside, and the offset will tend to be higher wages or nothing at all.
I think this makes the most sense. Assuming I understand right what you mean, it could be described more simply as "work expands to fill the available time", a common enough criticism of sprints in agile (cases lasting longer than they normally would because there's still days left in the spring).
We have consistently been one of the fastest growing tech companies in Scotland (and in the UK). When we implemented the 4 day policy, we didn’t change our financial targets, or our team metrics. Instead, we explained it was an experiment that we wanted to run, and we believed that by being more efficient and more intentional about how we worked, we could still achieve our goals.
Turned out that was true.
Our motivation was primarily work/life balance, but also the realisation that most startups take 10-15 years to get to where they want to go, and we have a long journey ahead of us! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We still pay a 5 day wage, and we actually “buy” all 5 days, because we wanted to make sure that team members weren’t tempted to moonlight on the 5th day.
Overall I think it’s been a really great thing for our team, and perhaps most importantly, I think we’ve proved that ambitious goals, hard work, and a strong drive to succeed is not at odds with a 4 day week. Over the last few years we’ve spent probably hundreds of hours talking with various organisations and the media about the benefits of the 4 day week, and I’m hopeful it’ll continue to catch on more and more.
2. What do you mean "buy all 5 days" and "moonlight on the 5th day"? (not a native speaker)
1. We started by doing some research, actually - I spent some time finding studies that supported my thesis that productivity would go up (thus making sure our output would stay the same, more or less). Then I discussed with our management team, who thought I was nuts, but was supportive. Then I presented it to our board, who was also supportive. We applied it to everyone at the start, but some teams took a bit longer to get it implemented, as one of our criteria was he had to maintain 5 day coverage for our customers (ie, some have Mondays off, some have Fridays, etc.). To this day we leave the coverage patterns and rotations up to each team/department to decide.
2. In our contracts, we are paying you for 40 hours of work, 5 days a week, but we give you one of them back. Moonlighting meaning working for another company "on the side".
Are the research notes you put together to support your thesis publicly available?
I work in an agency so I don't think it would be easily applicable in my company (we bill by the day, not by the output), but I love hearing about experiments in companies! Most companies are so boring and afraid to do anything out of the ordinary
To be honest, it seems a bit disingenuous to me. A day off should be a day off. What I do with that time is nobodies business.
Yes, it's still possible you'll work on a side gig / for someone else in the weekend, but that's much less likely than if you have business hours available for that.
If I can spend my whole Monday night playing WoW, coming in completely destroyed the next morning, why couldn’t I do some personal work during the day on a Thursday and come in refreshed and happy on Friday.
Buying all 5 days means that they're employed and getting paid for that fifth day, but they have no work tasks. This is so that employees can't work a second job on that day, which would be 'moonlighting'.
Would your CEO take a phone call from a client/lawyer/bank on the fifth day?
Our CEO (me) does take phone calls and work a bit on the 5th day. I’m not the best example, but I don’t go into the office, and I try to limit it to important stuff that literally can’t wait. My travel schedule means I burn weekend days quite a bit but I do enjoy being on long haul flights where my phone doesn’t work. I’m a recovering workaholic and I do feel like it’s helped me personally put the brakes on a bit.
The funny thing is, when I’m off on my 5th day and enjoying a hobby or something I often get very creative ideas about the business popping into my thoughts. And I think that shouldn’t be surprising bc that’s how our minds work - we can’t be slaves to a hustle porn mentality and do our best work.
Anyway. We and myself aren’t perfect, but we do try to adhere to the spirit of the idea as best we can.
Or what about two? One? Surely at zero, productivity will not match the old standard of 40 hours a week. But it seems like the next logical question to me. If employees are just as productive at 32 hours as 40, at what point does productivity fall? Maybe 32 just happens to be that breaking point. Or it might turn out to be 25 or even 15. But let's at least ask the question.
I'm talking about averages, of course.
I also think the productivity gain or lack of loss comes from excitement and a feeling of responsibility for having the extra day off. It's mentioned in the article
>“The biggest concern from an employer point of view is ensuring that the full-time introduction of the policy doesn’t lead to complacency, with the risk that people’s productivity will slip back,” Barker said.
“To guard against this happening we’ve spent a lot of time making sure every person in every team has their own plan as to how they’re going to maintain and even improve their productivity.”
I think this makes sense but, as time passes and 4 days becomes the norm the feeling of excitement and responsibility will fall and output will follow. If everyone has a 4 day work week we will probably be as lazy as we are now in our 5 days.
At that point we can start experimenting with a 3 day workweek, and find that it too doesn’t reduce productivity.
At some point in time, we’ll find out that all our work is essentially automated, and the step from one to zero days of work will seem reasonable.
How Many Productive Hours in a Work Day? Just 2 Hours, 23 Minutes...
It’s only a 4-hour workweek for you. There’s still someone doing the work.
I have also found they need to be consecutive.
I find 5 years to be a good hallmark to see whether something had an actual strong impact in my own life (e.g. regarding reading self-help books such as Search Inside Yourself  or Steve Pavlina's blog post on how to rock at university  -- sorry for being slightly off-topic but these two things changed my life).
I experienced the following conditions.
> In every student’s schedule, some classes are critical while others are almost trivial.
True, the most funny ones were social psychology and e-business, common sense almost helped you to pass the course.
> For some classes attendance was necessary, but for others it didn’t make much difference.
True for me as well, reading the book within 30 minutes would save 75 minutes of time since the class would take 105 minutes.
> I could simply get the notes from another student if needed, or I could learn the material from the textbook.
We had a notes Facebook group and there was a Dutch startup dedicated to summaries.
> If it wasn’t necessary for me to attend a particular class (based on my goals for that class)
Having a good goal is tantamount if your goal is to learn everything possible, then triaging becomes almost impossible. If your goal is to just get by with the lowest grade possible, then triaging is a must.
> If I felt an assignment was lame, pointless, or unnecessarily tedious, and if it wouldn’t have too negative an impact on my grade, I would actually decline to do it.
I did this with my thesis, for example (again psychology). I could check for normality and do all the right statistical things, but it would only get me 5% extra points. So I assumed normality and everything else needed for multiple linear regression, tested nothing and reported the results.
> Maybe I’d estimate it would take me 20 hours to do an A job but only 10 hours to do a B job.
Heh, I did this so many times. I had side jobs, a girlfriend, friends and other activities that I could spend my time on.
> I often thought in this Machiavellian fashion back then, and often to my surprise I found that my B-quality papers would come back with As anyway.
Oh yes, one time I even published a paper that I rushed through as a homework exercise, because my synthesis of using psychology, neuroscience and game studies for a game studies paper was apparently unparalleled for a master student (the field simply doesn't have many people, so you easily shine). Think about that, I rush a paper writing it in 20 hours and it gets published and nominated for best paper award. Before those 20 hours, I knew nothing of the topic.
Triaging was a lot harder for my computer science programs though, it simply has less bullshit, contained more moving parts and has therefore been intellectually tougher. In that sense, if you triage a lot, it is some indication that your university program isn't of high quality, unfortunately (there are quite a bit of exceptions).
I can believe that there would be no cut in output if people said "okay we're going to get the same amount of tasks done, just in four days instead of five", so everyone would work 20% more each day. I don't know what side-effects that might have, but I don't find it impossible. However, it seems very unlikely to me that you'd work at the same rate for fewer days and still get the same done. I also don't know why people who work fewer days would increase their rate of work, but it's certainly plausible.
To get to 40hrs/week, one would need to work 10hrs/day instead of 8hrs/day.
9/80 is that you work 9 hours a day, and every other Friday is off.
They're both popular in defense and aerospace.
Maybe people are being more productive each day because they're aware that the company is going to be measuring their productivity.
Everytime we humans try something new, we are excited and energized. Since the average office worker is only productive 3 hours per day, there always is a lot of room for increasing output for some time.
It worked, but it was HARD! The difference between an 8 hour day and a 10 hour day is having to find a second wind, on demand, 4 days in a row.
Every time I would say I was going to drop, and then the three day weekend hit and I had time to get personal stuff done, time to relax without feeling like I had to prepare to start work again, and then I thought it was all worth it. Then the cycle would repeat.
Now I'm in a tech job with far more flexibility. I think a similar schedule would still be hard: some 10 hour days are easy, but to do it on demand, repeatedly?
Switching to 10 hour days would be a terrible idea - that’s just asking for burnout. Anyway, I find it really hard to believe more than a small percentage of workers would be able to be actually productive for even two thirds of the day when consistently working that long.
I imagine most of these studies that pop up, like this one, are referring to an overall total hours cut, not just cramming 5 days worth of 'work time' into 4.
4x 10s can definitely be hard, though there are so many coding jobs out there that 'require' unpaid overtime easily pushing that to more like 5x 10s or even more.
It's not impossible! It requires people working together.
• If it has been a rough week at work, I can spend all day Friday relaxing, and still have a full two weekend days for my interests and hobbies.
• I can do things on Friday, such as shopping, that most others have to do on the weekend, thus avoiding the weekend crowds.
• With three days to work on personal projects, I can do a day of getting things going and getting productive, a day of good in the zone work, and then a day of picking a good stopping point and reaching that and setting things up for resumption next week. With a conventional two day weekend, it's that in the zone time that loses.
• Three days is long enough that by Monday I'm ready and want to get back to my job.
I find the lower stress thing quite plausible based on the above. It's enough time to do my stuff without it feeling rushed, meaning my relaxing things can actually be relaxing. A two day weekend is more likely to result in the classic stressing out over trying to relax.
I also find the no cut in work output plausible, because of the lower stress thing. Stress should lower productivity. If your weekend is not lowering stress as much as it could, you are going to be less productive than you could be. If three days off lowers stress more, you productivity rate should be higher back at work. But a three day weekend means a shorter work week. So we have one effect trying to raise output and one trying to lower it. Given the fuzziness of productivity measures, I'm not surprised by a finding of no change in output.
 I started taking every other Friday as a vacation day, because I had so much accumulated vacation that I had hit my employer's accumulation limit. Later, when the big recession hit the company needed to reduce expenses to avoid layoffs, and I offered to take a 5% pay cut in exchange for every other Friday off, which when combined with the every other Friday vacation gave me a four day week.
Many of my more annoying problems have been solved that way.
I knew an old Vietnamese refugee who was an electrical engineer working on maintaining and repairing portable stage lighting ballasts. He used to tell me how he would dream about the circuits and debug them then after spending a week of just staring dumbly at the physical thing—not accomplishing anything while at work, then come in the next day and finish inside of an hour.
Maybe I think much differently than others, but sometimes on difficult problems I will think forever and do nothing. In the interim, people will think I'm an idiot ("don't you have work to do", "shouldn't you know this"). Then suddenly, whoosh, everything comes at once. I'll work for a comparatively short amount of time, code/work will just fly from my fingers, and whatever I'm working on will be excellent quality. One of my finest moments was in the process of one of these outbursts I was able to write a "one shot wonder" class that worked essentially exactly as expected without rewrites (no compilation errors or defects).
This is just kind of how I operate, and it really held me back in college (decent exam scores would bail out awful homework scores) though now it's nicer in a professional/adult environment where people give you a little more leeway, freedom, and respect. Though the drawback is that it ruins metrics like burndown charts and managements' expectation of a proportional work-to-output ratio.
However, the situation you outlined still occurs because you can get stuck in a certain paradigm (e.g. "this name that I can't remember definitely starts with 's'"), which you effectively reset, in addition to simply returning re-energised. Still a good argument for breaks and less strenuous working hours.
Every now and then when I'm doing English to German translation, I find myself puzzled and then have to remind myself "think about the Dutch word" only to then immediately understand/recall the German cognate. I'm sure someone talking to me in Dutch could have the same effect, and more broadly speaking, another 'attractor basin' may be activated by random chance, like the tired cliche of someone in a movie figuring out the 'case' as a result of their spouse or child mentioning something unrelated yet apparently analogous.
Though I feel that System1 can't work while System2 is focusing on other stuff like playing games or browsing social media so I don't think they're necessarily running in parallel.
If I do have a huge deadline and have to double or triple that in a day I find myself mentally wiped and kind of useless for several days there after.
But those nagging administrative tasks, status reports, talking to project management professionals in pro-forma meetings. THOSE are considered work and productivity for the people that set these up. There are job-roles for which meetings themselves are work-- while that might be a vision of hell for many of us, it is reality for layers of management and their minions.
My concern with this concept of 4-day workweeks is that it will precipitate even more tracking of productivity and even more meetings to gauge progress at the organizations that are trying to convince themselves to switch.
There's something to be said for having the slack to figure stuff out at work without being tracked constantly. A shorter work week is likely to increase "time scrutiny" for creative workers.
In answer to your question, DHH of Ruby on Rails fame used to write a lot about 37 Signals and Basecamp. They decided that the normal capitalist way of working was a load of rubbish and that they could get more out of people by making them work a lot less hours.
The way our world works is a system, the capitalist system, and with it there are many things that go unquestioned. Employment is seen as good whereas in a parallel future that never happened there was this idea that we would all be working a mere handful of hours with the machines doing all the heavy lifting. We live in an era of bullshit jobs to maintain the system with something like 87% of people actually hating their job. In the conventional sense Hemingway did not have a job. As a programmer with many interesting problems to solve creatively there is no need to be part of the 87% and to be more like a Hemingway. The DHH's of this world do not hire the 87%.
I'm certain that I don't actually produce any less than I did when working 5 days, and my stress levels are definitely lower. All in all, the company got a pretty good deal, since I now have the same output, but get paid less!
I feel that part of it is that by working less people are fresher and think clearer. Whenever I worked 50+ hours per week for longer time I was more in a foggy state and couldn't think clearly.
Also, by limiting working hours management needs to be decisive and conscious of wasting people's times with unnecessary stuff.
I myself work 4 days a week, which I really enjoy. However, sometimes with a major bug I make extra hours, the work has to get done! You can do more in 6 days than in 4.
For that sake, how much further can you push it, can you increase productivity 20% by working 3 days instead of 4?
On what principle? I had always thought that a job and its pay arose strictly from negotiation. But if you say one way is "right" and another isn't, that implies some reason that transcends anyone's preference.
Thorough studies would evaluate other models as well, like 6, 7 or 3-day weeks.
As a former entrepreneur I can guarantee that my output would suffer greatly in a 4 day week, since I'd rediscover hobbies and other distractions.
Isn't that the point though?
This is the logic we have at Monograph (hiring engineers btw) and we've had 4 day 32-hour work weeks for over three years now. One engineer on the team likes to take Wednesdays off which we affectionately call the "mid-weekend".
If you have more interest HuffPo and Lynne from Key Values wrote a bit about or working style:
I'm not sure I could gauge my productivity well from one day to the next. There's too many variables. There's other people, luck, different issues, strengths, weaknesses, shrimp gumbo, BBQ shrimp, shrimp soup...
I do know I give it my all during the week and I crash into the weekend. It's invigorating and exhausting at the same time. Getting over a rough week seems to take as long as getting over a bad hangover. Two days for sure, and sometimes I need a third.
I don't think science was much involved here.
People first started getting into the 8-hour workday at the beginning of the 19th century, and it was largely driven by workers, tradesmen, and utopian communists who wanted life to consist of more than just working from the moment they woke to the moment they collapsed into sleep. "8 hours work, 8 hours rest, 8 hours sleep" was the sort of slogan that went in to that. Working too much each day just sucks.
The 5-day workweek was at the beginning of the 20th, and was much more tied into the Great Depression, automation, and managing employment as a civilization. While people have come to enjoy the quality-of-life improvements associated with the existence of a "weekend", it wasn't really the motivation for the shift so much as limiting the work done per worker to offset the decreased labor demand associated with increased productivity. (Although, practically speaking, a lot of the actual regulations that encourage employers to only work people 8 hours a day date/40 hours a week date to this time in the US.)
I'm skeptical that this study is any better than whatever studies may have got us here in the first place. 4 day work weeks seem as arbitrary as as what we have now. If happiness and well-being is productive, then a 3 day work week might even be better. Some might be more productive by never working at all.
> One of the extremely few studies that was decent was of productivity on building sites which found that total (not average) productivity increased up until 60 hour weeks.
Probably not based on scientific study but just a practical response to crews that need to be transported to a remote location and operate 24 hours a day collectively.
The optimum must depend strongly on what work you are doing, how expensive tired mistakes are to fix, how much downtime there is waiting for someone else, etc.
On the other hand, %20 less office time could be an honest signal that you are taking risks commensurate with the return level your investors are looking for. If as a founder or leader, you are careful and incremental, I don't think that's what investors put money into VC funds for. The number of stories I read here and elsewhere about investors saying, "I don't want this money back, I want a huge return or nothing, because I don't want to learn I put it behind someone who wasn't committed enough to fail hard."
Investors aren't paying you and your team to work, they are paying for the privilege of getting a piece of a massive outcome. You achieve the outcome they want exposure to the best way you know how, and if imposing a risk constraint like %20 less office time does it, great. In this view, you are not their employee, you are their dealer.
I could see how it would be hard to persuade investors you were working in their best interest with an attitude like that, but on the other hand, it could be one that is necessary to enable the best possible outcome. It sounds crazy, but the investors themselves are the correlation factor in their portfolio, and the point of putting money into a diversified portfolio of startups is to hedge that correlation, so the more opinionated the investor is about your office culture or other aspects of the business, it's likely the worse they are going to do.
No clear answer, but really interesting question.
Not to mention that the definition of what work, productivity or deliverables is varies vastly from company to company or industry to industry.
Not working for an entire day per week or having sporadic / limited hours of operation could also end up being a huge pain for a client or anyone not in your company you may be working with.
I'm definitely a proponent of the sentiment of this article, however, I can confirm that working with a remote team in another country where nobody seemed to work more than 25hrs per week on their technical team was annoying as hell. Not only did this make solving problems harder, they also had notably lower productivity and output of meaningful contributions...
(I need a new job)
I spend time learning, reading, etc at work
Why do we need study after study that tells that we’re living beings that shouldn’t be consigned to a cage of guilt and shame.
This is stupid. We know what feels good or not, but our barbaric system divorces our natural function from our consciousness - starting in childhood.
Worst part is that we see that we have power to shape the world, but nobody believes that with same power comes the ability to create a comfortable environment for everybody where they can operate without guilt or shame or fear.
What a monstrous machine we’ve created for ourselves.
Love y’all. Peace out.
Furthermore, no formal analysis was done of the Treehouse experience.
Nothing conclusive can be inferred from the Treehouse experience until/unless they release data and a rigid analysis is done.
All they do is invent more things for everyone to be miserable and for them to get a larger piece of the pie.
Business degrees are shit, get your act together, looking at you Harvard, Yale et. al.