Experimenting with a 4-day work week

Illustration of a calendar with party emojis on Fridays.

Working only 40 hours a week has been something I take a lot of pride in at Wildbit. I want to make sure our team has plenty of time to do the stuff they love outside of work. Unfortunately, a lot of companies have built environments where it’s expected, or at least the workload encourages, working much longer days.

A while back I read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. I learned that our brains can’t actually do more than 4 hours of really deep, thoughtful work a day. The best writers and thinkers, who have trained their minds over a long period of time, max out at 4 hours a day. And for the rest of us, getting to 4 hours is the holy grail that is very difficult to achieve.

This means that we spend a lot of our days on more shallow work. Things like meetings, emails, closing tickets and talking to each other. I’ve been wondering for a while, then, is even 40 hours a week necessary? What if we all just buckled down and got some really thoughtful, meaningful work done, could we work less?

Now, I’m not saying the shallow work isn’t super important. We need to plan, to communicate, and to build relationships with each other and to bond. But even with that added to our focus work, can’t we still do it all in less than 40 hours?

So starting next week, we’re going to give it a shot. The entire team will work only 4 days a week. We will not be tacking on an extra hour to the other 4 days. We will just be working 32 hours. We’ve time-boxed this experiment to the summer, but we hope we can extend it, so long as there are no signifcant impacts or consequences.

In order to make this a success, we must be even more diligent on what we work on and how productive we are during the 32 hours. We must always make sure that we start with why on anything we take on. We will question our attendance in meetings, challenge our productivity time and make sure that we work as closely as we can to accomplish all the work we set out for ourselves. We’re challenging ourselves that by limiting our time, we’ll produce more thoughtful and important work than when we had 40 hours to get it all done.

As a practice, we’re mostly all taking off on Fridays. But obviously that’s not practical for the entire team, especially on the support side. The entire Customer Success team has an alternating schedule between Mondays and Fridays off. The development team also has an on-call rotation for Fridays to make sure emergencies and support requests get dealt with quickly.

I’m pretty excited about this change. Many companies I respect have 4-day summers or even 4-day work weeks. I’m hoping we can be another example of the success of working less.

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