Fundamentally it seemed like a cool thing to do for staff - more time to enjoy a summer in London. Doing whatever you want on a Friday - life admin, hobbies, long weekend away, recovering from a hangover... your call.
But then it also seemed like an opportunity to experiment with this new constraint. Could we avoid losing 20% of our output? We certainly didn’t want to work 2 extra hours per day. So the idea was to really take the chance to look at how we work, how we organise ourselves, how we prioritise, how we communicate and share. What can we automate or improve processes for. How we use meetings as a tool for value. And also how we really dive into our work with intensity and drive for the hours we are there.
Overall, sentiment across the company has been extremely positive. We certainly haven’t made up for the lost day in measurable improvements or efficiencies. But we have maybe got half way there - without inducing increased stress during the four days. The team feels more together. And we have probably all learned some skills that will make 5 day weeks that more productive when we restart them. So overall I would be surprised if it wasn’t win-win for all involved.
I can certainly see us doing this again next year - and maybe also again for a month like December. It really just feels good/right overall.
If you are interested in sharing some of your experiences doing this, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
People love reading about this kind of stuff and I would be happy to feature your company on the site/newsletter. If you're hiring, past featured companies have received some quality candidates from this!
I'm wondering how different would your approach be if you are based in this kind of climate. For instance, we give our employees 30 days of PTO. If they wanted, they could easily use 8 days to take day off each week during Summer (or any other period), but we have not run into any that would do that.
This is definitely an area that I would like to explore more in the future. Thank you for sharing your experiences!
2) "We certainly haven’t made up for the lost day in measurable improvements or efficiencies"
Maybe that's OK? Humans have tons of stuff already (at least in the rich world), and most of the things that are expensive are going to stay that way because we create false scarcities to soak up any extra income (housing, mostly).
I suppose that's why we need controls to level the playing field, or else the company willing to push workers for another day will lower the bar for everyone.
I am quite sure I would get at least as much -- and probably more -- done if my week were formally four days long instead of five. I'm also sure this could be true, depending on motivation, of everyone I work with and almost everyone I ever have worked with.
People aren’t robots, and there’s nothing magical about the current number of days and hours considered “normal”. There’s plenty to suggest that such a move would be a net benefit for society and the economy.
1: Robert Gordon, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth.”
Given the huge ramp in productivity on necessary work, we could easily slack off some and see our living standards unaffected.
"We make the case for a general reduction in working hours __without__ a reduction in pay. We also make the case for a steady managed transition to shorter hours with a bolstered welfare state in such a way that the most vulnerable and underpaid in society are protected."
It's hard enough to ask companies to shift to a 4-day workweek for the various reasons outlined in the article and sibling comments, but usually this is accompanied by a corresponding cut in compensation. Adding the "without a reduction in pay" condition makes the proposition much more difficult for small-to-medium sized businesses.
In fairness to the article, there is the possibility of asking employees to work 10hr workdays for 4 days to accommodate the 40-hr work week model (or 8.75hrs/day in France to accommodate their 35-hr work week). Since (most of us?) are already overworked, maybe this then just boils down to a scheduling and staff coverage problem.
There is no reason at all you could not reduce all of this to 30 hours a week and get the same amount of productivity accomplished. Why shouldn't people be compensated the same if the end result is the same? For labor intensive job where a human is working as a type of robot then hours of labour is directly correlated with hours of product (with some point of diminishing returns as you overwork people).
The thing is, when you look at the fruits of the labor put in, the result is nearly null. There are people who are working very hard on things that have no real long term (or short term) purpose or function for their employers, it's work that exists because "work" has to be done. When I look at the projects being busily worked on around me, nearly none of them have any value or will make a dent in the overall productivity of the larger company. These people aren't goofing off. This is the ritual of work.
People pray in the privacy of their own home but that doesn't mean there's a god listening. The same goes for the culture of "work" in most large organizations.
Sounds like a great opportunity for a more efficient competitor to undercut this company :D
People balked when the 40hr workweek was introduced but it ended up lowering injuries and illness and had a net increase effect in productivity.
Jobs running 5, 8 hour days always run on schedule better in the long term it seems (talking 2-3 year building projects) based on past anecdata.
You would think giving the guys an extra day off to rest would help but actually being present on the 5th day tends to be very important when there are major milestones to be hit.
I've seen 4, 10 hour shifts.
I've seen 3, 12 hour shifts + 1, 4 hour shift.
I've seen 5, 8 hour shifts
The schedules created to run 5 days a week always work better.
Now there is a case to be said for having shorter shifts so we can get out of our 40 hour funk zone here in America. I think if you ran a job where only the foreman/superintendents had to be present for 8 hours while the workers worked say 5, 6 hour shifts or even 5, 7 hour shifts would still be better and on time more frequently than pushing someone for 40 hours over fewer days.
But what about the case for simply hiring more workers to cover the dip in overall productivity?
The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio has increased almost 1000% since the 70s . Surely this is due to the benefits in technology and automation. Don't the workers deserve to see some of those benefits in the form of shorter weeks?
It is possible for small businesses to adopt it, but perhaps only really in the knowledge worker/high customer contact space. If you're a small ecommerce shop selling lots of actual stuff, then you'll definitely need to have greater role coverage than you otherwise might.
During the rest of the year I just miss work for those appointments, which isn’t the end of the world, but I miss the guilt-free aspect of it.
My gut feeling is that the dev team puts out the same volume of work per month in the summer as we do the rest of the year, but I don’t have any data to substantiate that.
Imagine one has a machine that produces 5X widgets in 5 days. We now want it to be on for only 4 days and as such it produces 4X widgets but at the price of a 5X widget machine ... that just makes it more expensive ...
If you believe your employer should be taking better care of you, you can vote via leaving your employer. Who exactly should be responsible if not yourself, and how? Many people on HN sit at desks most of the day doing tasks that are laughably easier than what 2, 3, 4 generations ago were doing.
Morally repugnant victim blaming by any other name smells just as foul.
You are implying that:
- There is a better choice
- That better choice wants you
Neither of which are a given.
The greatest predictor for financial success in the U.S. is inherited wealth. The greatest predictor for longevity is financial success.
> If you believe your employer should be taking better care of you, you can vote via leaving your employer.
Please don't use "vote" as if our workplaces are somehow democratic. That said, you vastly underestimate the asymmetry in the employer-employee relationship. For people in IT, this is easy to forget because our business is booming and currently favours labour. For most people, changing jobs is hard, time consuming and a gamble.
After all, talk is cheap - especially during company presentations in the hiring phase. There is no guarantee changing jobs will solve the root problem if the new employer is a burnout shop (again), has toxic management (again), doesn't respect work-life balance (again), etc.
> Many people on HN sit at desks most of the day doing tasks that are laughably easier than what 2, 3, 4 generations ago were doing.
This glosses over the fact that while a lot of jobs 2-4 were physically grueling or repetitive, they were also in production. Those jobs created real, tangible value, in stark contrast to many of quaternary and quinary sector jobs today. Pay kept parity with inflation. Employers would train you and hire you without requiring college degrees. You had job certainty until you retired.
Since then, a lot of "externalities" have been socialised, humans have become "resources", productivity went up by 240% and wages stayed the same or decreased for 60% of the population in real terms.
> an employer is not the one that is held responsible at the end of the day
That view is historically and socially myopic as well as based purely on supply-side economic philosophy. Who benefits from that line of reasoning? Why should employers have no responsibility when it comes to treating employees fairly, humanely and with respect? Why should taxpayers alone bear the fiscal responsibility when burnouts, boreouts and work-related depression and suicide are epidemics - not to mention opioid addiction as a façade for depression?
The real question is: Why are businesses opening in expensive areas and forcing long commutes rather than cheaper areas? And seemingly the only answer is: Keeping Up with the Joneses i.e. show how big and impressive of a business they are by having a HQ in an expensive neighborhood.
- Close to colleagues/network of other businesses in your industry downtown. Meetings can happen over lunch, or drinks after work. This is pretty advantageous for the employee; your next job could be just a block away and offered to you by the guy you see in the elevator every day.
- Close to transportation. Chances are, all the rail lines, bus lines, roads and highways all lead to downtown. A business located downtown can have workers from all over the metropolitan area. A location in the suburbs just gets workers who are able to drive to that suburbs, the infrastructure isn't there to move large amounts of people from around town to the suburbs. Moving businesses to suburbs introduces sprawl, which is bad for the environment, and also slowly bled every great American city after WWII as downtown became vacant (see Detroit).
I think for a lot of people the calculus is "well, I need a car no matter what (cost $Y), and because I have a car, my mortgage payment can be at most $X-$Y, and since I have a car anyway, I don't mind driving it for ten hours a week, so I might as well live way out in the boonies to maximize the amount of house I can get for $X-$Y."
But all of that unravels if you revisit the initial assumption that a car is necessary, and look at non-car housing options for $X. In many North American cities, a car really is necessary. But it's not everywhere, and it's getting better all the time.
If you're running yourself ragged at work, ask yourself why you're doing so. If it's because of a perceived social obligation to do so, then it's up to you to recognize it's just that - it's social pressure, not a physical force keeping you at your desk.
We don't exist in a vacuum. Any number of things could be holding you back, some of which you don't actually control.
You're telling me that nobody in that Amazon warehouse who is unhappy has the ability to get a job doing something else?
It makes no sense to me why masses of people are okay with giving their prime waking hours, in the prime years of their life to earn a wage. Then we relegate living to nights and weekends. Being able to retire with the health and wealth to live your dreams is a crapshoot at best.
I realize it is a process but I would love to see more companies treat this as almost the ultimate quality of life perk they could offer.
That's where the answer lies.
I don't think anyone is OK with it, just that you as a low level worker have zero agency to do anything about it. The people at the top of the company who could make these decisions for the rest of the employees probably don't even work a rigid 40 themselves, so they might not be aware of the issue at all.
Do you make any exceptions? Seems weird for someone who might need to discuss something will need to wait until Monday.
If it’s really critical you could set up a meeting on Friday or Saturday or Sunday. Or you can send an email and maybe they’ll answer on the “weekend”.
If a SCUD missile isn't headed toward the office, what makes one think people in working four days a week will answer email on the weekend?
There's really little difference between a two day weekend and a three day weekend.
I'd assume there's exceptions for things like "the site is down", though.
My wife is a part-time accountant and for her it's working out nicely. She spends maybe 2-3 hours every week on generic stuff like coordination, meetings or bureaucracy which she would also spend at 40h.
For Engineers, this ratio is absurdly different. To speak in a cloud metaphor, Engineers are limited by I/O bandwidth and not by compute or RAM.
Because you need to learn so much about general coding, languages, algorithms, architecture, frameworks, domain specific expertise and whatnot AS WELL AS coordinate with stakeholders, on-location and upstream contributors, reviewers, managers, architects, QA, ... — they spend maybe 2-3 hours net of _actually writing code_.
The rest of the week is spent on how and why to write that code in the first place.
Once I understood the fundamental difference, the allure of crunch mode made a whole lot more sense to me. For 10-50% more time, you can get a whopping 100-500% in output for a short time. Compare that with the negative efficiency of adding more people (which, as we all know, will make the project later).
A 30h workweek would work into the opposite direction. For 25% less time, you might get 50-70% less productivity.
Not gonna happen. Sorry.
No you can't. Not quality output anyway. After a few hours writing code even the best engineers stop being productive and the quality goes down. From an ignorant manager's perspective this might be true, but it's not reality. Most people cannot code well for more than about five hours or so anyway. There's still plenty of time for bureaucratic bullshit. Of course to managers, people are robots to be pushed to the max and exploited. That's why ridiculous thinking like the above exists. And this isn't even taking into account the negative consequences on the employee being forced to work long hours over even a short period of time like a few days to a week which build up and start to reduce quality even further even in the five or so hours that could be productive. It is just a stupid managerial delusion to think putting in more time coding will be more productive, thinking completely removed from reality.
I'd would agree that there is a lot of bureaucracy in knowledge worker's days. Cutting that by an hour per day would have similar productivity gains.
Like for me, all my thinking can happen off work, in the shower, when sleeping, etc. So I really don't need to be at work very much and actively working. And beyond 6h my brain can't produce ideas anymore anyways, so crunch seems useless as a developer, at least for me personally it doesn't make me more productive.
I don’t think my career has had a negative impact - all the companies (a mix of v early startups and large multinationals) have been very supportive, and I’ve managed to do some of my best professional work during this time.
The work life balance is really great this way. It’s clearly not an option if you need that fifth day to pay the bills, but if that’s not the case then it’s worth considering. One slight negative is not having time to learn new skills or work on side projects in the evenings - I’m too exhausted! - but I’ve also been lucky to be able to learn everything I need on the job, so it hasn’t mattered much up till now.
What surprises me (VC backed founder topping out at 40 hours per week) the most is how having an aspiration to work less is seen as a goal that needs to be in some way defended - why does everyone (feel they have to pretend to) love work so much? I literally felt the need to create a blog about the perils of overwork  just to help justify to myself why it's OK that I don't want to spend more time working (result = peace of mind that I'm not letting the entire world down by not working myself into the ground)... Of course, a lot of this pressure is in my head, but these standards are informed by society's . I have worked jobs where 60 hours per week was the _aspiration_, where leaving at 6PM was met with snide remarks of "taking a half day" and I could count on one hand the number of senior business leaders I've encountered in my career who paid more than lip service to any notion of work-life balance.
I look forward to the continuing changes in and challenges to the work ideals of high performing businesses as the composition of the workforce changes over the coming decades and (politics aside) commend movements like 4 Day Week campaign and 30hourjobs.com for their role in accelerating this progress.
I’ve tried to splice this as 4x7,5 and 5x6 and I prefer the latter _by far_, even if this means one more day of commuting. After 6 hours in front of the computer my mental energy is spent and I’m basically running of the clock on the clients dime. It’s demotivating and I’d much rather spend that time at home with my family and/or exercising.
Would we suddenly be unable to produce and offer all the goods and services needed to sustain ourselves as a society? I doubt it. I think we'd all just be happier working less and enjoying ourselves more.
It is different though if only some businesses make that shift, because then they might be uncompetitive against other businesses. And in today's global economy, it is harder to say the impact against companies in other countries where there is already a big gap on the work week.
Step 1, Save up 200 vacation hours at company.
Step 2, From April-August take a vacation request, every Friday off. Willing to work during dumpster fire if needed.
Step 3, enjoy your 4 day work week.
Note Need to work at a legit company who cares about employees well being.
8 x 4 = 32 hours used per month x 5 months = 160 hours of vacation leaving your 40 hours of vacation for sick/emergency days.
You also will earn more vacation during this time for a little bit of wiggle room.
This is assuming you do not want to use your vacation for a legit 1-2 week vacation.
EDIT: I profusely apologize for this comment. It's been a rough morning, and the math didn't check out in my head at first. Step 1 from the parent comment should work just fine with the number of vacation days I listed, since 30 days * 8 hours = 240 hours.
> This is assuming you do not want to use your vacation for a legit 1-2 week vacation.
So you need to work at a company who cares about your well-being and also agrees that shorter weeks are better for you than taking actual vacations.
(Or of course have more than 25 days off in a year, which lots of people do.)
I work as an engine mechanic for an auto chain in the midwest, and can confirm we're persistently understaffed with qualified trade-skill educated employees. random 10 hour days in our shop are not unheard of depending on if the customer is a fleet job or not.
We tried 6 day work weeks, where we offered just oil changes on saturdays, and even that proved a little hectic for apprentices and new employees (they eventually started calling it saturday suck-work.) Customers were also furious that we only did oil/air and nothing else, so management predictably caved and our saturdays are reduced hours, but with full mechanics on site anyhow.
Pay for us stayed the same, but before we start talking about reduced work days, we need to address the absolute shortage of competent trade-skilled labor in this country. HVAC, plumbing, electrical, automotive, machinists, professional drivers and boilermakers...these arent just things that get done by anyone, but they keep the world running.
It is hard to run a B2B business without people around all 5 days.
Planning is key here. No one is saying the whole office needs off on the same day.
They have to organize it such that the office doesn't shut down completely on Fridays but that's not so hard, swapping weeks with someone is usually possible.
An interesting effect of this is retention: once people are used to working two fewer days a month, they are very reluctant to lose that "perq."
As a random point of comparison, in Germany an employee has a legal right to work part-time unless the employer can prove your job can only be done full-time. "We'd have to hire more people" is not proof. Your benefits would not change but you'd earn N% less money, based on how much less you work. IIRC the maximum is half-time. I have no idea how often it's used but in principle it's an awesome idea if you want to change your life up, have kids, get a PhD, whatever. (I don't remember whether you have a right to go back to full-time, but I think you do not.)
I'm starting in august every other week I take the Friday and Monday off creating a 4 day weekend. I'm hoping to use this time to do more music, to prepare food for a better diet (I'm overweight because I never have the energy and time to really take better care of my food habits) and perhaps even work on some interesting home automation projects.
We start temporarily for half a year and revisit the decision end of January. Money wise I'm just going back where I was 2 years ago so that's quite ok. The only drawback I can see is that the work projects accumulate 2 days of changes which I will need to catch up to every other week.
There will be differences in outcome between people who work 30 vs 60 hours in any given industry. Not in all individual cases, but generally.
People will commute less, use less aircon at the office, and so on. The economy is either unaffected or maybe even cools down a bit, creating ripple effects that lead to further reduction of emissions.
It was also possible for families to have just the one parent out working. That parent would also be back home in time to watch the six o clock news. People did not go on two hour commutes.
We accepted all of the changes positively. For instance, it was great that women could now do the same jobs as men. It was nice to have the shops open when you were not working. It was convenient to be able to buy stuff late in the evenings, including alcohol from places other than pubs. Sundays were not boring or difficult if you had run out of milk.
Education in those days was also about preparing the younger generation for a future where there would be leisure time. On the syllabus were lessons on how to use that time. But it did not pan out, this generation ended up working more hours than what the teachers imagined, paying for their education, being burdened with debts, unable to afford a home and having to sit in traffic jams on absurd commutes.
Why do we do this?
There is a rent-seeking class that we collectively have to pay for. The few that own the property, that have the capital and don't actually work. Sure they work, making sure that people pay their rents, but this work does not add value to the economy. We were sold this as 'trickle down economics' where the rich, by having more money, would have more crusts available for the poor.
None of us can step out of this situation. To do so would involve loss of the roof over one's head, destitution and worse. We just have to do the best we can and hope matters somehow improve for the next generation.
In the world of programming we can carve a niche working differently, to escape the tyranny of modern day capitalism. But nobody is of the strength to get into office and un-do the changes that have been made to society by the neoliberal revolution.
It was great to be able to break the work week in half so that you only work two days in a row. It makes every Mon/Tue feel like a Thu/Fri because Wed is a "mini weekend".
Just seems like a very unsustainable equilibrium without some sort of legal backstop by the government.
Do you work as an employee and get a special deal to work for four days? Has anyonee tried this? Did you take a paycut?
But to me, currently working 60 hours in my startup (sleeping well, eating well and exercising, without children and with a good social life). 40 hours does not seem like much. Am I missing something?
If I worked only 9-5, I would pick a side project, as I would feel like I wasn't challenged though.
I understand having a family would change this. I can see how if I had 3 kids, a 30 hour week would be a blessing.
But we can't assume the same optimal number of hours for everyone. 40 hours is nothing for a single person with few responsibilities.
Wrong. I'm single with few responsibilities and 40 hours is still way too much. Just because you like to be a workaholic doesn't mean you can generalize that to apply to everyone else.
A government that is concerned about its citizens could balance this power dynamic.
This mindset seems so simple and basic to me, could someone enlighten me on the other side of this argument wouldn't almost everyone's life be better if we enacted policies like these?
I agree with you entirely. Most people don't see themselves as exploited. Yet when the salary to hourly calculation happens and then an adjustment for actual hours worked happens (a regular 60 hour work week instead of a 40) lots of salaries suddenly look much different in the eyes of those making them.
I spent the entirety of my career working in the US and Canada, and to me it seems that no more than 80% of our collective effort goes into creating and maintaining the wonderful advanced society that we enjoy. Instead of stopping at 80% so that we can enjoy our lives, we work the extra 20%, mostly so that the rich can get a bit richer.
The alternative route of reducing the duration of each workday with the 5 workday week isn't much different from what we have today: some end up working longer hours, some work the bare minimum number of hours they are required. Enforcing shorter days means that the gap between the hard workers and those who are just showing up for the hours will increase even further, increasing performance gaps in the workplace and unfairly punishing dedication and productivity.
> There is no consensus about which of 5 workdays to drop to get there
As a company (or better yet as a society), just redefine the weekend as Friday – Sunday, or Saturday – Monday. I don't think anyone is proposing a free-for-all approach where people get to pick and choose which day they take off.
> Enforcing shorter days means that the gap between the hard workers and those who are just showing up for the hours
I have a hard time understanding this mentality. The law and your labor contract only requires you to work 40 hours. Some people may choose to work more than that, but to what end? So you get to feel superior to your coworkers? If the law reduced the work week to 30 hours, would you seriously hold it against people to spend more time at home with their families?
Some people would unfortunately, but it should still be done.
Balanced time at home/away from work. More time with kids, more nurtured kids, more successful kids. Same thing goes for the individual. More time to yourself, less burn out, better long quality work output, less stressful work environment.
There is likely a good middle ground between butt in chair hours and productivity. This discussion is merely debating what that number is. The GP comment doesn't contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way, imo.
edit: but -> butt
In any case there are other methods to distribute workers over four days while keeping 24x7 or just 9x5 or any other business hours arrangement.