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The 4-day workweek is on the rise

This piece was originally emailed to Wildbit’s mailing list on August 25, 2021.

Hello, friends 👋

The 4-day workweek has been in the news a lot recently, at least here in the US.

In the last month, CNN, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and Good Morning America have run stories about it—and Wildbit was invited to contribute, because we’ve worked a 4-day week since 2017 and have a lot to say about it.

Wildbit live on the CNN

Wildbit live on the CNN, July 2021

It feels like the media is waking up to the possibility that the standard 40-hour, 5-day week is not the only one we can use to build profitable companies. And maybe we’re finally witnessing a shift in how knowledge work is understood and measured: less in the number of hours we spend at our desks and more in how productive that time is.

There’s a 2016 book that really influenced our decision to experiment with a 4-day workweek at Wildbit: Cal Newport’s Deep Work. Newport observes that, in the absence of clear ways to prove that we are being productive, knowledge workers are turning to old habits: doing a lot of things in a visible manner.

"If you send and answer emails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly, if you weigh in on instant message systems [...] within seconds when someone poses a new question [... you can convince] yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.

Viewed objectively, however, this concept is anachronistic. Knowledge work is not an assembly line, and extracting value from information is an activity that’s often at odds with busyness, not supported by it."
Cal Newport, Deep Work

Does this point resonate with you? It certainly made us pay attention to how we were using our time every week.

And I was also startled by some of the science in Deep Work; for example, that the human brain has a limited capacity for intense focus, and can only sustain about 4 hours of meaningful, deep work per day. For business leaders or managers, this fact alone should prompt a few (uncomfortable) questions:

  • If we have a maximum capacity of 20 hours/week for deep work, what are our teams doing in the other 20?
  • Are any of us even doing deep work, or do we spend the majority of our time on shallow tasks that feel productive but aren’t moving the business forward?
  • And if we just buckled down and got some really thoughtful, meaningful work done... could we work less?

In our case, after asking ourselves these questions, we made a bet that our team could produce more thoughtful and important work by being laser-focused and intentional about how we were using our time.

We launched a 4-day workweek experiment in the summer of 2017 and never looked back. And not only have we actually done a lot more meaningful work than before, but Wildbit has grown faster than it had in the previous 16 years we’d been in business.

If the 4-day workweek is something that you, too, are feeling intrigued and excited by, we have two things that can help: some resources to guide your thinking and an invite to join the conversation.

Interested in the 4-day workweek? Start here:

Join the conversation

Next week, on September 1st, we’re hosting a one-hour conversation with folks who helped implement the 4-day week at Buffer, Awin, and the Wanderlust Group.

Will you join us?
You will be able to ask questions both before and during the session and we’ll send you a recording afterward:

I’m really excited that we’re having this conversation more broadly.

It is my personal passion to convince more companies to rethink the way we work and to prioritize people’s needs over the business’—and working fewer hours is an important first step.

Until next time,