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We work a 4-day week and just raised $4.75m (ryanleecarson.tumblr.com)
452 points by ryancarson 2125 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 179 comments

Nice post. Proactive work. Thinking outside the box. Getting things done. Very encouraging. Sounds like a place where I would want to work.

Just one major nit...

(This is directed not only to OP, but to everyone in our industry.)

Raising funding != success.

As inspiring as this post was, it would have been so much better with a title like:

"We work a 4-day week and just satisfied 10,000 new customers."


"We work a 4-day week and just realized $10m new profit."

Great work, guys. But please don't allow this "success" to let you take your focus away from the real metrics. I assume you already know this, but every once in a while, it still nice to say that which should go without saying.

He picked the right headline, IMO.

There are a gazillion profitable software businesses. Some work reasonable hours.

There are very few funded software businesses and I can think of exactly zero that work 4-day work weeks.

I think Ryan's path is an awesome one. Step #1- get internet famous. Pay your dues, run conferences, build a popular blog, become a thought leader. Not a ton of equity to be built doing this, but it's a solid business. Step #2- Build a product tailored to the audience you've created. Step #3 - Tell everyone how effortless Step #2 is. :-) 37Signals took this path. Sarah Lacey did, too-- with PandoDaily. Om Malik is now an (awesome) partner at True Ventures (after being a really well regarded writer and entrepreneur with GigaOm). Edit: Actually, it could be argued that Patio11 of HackerNews took this path (but perhaps not on purpose).

To be entirely clear-- I'm not being sarcastic. I think this is a smart/awesome path. Not much gives you more leverage than an big audience that's chock full of influencers.

You summed it up pretty well. We put in 10 years of hard work to have an overnight success :P

How long ago did you have Treehouse mapped out for development?

The first bullet point on my list of our achievements was "Achieved profitability".

I fully agree with you.

Forgot to mention. We just hit 10,000 paying customers as well. Yay!

Maybe you should change the headline to "We work a 4-day week and have 10,000 paying customers".

I don't equate raising money with success. 10k paying customers speaks for itself.

Raising money is absolutely a milestone on the journey to success.

Congrats to Treehouse on raising the funding necessary to continue expanding the business and delighting customers. Bollocks to the haters who have no clue on how to build a business.

"Raising money is absolutely a milestone on the journey to success."

Go tell that to DHH :)

I personally like it more this way:

"Profiting is absolutely a milestone on the journey to success."

Different perspectives, I guess. No hate.

The difference is I agree that both funding and profiting are milestones on the success journey. Whereas the person I responded to apparently does not. And it's not clear that you do either.

i think the point is that raising money and building a business are orthogonal. some businesses need external capital. some don't.

I went through the library and I see most of the videos are pretty short. There is hardly 40 minutes of video on html5, same is true for iOS programming. At this point, I would prefer free Stanford courses over treehouse. What am I missing here?

Ryan, how do you handle customer support requirements on the days where everyone is out of the office? Customers who are working on Fridays like to have access to timely support.

This is what's preventing me from going 4 days a week.

They don't necessarily have to work the same 4d week.

Our Support Team works 7 days a week right now. Full time M-Th and then three hours on each day between (F,S,S).

We're going to hire more support folks so we can start rotating the Team and give them true 4-day weeks.

Well they tell some users to visit Facebook in response to support questions. Unacceptable if you ask me.

If they have enough users that don't mind it, it's perfectly acceptable.

I never understood this american obsession with "customer support" anyway. In my country we almost NEVER call "customer support" for software and web services. What would they tell you? Which buttons to click?

I never thought that was an "American obsession". If it is, you might want to borrow from those Americans. Customer Support is not only a way to help users better use your product, it's also a chance to know your customer better. It's an opportunity to see through the eyes of a layman. If it's as simple as telling someone what button to push, use it as a chance to humanize your product. If it's really that simple, you both look like a genius (ok...not really) and really need to build a better FAQ.

Yes, in my experience of tech support, I often did have to tell the user what buttons to click.

I'm curious how it works in your country. What would a non-technical user do if they had a problem? What if you're a paying user of a web service and you start having a problem with it?

Check the manual - help, and if that fails, ask a more tech-savvy friend. As a Computer Scientist, I get asked all the time, but any computer-savvy friend will do really.

With the exception of disruptions of service, 99% of such problems are on the client side.

Come to think of it, one reason is that most software companies don't provide call centers and tech support in my country/language anyway (with a few exceptions, like MS, Adobe and of course the enterprisey stuff), and calling abroad would incur some major costs, especially if you are put in waiting. So, we learned not to rely on technical support at all.

Actually it should be an obsession not from the customer but from the company. People like quick, helpful responses when they are stuck due to a bug or confusing feature or a payment issue. Companies that obsess over support benefit from it.

There's still a difference between profitability and customer satisfaction.

yes, and investors ultimately only care about one of them.

That's my point. We've somehow shifted from caring not about customers, but about investors. It's sad.

Getting to profitability isn't as noteworthy (from a startup POV) as raising an A-round from working 4 days a week.

To whom? I'm just a regular guy and I'm not impressed at all by raising money, I've seen utterly incompetent people do it. I am supremely impressed by someone getting 10k paying customers.

> (from a startup POV)

Sorry, I'm a regular startup guy, having just started (co-founded) my own a few months ago.

"Getting to profitability isn't as noteworthy (from a startup POV) as raising an A-round from working 4 days a week."

What we have found here in the UK, is without profitability, raising an A-round is near enough impossible. The UK Start-up/Inventment scene is still very much in it's infancy and investors are reluctant to give sums anywhere near the figure Ryan has quoted without a 'profitable' business. Well done to the team for creating a fantastic service all whilst spending time with family, highly commendable!

Then I have a great business proposition for you! It's easy... for the past month we hung around a street corner and for everybody who paid us $1 we gave them $1 back with a SMILE! We've done this with 10K paying customers so far! We also sold a packet of sweets worth $1 to my aunt for $2; she's always had a soft spot for me. We're profitable! :D I believe in my product so much I haven't even taken a salary, amazing huh?! And I believe with a $10 million investment we can scale this to 10 million paying customers within 1 year! Wanna invest?! [Oh and in year 2 I'm taking a $10 million salary.]

I'm obviously being facetious and while I don't want to be "that guy" dismissing what appears to be a very respectable business, mentioning revenue & customer numbers without mentioning profit values or percentages irks me.

This is probably because of 8 seasons of Dragon's Den and 3 seasons of Shark Tank that have impressed upon me just how few people understand that a large turnover means nothing; "turnover is vanity; profit is sanity". It's not easy to achieve a large turnover, sure, but it's also meaningless unless it is associated with a reasonable net profit.

Having read through a few more comments I suspect the author's business is probably turning a decent net profit, but, nevertheless, the post seems incomplete without this data or at least some form of confirmation (e.g. "our net profit is between 10-20%").

Yes, profit is the thing that impresses me even more than paying users. We're talking about investment vs users as a metric, not investment vs anything else.

I don't follow? What is the meaning of "investment vs users"? Surely "# users" as a metric only makes sense within a specific business model that ultimately resolves down to a figure of "profit/user", which reinforces my point that discussing revenue, users and investment without the final part of the equation - expenses & profit - is an incomplete discussion. With any equation you can come up with huge numbers for any of the terms but if you don't reveal all the terms you cannot determine the profit - what is the value of the discussion in that case?

EDIT: On HackerNews, a place for entrepreneurs and consequently the presumably financially literate, I'm being downvoted for pointing out that terms are missing from the profit & loss equation being presented, with nobody stepping up to explain why there's something wrong with my criticism?

I didn't downvote, but I'm guessing your lengthy and sarcastic analogy was the culprit. It comes off as needlessly combative. Tone can overwhelm the message.

EDIT: it only takes one or two people out of all HN users to make it look like everyone's against you, so I try not to take DVs to heart.

I appreciate your reply and your point, but my tone was intentional and I believe in this context it is well warranted.

I think it's great to be excited at the potential for success, and the reason I come to HN is because it is invigorating and motivating to see the success of others, and to learn from their experiences.

However we must not forget that the vast majority of small businesses fail. In the best case, that's the entrepreneur's money and time expended; hopefully on the upside some lessons were learned and the financial hit is not too bad. In the worst case, it can be the life savings of investors that may be family and friends, as well as relationships, that are lost; furthermore, bankruptcy is a distinct possibility. So, my feeling is this is extremely serious stuff that requires direct, hard-hitting commentary - not a softened message that's potentially easily dismissed.

Business is combative - it's always competitive. If people are quick to ignore the realities of the most basic details of business (the profit & loss equation), and take offence when that criticism is presented, does that not seem a bit of a concern? Would you invest in somebody like that?

Humm... no

Profitability is more important.

There are examples to the contrary (Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc) but if you're profitable this means you are providing a worthy service (unless you're in the 'Nigerian Prince' business), and people are willing to pay you!

Never underestimate the power of people actually paying you.

Well, for one, he isn't saying that fundraising is more important. Just that in Startup Land, the culture seems to find it more "noteworthy". For better or for worse, that seems to be the case.

As for the age-old debate of profitability vs fundraising, it's not a black and white issue. And I don't know why people so often feel the need to try and turn it into one.

Profitability is great. You're right -- it's a signal that you're providing a valuable service. But as you pointed out, there are many examples to the contrary, and rightly-so: because achieving profitability is not the only way to build a valuable business. And even for companies who do focus on charging customers rather than, say, getting tons of users, raising money is often an important step on the path to eventual success.

I disagree.

It is not possible to build a valuable business without achieving profitability. Over a long-enough time period, the value of a non-profitable business will revert to zero.

If a business is valuable, it is because the market (or investors) believe either

a.) It is going to make profits at some point in the future. b.) It is going to be an attractive acquisition for another company (who are presumably only going to buy it if they believe it will enhance their long term profitability).

Of course there is c.) , which is when investors buy into something because they believe someone else will come and buy it off them in the future for a greater amount of money. If we've reached this point, it is a sure sign of a bubble (cf Tulip fever in the Netherlands).

I agree with (A). In situation (B), the company being acquired was not profitable and may not have been on a path toward profitability, and yet was of value to another company, which seems to go against your thesis. And situation (C) is literally the prime motivation of every investment ever made for reasons other than charity.

And situation (C) is literally the prime motivation of every investment ever made for reasons other than charity.

It really isn't.

Some of us invest in things because we expect that in the long run the pay-off will be greater than the investment. In business terms, that means that the cost of buying into a company is less than the profit you are expecting to realise through dividends over the long run.

The idea (modern trend?) of having companies that pay no dividends, whose shares are valuable only because someone else might buy them for more money later, seems to me to be exactly what tomgallard said: a sure sign of a bubble.

I've often wondered why we allow companies, particularly publicly traded ones, to sit on an ever-growing war chest rather than paying out their profits to investors as dividends. I don't know enough grown-up economics to appreciate the realistic consequences of regulating that kind of behaviour, but the zero-dividend, war-chest approach seems to promote all the wrong behaviours in terms of markets and investors, assuming your goal is to have a healthy economy that promotes making useful products and providing useful services.

> I've often wondered why we allow companies, particularly publicly traded ones, to sit on an ever-growing war chest rather than paying out their profits to investors as dividends.

Because we believe that a large, successful company has investment options available to it that are not available to Joe Average, and can achieve a better return on that capital for its investors than they would be able to achieve themselves if it were returned immediately as a dividend. If you disagree with that analysis, you can easily vote with your investment dollars.

I appreciate that large companies do have other options today, for better or worse.

What I'm asking is whether we should allow them to exercise those options. Doing so, as you hinted in your own comment, means that large companies have to become skilled investors, and this will inevitably become a significant or even the dominant part of their existence instead of actually making useful things or providing useful services.

As we've observed all too recently, not all of those extra investment options are quite as effective as they were supposed to be. Moreover, any investment option that is legitimate could probably offered to (now richer) individual investors if large companies were not allowed to use it. So I'm not sure where the big downside is of restoring the natural links between companies that do socially useful things like make good products, companies that make profits, and companies that are attractive to outside investors when they need extra funding to grow faster.

Alternatively, if these companies are going to be allowed to invest their profits on behalf of their own shareholders, perhaps it's about time they were regulated as financial institutions. If nothing else, shareholders should be protected from senior management who are erroneously convinced that they can do a better job gambling^Winvesting their shareholders' profits than the shareholders themselves can do of choosing where to spend a legitimate return on their investment.

I was thinking more in terms of investments related to the company's business (e.g.: Apple pre-paying billions of dollars to lock up massive amounts of flash storage or to fund new factories for suppliers) that often have a much higher ROI than any investment you or I might reasonably make in any investment available to us.

Large companies carrying trading/gambling departments not related to the rest of their business is, as you say, probably not a good thing.

Sure, if the money is being spent on things like stock and operating expenses that are a normal part of the business, I have no problem with that. If it's being done on an industrial scale and there are economies that go with that, it makes perfect sense. I'm just not convinced that (for example) certain large tech companies -- particularly those that are in the software or services businesses rather than in manufacturing -- need reserves on the scale they are holding for the kinds of purposes we're talking about here, which leads me to ask why the rest isn't being paid out in dividends to shareholders.

It's not about whether we force companies to pay out all their profits as dividends. It's about whether a publicly-traded stock should carry any dividend, or no dividend.

If it's no dividend, then the stock is only valuable as a flip-asset. If it's got any dividend at all, then the stock has real value as an income stream.

Why does every Hacker News post involving venture financing have to have a discussion about how "companies should focus on making revenue"? this never used to happen as frequently.

Let's call it "Bubble Froth" - the excitement and frenzy the startup community has around financing and funding.

"Tiny bubbles... In the whine..."

The other point about being profitable is that one's runway extends from being counted in months, to being infinite.

Which in itself is sad. Profitability, providing employment, and creating a better quality of life for all those involved.

Funding is great, but the above sounds like a better measure of success to me.

after all funding is just a way of saying 'we persuaded some people to lend us some money'. (I know- equity finance is different in some respects)

Is 'the Bank just lent us $ million' as impressive as 'we reached profitability?

It certainly shouldn't be.

I think the point is that working 4 days a week didn't preclude them from raising money from investors. Not that funding is the key metric, but to show working extremely long hours isn't a pre requisite to raising money.

I think that the two items are related, though. Could they have raised an A-round working just four days a week on a startup that was not profitable? I doubt it. If anyone knows of any cases where that happened, though, I'd be interested in seeing them.

That's true -- entrepreneurs are faster to adapt than VCs. I guess because VCs don't have good metrics for intermediate stages toward success, and "how long are you in the office each week" is something they use.

A startup that gets to the same place without funding isn't noteworthy?

As the only CDN / video delivery network to bootstrap and stick around for a decade without funding, I'd say it's usually not considered noteworthy.

Tech press looks at funding and the stable of investors as validation that a company is worth covering. "How much money have you taken?" and "Who are your investors?" seem to rank above covering how the tech works or if it's unique, both for journalists and for prospective acquirers.

But the dichotomy here is specifically the thought that venture capitalists require portfolio companies to work 6-7 day weeks.

Agreed. The title should say profitable at 3 mill a year and working 4 days a week... Funding was a side note.

There is something deeply broken about equating hours to productivity.

It's been my experience that folk are very good at deceiving themselves about their productivity (myself included :-)

One team I worked with had a serious problem with overtime. They were putting in stupid hours and it was showing in the quality of work going out. So I ran an experiment where we all agreed to work "normal" hours for six weeks.

I was "only" working about 45 hours a week at this point, when other people on the team were regularly working 50-60. I was relatively young, didn't have any family pressure, enjoyed my work and felt very productive doing those hours. I wasn't one of the people with a "problem" as I saw it. We were running the experiment for the other folk on the team.

In the experiment we dropped to a 40 hours week (6 hours coding per day, 2 hours for breaks, meetings & lunch). After a couple of weeks adjustment my productivity went way up. I also felt a lot better in myself - generally sharper and more on the ball.

People seem to have quite a wide bad of "this feels okay" that subsumes the much narrower "I'm performing at my best".

Also people don't jump from a 35 hour week to 60 hours a week. It creeps up a few minutes at a time as pressure increases on the team. People have enough time to adjust to it being "normal" and don't notice the drop in productivity that goes with it.

Currently I work roughly 25-30 hours a week and am just as productive by all metrics that I have available to me as when I worked 40-50.

I would strongly urge people to experiment. Pick some metrics, try working shorter hours for a month, see what happens.

(The only caveat I would add is that with folks doing silly hours - anything over 50 I would say - there is often a couple of weeks where things go to hell as the body adjusts. On the team from the story practically everybody caught a bug and felt crap for the first week or so before productivity rose again).

It's funny how the body adjusts. At my last company (I was a director. 1 of 4) we had a MASSIVE problem with working long ours. At the end I was working 100 hour weeks (I only ever had time to eat sleep and work). I pulled the plug after a few years of these self imposed insane hours. You would assume all would be well then but what happened next was completely unexpected.

I fell ill 3 times in the following 3 months, and I was on holidays! Previously I hadn't been sick for years. After a bit of researching I discovered after a period of intense stress, it's pretty common to get sick once you remove that stress.

I remember back in school, I would always get sick during the vacation after an exam. I'm pretty sure it wasn't confirmation bias, and with what you're saying, it even seems plausible.

Do you have any links to that research?

That true. My bro, a doctor, actually said that mortality rates dramatically increase during a short time (3yr) after retirement. Rapidly removing stress can be as bad for your health as prolonged exposure to it.

Meh.. wouldn't you expect mortality rates to increase dramatically as one approaches the end of their life? Correlation ≠ causation.

This falling ill thing is really interesting and not something i'd come across before. This perhaps goes someway to explaining why it's quite easy to get ill over the Christmas period. The stress in getting all your work done before the break and then an immediate halt of pressure.

I had the same coming from working similar hours at a game company. I took two weeks off between jobs and had a massive crash, which took me months to recover from

Great comment - thanks.

The only area we're currently battling the non-4-day-week is with our Support Team. They're currently working 4-day weeks plus about 3 hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

We're hoping to scale that part of the Team so they can get on the 4-day week as well.

Why not hire a support person for Thursday -> Sunday? I know it's not an ideal schedule for someone, but think of the entire restaurant business...

Are you a contractor? Or do you have a cool employer who's willing to let you work 25-30 hours a week?

Co-founder of own company. I don't think either of us count as cool though :-)

And we don't do it to be nice. We do it to be efficient.

Thanks for trolling, Ryan.

It's easy to think this is impressive, but the reader forgets about the number of years Ryan has worked on creating businesses. He has made awesome stuff, but all that time can't be ignored. The suggestion that others can easily do it too if only they were less "messed up/caught up in old manufacturing ways", is some smug shit.

These crazy hard-working Americans are trying to figure out their first startup, with very limited resources. It's a different game, and they are in a different place in the food chain.

I am sure if they too have sold multiple companies and worked in the industry for 10+ (?) years, they too would adopt all kinds of relaxed ways of working and running firms. I agree that if they still work long hours after that, it is misguided as you point out.

But lets not get carried away with how the 1% works. How many days a week did you work on your first company?

We've been working the 4-day week since 2006, when I hired my very first employee. I distinctly remember us hitting £10,000 in our bank account. It was huge.

This proves it's possible, even when you're young, stressed and unprofitable.

So you were around 28. I completely agree with your post and it hits home for me. But to a hustling 21 year old, who is super passionate and has nothing else going on and really, doesnt quite know what he/she is doing -- I think that 5th day would just be spent playing video games or being hungover.

I think that 5th day would just be spent playing video games or being hungover

You say that as if it was a bad thing.

People need fun. It makes them feel better. People who feel better work better and are more productive. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that an extra day of fun makes the four days more productive than the five days of work.

Hours worked is a lousy way to measure the contribution a person makes to the organisation.

I believe the proper metric should be "profitability delivered per # of hours". If I can be more profitable, in less time, that should be more valuable than how many hours as a whole I've worked.

You're describing someone who's lazy, not a 21 year old. The point is to give that person more time to do whatever they want. If you hire the right people they wouldn't be the type that play video games and drink all day.

Hold on, who are you to judge people on that? If someone wants to drink and play video games all day on their fifth day, then good for them! If they are producing quality work, then what does it matter? There is this obsession with productivity in the US and the startup community in general that I find incredibly distasteful. People are already risking their financial lives for startup businesses and you're going to come on here saying that's not good enough. That's typical Silicon Valley hivethink.

Maybe you need to get out of the office more, bud.

Remember he was targeting 21 year olds. As a 21 year old I can confirm that not all of us just drink and play video games. As I said "The point is to give people time to do whatever they want." I don't care what you do or how old you are, I'm just not going to be sitting on my ass all day when I could be doing something productive or be "out of the office."

Who are these 21-year-olds intelligent and passionate enough for a start-up with nothing else going on?

Great comment :)

I still disagree that your case is the average and that your situation can be used to model any young startup. Don't get me wrong, I admire what you're doing and the strong statement you're making about productivity and balancing priorities. I just agree with the above comment that it sounds a bit smug, especially by the title. There's an implied message of "I rode this methodology to ~$5M in funding, so you can too", and I think that makes a huge oversight that this is the same company that hosts some of the largest international developer/new technology conferences six times every year. Aren't you also the owner of the company that hosts FOWA, FOWD and FOM twice a year each? Doesn't that at least deserve a mention? "This works for us, but we also have the kind of industry connections and positioning that practically predisposes us to this kind of funding the second we're in the black anyway"

What I think happened here is that you did a number of things right which affords you this flexibility in hours. I would say the real story is that you made something of value vs the free-but-pointless model we read about much more often these days. You built a business around something valuable with a relatively high price point that makes it less of a victim of the kind of scalability issues that "general public" web based services are dealing with.

I think the bigger take away would be: If you make something awesome for the general public that millions of people will be using all day long, plan to work seven days a week 'round the clock and there's no guarantee you'll ever see a penny. If you come up with something valuable that people would be willing to pay $25-$50 a month for, your life will be much, much more enjoyable and you might actually get to watch your kids grow up and/or have some time left for your hobbies.

There's quite enough "we worked 100h weeks and ate ramen on our road to success" stories out there to balance this one out, don't worry.

from what I remember Ryan has been doing this for a long time. Probably during the time that most of us were thinking - oh shit I better work weekends as well.

I don't know how he did it, but his posts suggest he built the company this way, not just introduced it as a working practice later on. Maybe some employees will post here what they actually worked... although I don't doubt there were weeks that were more than 4 days.

But that aside, I have my own project, I won't call it a startup yet. I work on it evenings and weekends, maybe that adds up to 2 days per week total, the rest of the time I freelance to earn $.

So for me, Ryan is not just providing an aspiration of work/life balance, but actually that you can build a company in the first place without having to work 7 days per week.

I don't think he's trolling. It's good to have alternative working model. You've heard companies prided themselves on working incredibly hard and long hours all the times. Advocating working less is rarer to be heard. Ryan is presenting an alternative model, with profitable data to back it up.

The first startup I worked for was cash poor and I agreed to lower wages in return for a 4 day week. Bear in mind that this was in Ireland in the late 1990's and there was never any mention of shares etc. There was however a very competitive market for anyone who could turn on a computer.

At the time three other companies wanted me to work for them doing web design & development. And each of them had the 60hr a week, no overtime attitude that they were emulating from American companies. However they were not emulating the benefits of these American companies, at no point was a shareholding or options mentioned.

The money was good but I don't think i would have had the time to spend it.

So the smallest company offered me less money but agreed to four days a week. And I agreed. The 2 years I spent represents one of the most productive periods in my working life.

It also gave me time to develop my own ideas on the side while gaining great start-up experience.

Since then I've worked for other companies and myself sometimes pulling 80-100 hours a week. And after a couple of prolonged periods of this I Burned out.

Twice in the past decade.

No amount of cash, shares or experience was worth being burned out.

Now-a-days I do about 4-4.5 days a week, on a contract basis and once again I'm more productive and creative than I have been in 15 years.

Kellogg's went to a 30 hour work week and found productivity vastly improved - http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1093/is_1_42/ai_53697...

'After five years of six-hour work days, the company brass concluded that the "burden (or overhead) unit cost was reduced 25% . . . labor unit costs reduced 10% . . . accidents reduced 41% . . . the severity of accidents (days lost per incident) improved 51% . . . [and] 39% more people were working at Kellogg's than in 1929."'

Thanks for sharing your experience. Really appreciate it.

I spent two 12 month periods working exactly 17 hours a week (German paternity leave is incredibly progressive).

Both times, it worked. When I tried tracking various arbitrary metrics of effectiveness (bugs fixed, commits made, files touched etc.) I found no real difference to working full-time.

I also spent one month working one day a week. During that month my effectiveness also stayed roughly constant, although I sacrificed almost everything that wasn't communication or coding for that month.

My focus during the working times was much higher. I never wasted time writing HN comments when I only had 4 hours to get my work done.

It was also more stressful than working full-time. Everyone else in the company still spent 35 hours a week generating email and commit traffic, which meant I felt I was always playing catch-up with that aspect.

I'd be interested to see what it's like when everyone in the company works a 4 day week.

> I never wasted time writing HN comments when I only had 4 hours to get my work done.

Sounds like you never were doing more than 4 hours work.

How many actually do more than 4 hours of work in a day? Installing a monitoring tool like RescueTime can get you some interesting results about how many hours you are actually being productive. RescueTime says I'm currently doing about 56 hours of work a week, of which 60% are productive.

That's cute, but why do I have to be in the office? If you're discarding useless traditions, start with that one. It leads to wonderful things like: flexible hours, goal-based performance rather than time-based performance, and other nifty things like not having to move across the country to change jobs.

Also, why 9-6? Is that a magic number? What about 10 to 5? Is that worse substantially? I doubt it. There's another 22% of your time with your kids back.

I'm pretty sure that we're going to look back at office buildings and the idea of commutes in general as being a huge waste of time.

Unless you're physically manipulating things, there's no reason for it, and it wastes an immense amount of society's resources maintaining millions of square feet of office space. Think of the number of people you could house in the average office building.

I think you're understating the potential downside of telecommuting.

I'll be the first to agree that requiring bums on seats, just because, isn't helping anyone. Likewise, holding all-hands meetings where most people have better things to do and only 25% of the room cares about what is being discussed at any given moment is rarely a good investment of time.

On the other hand, having live interactions with colleagues and real face time is vastly more productive in some contexts than having everyone call into a Skype conference/available on IM/screen-sharing. Communication is simply much more efficient face-to-face than over any remote channel. If you have more than two or three people who need to work closely together, then body language really matters, and the ability to do simple things like scribble a diagram on a bit of paper or have a couple of guys step out for a minute to work through some details without holding up the rest of the group is indispensable.

(I have similar views on flexible hours, BTW. If you allow complete flexibility, to the point where you can no longer rely on the "early" guys overlapping with the "late" guys for more than a token amount of time, communication because a significant burden.)

This doesn't mean everyone needs to be in the office full-time, of course, and I'm all in favour of allowing telecommuting and flexible hours when there's no reason not to. But having people who need to work closely together in the same place for a significant chunk of the working week can have a lot of benefits, and IMHO is not a useless tradition at all.

OTOH, look at some of the open-source projects that are managed successfully by people scattered across the world who rarely, if ever, meet in person.

I've seen the problems with telecommuting that you describe, but I think it's attributable to culture and expectations. If you're adding a layer of telecommuting to a business that's already got well-established conventions for operating out of an office, and all of the baseline expectations, communication channels, feedback cycles, etc. are adapted to face-to-face interaction, then telecommuting probably isn't going to work well, because the telecommuters are going to be significantly out of step with the rest of the company.

If you want it to work, you may actually need to eliminate the office, replace it with a core set of online tools, e.g. wikis, message boards, IRC channels, and force all internal communication through those media, until a new set of conventions and expectations emerge that optimizes 'virtual office' productivity.

I find face-to-face communication is often highly inefficient. Responses are expected at reflex speed, in a fraction of a second, which means those responses necessarily consist of whatever came to mind first, regardless of whether it's correct or useful. Communicating by text, even instant message, means you have time to think about what you're saying. Sure, it may take a little longer per word, but being able to reply more thoughtfully often means better conclusions can be reached in a tiny fraction of the number of words. Big-O speedup beats constant factor slowdown for nontrivial problems.

Isn't what you describe more of a cultural problem, or simply a lack of basic communication skills among the participants?

If I'm talking face-to-face with a couple of other guys, or sitting at my desk with a colleague looking over my shoulder to give me a second opinion on something I'm working on, we don't need one of us to be speaking 100% of the time. The advantage is that you can have instant feedback when it's helpful, which I find is quite often.

If there's a larger meeting going on with a whole group of participants, then hopefully those participants were given enough information to prepare properly in advance, and hopefully someone is in the chair to moderate the discussion and ensure that the pace is sensible and everyone is able to contribute. That's another thing that becomes very much harder when phone lines and network connections are involved, IME.

Your point seems to be that smarter people tend to spend more time listening and thinking and less time talking. I completely agree. I just don't think meeting face-to-face necessarily prevents that. Sometimes you want to compare/evolve ideas at high speed or explain/learn something interactively, and being in the same place helps with that IME. Sometimes you want one person to consider an issue deeply and then report their findings, and maybe a formal document that other people can read, at their own pace and wherever they happen to be, is a better choice in that case. But working in the same location doesn't prevent that either.

9-6 is really just a guide. I'm pretty sure our Team works all sorts of random hours M-Th.

Also, there isn't a requirement to come in to the 'office' unless you're on our Video Team (which requires you to be at the Studio to shoot video).

I'm late to the party, but I figured I'd share how I work as a member of our product team to give a quick example of the flex in our schedule. I work 6-6:45AM (usually answering email, including personal email and catching up with what happened overnight on Twitter). It borders on being difficult to call that stretch of time work since it's general communication stuff, but it's a really useful span of time for getting the day ahead of me figured out. At 6:45AM I help my kids get ready and take them to school, and then work 8AM - 5PM with lunch in there at some point. There are usually hugs and conversations with the kids about their day around 3 when they get home from school.

In general on the product team at Treehouse we try to keep any real-time interaction (IM, video conversations on GoToMeeting) in those 9AM - 6PM hours just to help everyone have some predictable time for collaboration, but overall things are super flexible.

Well, I stand corrected. I took a look at your hiring specs and they seemed pretty office oriented. Being on the other side of the country, it makes me somewhat skeptical when I see that kind of thing - years of 'ass in chair' performance metrics :)

That's cute, but why do I have to be in the office?

Because of the evidence that co-located teams perform better than distributed ones in many situations? See http://delicious.com/adrianh/colocation for some refs.

If people have references to research (rather than anecdotes) that counter this I'd love to see 'em. I mostly work remotely myself - but I completely understand organisations that don't want to work that way.

If I were an investor and someone said to me "We are only going to work 4 days a week since we can do 5 days work in 4." I'd challenge with "so why don't you do 6 days work in 5 days?"

I am mostly playing devils advocate: I think having a 4 day work week is a fantastic recruitment tool. I do wonder though if a young startup raising it's seed financing said "oh, we only work 4 days a week" an investor may raise eyebrows. Regardless, this is a fantastic example of Ryan Carsons' culture resonating throughout the company.

I'd challenge with "so why don't you do 6 days work in 5 days?"

I can imagine a few good answers:

* We need to keep the team: A four day week is a major reason they don't get poached. It's a benevolent lock in. Almost nobody else does this. Just reducing team churn to practically zero probably pays for the extra day in of itself (recruiting is time consuming and expensive).

* We need to grow the team: We need to get more people in a very competitive hiring market. Having three days of your own each week is a major USP for the company. It lets us attract and recruit the best.

* In my experience productivity actually drops if a team works longer hours. I've had teams produce more after moved from about 50 hours coding to about 30 hours coding a week. People suck at estimating how productive they are.

One of our Seed Round investors decided to not participate pro-rata in the A Round because of our 4-day week.

I would respond to the investor with, because it's not about quantity, it's about quality - quality of work AND quality of life. In 2-5 years time, I can't imagine the product would be any better due to that extra day every week.

They're actually working 40-hours weeks still. They just do it in 4 days instead of 5. They've only shifted the hours, they haven't added to them.

If you redefine a workday as 1/6th of 40 hours, then I do 6 days worth of work in 5 days.

The number of days isn't really that important when talking numbers. It's only important when talking psychology. You're more rested after a 3 day break, etc etc.

After a little longer at this company, I may suggest it here. I'd make it clear they're getting the same number of hours, but I'll be happier and more refreshed each week (and more productive), so everyone wins. I don't think it's quite the right time yet, though.

The reply would be, "why don't you invest in manufacturing companies instead of creative companies?"

They have revenue, but at just $3MM in revenue, it still looks like they are operating at a loss.

Doing some quick calcs: $3MM Revenue / 34 employees = $88,235 per employee.

In most major US cities, that wouldn't even cover the base salary of an skilled employee. Not to mention benefits, payroll taxes, etc. Add this to all the equipment costs, office rental space, etc. and they must be operating at a loss.

I've heard that most VCs/Angels consider a company profitable only if they're making an average of $200K/year per employee.

Under these circumstances, it's clear why they took funding because it provides some breathing room for another year or so till they reach true profitability.

Even so, it's still commendable that they're able to hold on to their ideals of a 4-day workweek given their current circumstances.

I've heard that most VCs/Angels consider a company profitable only if they're making an average of $200K/year per employee.

VCs are looking at their ROI, so their view on profitability is based on what they might have in the company - that shouldn't skew the fact that a company might actually be profitable, and with time and growth they will meet those numbers as well.

In most major US cities, that wouldn't even cover the base salary of an skilled employee.

Only if by "most major US cities" you mean San Francisco and New York exclusively. The vast majority of the United States would still be happy to make $88,000/year!

I've also been working a 4-day week this year and it's done me a lot of good. Gone are the days when I sat in the office and wanted nothing more than to run out and never come back. Now, there's plenty of time to rest and programming is fun again. I would recommend this to anyone.

If you're wondering how to get a job like that, here's what I did. Apply for job adverts intended for a rank lower than you're currently at. If you have senior level experience, apply for mid-level positions and say that you can do the same amount of work in less time. Explain that you bring more value, pound for pound, than a less experienced developer.

Interesting, I've heard of 4-day weeks at some large companies, but they're usually 4x 10-hr days, so same total amount of work, just a way of reducing time wasted commuting. Perhaps more common is alternating 5/4-day weeks of 9-hour days (every other Friday off). Making it 4-day weeks of regular-length days is more of a real change.

Henry Ford was one of the first to change. Instead of a 6 day week, he made his factories have a 5 day week, and was willing to pay the same for less work.

We (as a society) need to start changing to a 4 day week.

> Henry Ford was one of the first to change. Instead of a 6 day week, he made his factories have a 5 day week, and was willing to pay the same for less work.

Doubling the minimum wage at the same time, apparently. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford#The_five-dollar_work...

We're a small consulting company, and we have 5-day work weeks, but the last day is spent on personal growth rather than client work.

It basically gives everyone on our team no excuse to not contribute to open source, work on side projects, etc. It's still a pretty new initiative for us, but we're seeing big benefits already internally.

I think the permanent commitment to 4-days is important. It clearly communicates to the Team.

A friend of mine worked in the aerospace industry in California. It's apparently pretty standard there to work a 9/9/80 schedule. 9 hours a day, for 9 days over two weeks. It means that everyone gets a three-day weekend every other week. He loved it!

And he was getting conned out of an extra hour every two weeks!

I think that's usually accounted for by making the non-day-off fridays be 8 hours, so it does add up to 80 hours over two weeks.

I think this article hits the nail on the head regarding 4 day weeks.

I currently work a 4 day week (4x10 hour days) allowing a whole extra day to focus on external activities and interests that i dont get to fully peruse at work due to contraints and/or conflict of interest.

It's such a big change in life style and as Ryan mentioned in the article it fosters such good energy and a totally refreshed feel come a monday morning.

And again just like the employee mentioned in the article it's such a benefit that I wouldn't even consider a move in companies unless it was matched like for like (or better).

I'd prefer to take Monday off than Friday. Going to work places me conveniently in the middle of the city, perfectly placed for some post-work socialising.

The problem with taking Friday off is that it would make my social life incompatible with the people who are aren't. I'd be off doing my weekend things whilst everyone else would be hitting the bars and clubs. Having Monday off would let me finally make better use of my Sundays, and losing Monday night isn't a big deal because it's not normally a big night anyway.

I could see that fitting less well with company processes though. You're more likely to ship something on a Monday than a Friday so that you can be around, so not being there Fridays might not be as big of a deal.

True, but I've always found that despite my insistance that we never release on a Friday, it always seems to end up happening.

Does anyone else wonder why if you're profitable on a $3MM a year revenue with 34 staff you're off raising money?

Ryan Carson is a very well seasoned businessman which i assume is more than financially capable of putting money into a business and clearly has what you'd easily define as a successful business, to me it seems like theres some kind of weakness somewhere if based on those very advantageous circumstances you need to go out and raise money.

Cashflow. You need a lot of extra profit to be able to hire 10 new people. Clearly they don't want to expand organically over time, but perceive a near-term opportunity, and are using outside investors to allow them to grow the company to the next phase.


$3MM with 34 mouths to feed and families to insure, an office to maintain, and infrastructure to build out doesn't exactly seem like a lot of money.

How many days per week did you work on your first company, before you were internet famous?

When I was an employee (developer at various web shops in London) I worked the normal 5-day week.

When I started my first company, I worked 5-days a week for the first year or so, when it was just me. Then before we hired our first employee, we switched to the 4-day week.

Actually, the society as a whole has already passed the point where people have to work 40 hours a week. It's the monetary system that doesn't allow us to enjoy our time here without working ourselves to death.

You are profitable, and have a large base of users. So what is the funding for?

Ryan, fellow American in the UK here...

I totally agree with this mentality, but unfortunately it doesn't work for everyone's business model. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that a majority of my time beyond the 4-day week I currently is the extra time I spend having to deal with inadequate colleagues (whether they be clients or co-workers).

This model works if you have a group of very smart and talented individuals. Finding this 'zen' is extremely difficult...not because it doesn't take hard work, but rather there is a small dosage of luck around it. It also doesn't scale very well, as communication overhead begins to seep into that additional 'hour' of work.

That being said, work-life balance is much more tolerable in Europe/UK, and people are generally more productive here. The US is a purely service-based model now, where soft skills (which are largely time-unmanageable) are king.

Congrats on the funding. You must be chuffed :)

It's definitely harder to work 4-days a week (from a management perspective). More planning and intensity, but I think a lot of businesses could do this if they really wanted to.

"I get to spend 50% more time with my kids"

You've made a good trade. Time is one of the few things we can never get more of once its gone. And the short 10 years or so of prime time with young kids is especially unique. As almost any parent of grown kids will say, its gone before you know it.

I think these posts are something like productivity porn for life hackers or 4 hour work week people.

I definitely agree that 4 truly productive focused days of works beats 5 lackluster uncreative and unfocused days and I applaud creative work/life balance ideas. But, I think 5 truly productive focused days of works beats 4. As PG says, if you think of a startup as a chance to compress your whole working life to just a few years, you can probably attain that prolonged productivity at least for a few years. Yes, worry about burnout, give yourself time, etc... But one of the things startups do to beat big companies is outproduce them.

Obviously for lifestyle businesses and probably a variety of industries this may not apply. YMMV

I love how whenever you say the words "4-day work week" on HN, people roll out the old "lifestyle business" stuff.

It's a mistake to think that a startup's goal is "to beat big companies." Especially by "outproducing them."

Obviously Treehouse is doing fantastically on the revenue front. What big company are trying to "beat" or "outproduce" exactly?

"I get to spend 50% more time with my kids then almost all other dads (three days versus two). Fifty percent. It’s insane."

Why not 'work' at home? I've worked at home for the last 5 or 6 years, and get to spend pretty much all my time with my kids. Now that's insane.

If you're working from home and you're spending all your time with your kids, you probably aren't working much.

I have two kids. I work from home about 10% of the time. When I'm working from home, I have more time for the kids first thing in the morning and when I come home, since the commute is just opening the door. But when I'm WFH, it's not kid-time.

90% of this job is "thinking". You can do that while you're playing with your kids.

You can be looking after kids, whilst designing in your mind what you need to do next, planning out what code needs writing and how to solve problems.

Sure, every so often I'll take myself away to a separate room if I need to work on something with my full attention, but that's rare.

I don't feel the need to separate my life into "work" and "not work". I just do things when they need doing and when I feel like I want to do them.

(Just my 2c, YMMV).

I wish I had your ability to do multiple conscious tasks at once. I find that when I'm playing with my newborn child I miss certain interaction cues unless I'm fully engaged with him. I've certainly tried to do what you said as I used to think it was easy to think and play, but I often found myself distracted and ending up doing an injustice to both.

Since I work remotely most of the time, I also try not to separate "work" and "personal" time. However, in order to stay productive, more often than not I need to sit in a separate room because being productive (mainly for pushing out deliverables) requires me to be sitting away from my child.

Ryan - Thanks for sharing. Wish more people would appreciate the work ethos you write about.

It is about working smarter and more efficiently. Diminishing costs are often forgotten. Working smarter also empowers your staff.

Now, where do I send my CV?

Interesting that they point out a 9-6 hour work day the other 4 days. If you believe in being flexible and not forcing employees to work so much then why enforce 9-6 on the other 4 days?

I find it interesting that everyone brings up working less / earning more as necessary because they've kids.

As if, when you have no kids, you've obviously to work more and earn less.

In general, you have no kids because you realized that you wouldn't have enough money for them to get everything they need / it's too risky.

And that doesn't mean you don't work as well. In general it means you've taken more morally adequate decisions and less financially adequate decisions in your life.

We had a post the other day about how important a name is. Here is another example of the name not being important. I mean what has "team treehouse" got to do with learning or web development?

To the article I am glad to see them get funding. I use the service and think its great.

I think a 4 day work week can definitely work, especially with motivation and guarding against burn out. Main issue is that the rest of the world works 5 days a week which in many sectors can create problems.

Our name is Treehouse but the owners of treehouse.com wanted £1m+. We decided teamtreehouse.com was close enough :) Our name is "Treehouse" though.

Thanks for this post. I think it's really great that you pointed out that working 24/7 does not guarantee success but rather how well you use your time. 4-day work weeks can be just as effective as 5-day work weeks. At some point, everyone will suffer from the lack of sleep or because you're pigeon-holed into a particular environment, the lack of diversity in your environment might hamper your ability to think creatively.

The 4-day week is a great idea, and can probably work well in most vertically-integrated businesses. Ironically, it's probably most suitable for manufacturing work, especially if you're building to stock and not to order.

But if you have a lot of external dependencies, and need to interface with suppliers and customers on a regular basis, a 4-day workweek can really into the amount of time you have available to do so.

We do the same thing at 140Fire. 4 days in the office, 1 day at home. There is just not enough time for people to get things done on Saturday and Sunday, nor should they have to spend their 2 days off trying to accomplish personal tasks. Friday is the perfect day to take for completing personal things. It also makes them work harder and more efficient for the 4 days in the office.

The piece doesn't answer the most important question -- how?

Side note: I wish there was a site like "The Setup" focused on the next phase -- "how do I work".

Did you consider taking Wednesday off instead of Friday? Breaks the workweek nicely. 2 days of high burst and relax.

Everyone on my team works remote one day a week at their choosing.

We just have one Wednesday guys who swears by it, but im a Monday remoter and it's my jam. To each his own.

Ryan mentioned employee retention and even though I work from home during my non office day, it's definitely a huge factor when other opportunities come knocking at my door.

Something I never thought of. Have you tried this approach yourself?

Not yet but do plan to in future when I have more control over my paycheck. In theory it sounds as if it will cure the productivity loss coming from Monday morning blues and early Friday - would be interesting to test it out.

I think this sounds great for people with families. But being 26 without kids this does not really appeal to me. Without girlfriend I would probably work 6 days pr. week as I think one day relaxing is sufficient, especially if you don't work too many hours pr. day and exercise regularly (like 3 times a week).

So why would you want to work more than four days a week? Because you'd feel more productive, because you could (maybe) earn more money, because you'd be bored on your time off, because you'd feel guilty for not working? There's tons of things you can do on a weekend aside from just relaxing and mindlessly watching tv, is there absolutely nothing you'd prefer to do instead of working?

Because I love my work and I want more of it :)

I wonder if Ryan started doing business with this culture in place or if it was something he adopted. I'd be interested to hear how he converted to a 4 day working week if it wasn't something that he started out doing. I think it's that initial changeover that would be the hardest thing to stick to.

We've been doing the 4-day week since 2006 so I can't speak to doing the switch. Sorry.

Why not 5 day weeks with shorter days? I much prefer shorter work days to working fewer days. It gives you a lot more flexibility. You feel less burned out / tired on days you work. You can get more done in the morning or night or sleep in later.

First off, this is great. I applaud the fact that you can be profitable working fewer hours, and hopefully paying more than competitive salaries with good benefits.

But, that said, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned here that M-Th, 9-6 isn't a 4-day week, unless you include a required lunch hour, which most don't. So, since you didn't mention that, and I'm fairly sure that you work through lunch as many do including myself, then 9-6 M-Th is 36 hours, which is 4.5 "normal" 8-hour workdays.

I challenge you to be profitable working 32 hours a week (the equivalent of 4 8-hour workdays), preferably using flex time (so people can work those hours whenever they wish) and allowing telecommuting whenever the employee desires, and still be profitable.

I'm on the product team at Treehouse and wanted to comment on a few of the things you mention here. Not everyone at Treehouse takes a lunch hour, but most of us do. I usually spend 30-45 minutes on lunch every day. A lot of our team at the office in Orlando goes to lunch together each day. I was at lunch for an hour and half yesterday with a big group of our product team and it's not like Ryan came and yelled at me afterward. In general I don't think anyone on our team cares too much how long you take for lunch or what your exact hours are. We care way more about what we're getting done than hours.

We also don't all work 9-6. It's a guideline that we use to help us know when we should be available for collaborating with others on the team, but I generally start at 8 AM and end at 5 PM each day.

A whole lot of our team works remotely or at least has the option to, but our video production generally requires that we be on site to produce our videos at the quality we want. Even with the people who need to be in the office there's a decent amount time spent away from the office, though. All of our developers and designers who work on the site work remotely.

Great to hear that. So you say most of you take a lunch hour, and then say you only take 30-45 mins. So, some work 32 hours, some work 33.5-34 hours a week, and others work 36, so that's 4 to 4.5 days a week, depending on who you talk to on the team. When I'm talking about flex time, I'm not talking about a long lunch, I'm talking missing hours in the morning or afternoon because your wife or kid is sick or is in a play at school and making up those hours on Friday. My point is not that Treehouse isn't a great place to work or that a 4 day work week can't work, but that there are a ton of startups that have flexible 40 hour weeks that allow telecommuting, and that flex time and telecommuting add to the complexity, which makes it just as much if not more of a feat to be profitable- and that is my point: it is laudable, but just isn't that big of a difference. If everyone in the office did 32 hours with no extra time and have flexibility to take care of their family as needed and work from any location they want as much as possible if they desire as long as they get the work done, and still be a profitable startup, then that would be impressive to me personally.

Lots of assumptions here. Why wouldn't they include lunch hour?


How did you convince your VCs that it's okay to work 4 day work weeks when the Valley famously continues to call for startups to work non-stop night and day?

Ryan, do you have any problems with the business being located in Florida? In terms of attracting talent, even in light of a 4 day work week?

No need to brag. Haha. We do something similar at bizodo where we work a little later on Thursday and then half day on Friday.

What about the founders, especially at the beginning of the company's life? Do they have the same work week as employees?

Each company is different but I think the way you start a company is usually the way it continues. You can't work 100 weeks then suddenly switch to something sane.

So... ummm... do you have any opening for a developer (vs a teaching developer, which you mention on your website)? :-)

Always hiring :) Hit up support at teamtreehouse

Wow, highly upvoted. And spot on :) Wish there were more companies like this in our field.

How do you handle customer support that can arise any time (including weekends)?

Our Support Team currently works M-Th 9-6 and then three hours a day on Fri-Sun.

We're going to scale this part of the Team soon so they can switch to a real 4-day week.

We're also going to find people to join this Team who are in Austra-lasia so we can cover those hours as well.

Great! So, your support team works any three hours on Fri-Sun?

I'm too wondering if we should hire people in US to handle support (to cover those timzeones), but I'm afraid if they will get the company culture, and feel part of the team. Your thoughts on having a remote team?

"I get to spend 20% more time with my kids then almost all other dads. TWENTY percent. It’s insane. For those on the Team without kids, they get to spend this extra 20% on their hobbies or loved ones."

The reason the author SHOUTS the TWENTY percent is that it's actually 50%! (3 days off versus two). The only thing that's 20% is the number of your old days that you now don't work. (You also used to work 25% more days than now).

Thanks for pointing that out. Updating now ...

Yes, that particular part made me doubt the Author's credibility.

Could have done with a less smug profile pic

That's just my default pic :)

Nothing wrong with being happy.

If the implied correlation works why don't you work 2 days a week?

France has been working 4 days a week basically. All the fundamentals in France seem the same as Germany except the working hours, yet Germany is doing economically much better.

Switzerland has school 4 days a week. Its students are doing better in various subjects than schools in the rest of the world, but not better than Northern Europe which has much heavier school schedules.

The point is, the number of days you work just doesn't matter.

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