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The 4-day workweek: Rethinking knowledge work

“Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

This was the platform and slogan of Robert Owen, a Welsh textile mill owner, social reformist, and labor activist who began actively advocating for a shorter workday in 1817.

Owen’s campaign ultimately failed to gain traction at that time. His ideas were, however, adopted more than a century later, in 1926, by industrialist Henry Ford. His factories became some of the first workplaces in the U.S. to formally implement a 40-hour, five-day workweek.

Today, the model envisioned by Owen and championed by Ford still defines the structure of modern work. The 40-hour, five-day week has become the baseline standard for virtually every industry, from manufacturing and retail to finance and technology. Yet, despite the ubiquity and enduring appeal of the five-day week, many companies have begun to question its value—particularly in industries and sectors defined by “knowledge work.”

Why implement a 4-day workweek?

What made sense on the manufacturing floors of factories in the early 20th century makes a lot less sense for today’s companies and workers.

One of the driving forces behind the 4-day week is challenging the mistaken assumption that simply being at work means that meaningful work is actually being done. Recent data shows that most workers only accomplish around three hours or less of genuinely focused work per day, yet longer hours are too often the go-to response when companies seek greater productivity or output.

For more stats that prove that the 4-day workweek is paying off for companies and their employees, check out our infographic.

Ironically, working longer hours almost always means even less work ends up getting done, not more.

At Wildbit, we believe there’s a better way to do business and create a positive, supportive environment in which people can do their best work.

The 4-day workweek at Wildbit

Wildbit transitioned to a 4-day work week back in 2017. What began as an experiment soon became an official policy and a crucial pillar of what we call people-first operations.

For the past four years, we’ve been laser-focused on outcomes—the quality of work delivered—rather than output, or the volume of work delivered. The concept of deep work is pivotal to this idea.

In his 2016 book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, author Cal Newport defines deep work as:

“Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

The secret to getting work done in less time lies in ruthlessly prioritizing deep work. Doing so gives our team the opportunity to focus on the work we hired them to do—without interruptions.

As important as it is, deep work is exhausting. Just like any muscle in your body, your brain needs time to rest and recover, especially when you work it hard.

You can't have deep work without the other partner to it. And that's rest.

Working at Wildbit means four days of truly focused work where we solve hard problems and three days that you have completely to yourself to do whatever you need to recharge. Thanks to three-day weekends, our team is happier, more committed, refreshed, and ready to go on Mondays.

Since transitioning to a 4-day week, we’ve proven the naysayers wrong again and again. We’ve grown as a company, remained a strongly profitable business, and helped many other organizations recognize the value of focused work and the 4-day workweek.

Read more about our experiences with a 4-day workweek:

If you'd like to chat with us about the 4-day workweek and our approach to building a people-first business, please reach out to press@wildbit.com.

Widbit's 4-day workweek in the Media

Companies that have embraced the 4-day workweek

In recent years, many other companies have adopted a 4-day week, many of whom have seen remarkable results, including an increase in employee happiness, significant productivity gains, and improved staff retention, among other benefits.

With this directory, we're putting the spotlight on fellow people-first companies who believe that you don't need five days a week to do great work. Know of a company operating on a 4-day week that isn’t included here? Has your company decided to embrace a new way of working? Let us know, and we’ll update our list.