4 Day Workweek Companies: Exploring the Outcomes and Challenges
As more and more companies aim to create a better work-life balance for their employees, the concept of a four-day workweek has gained popularity. Companies such as Bolt, Buffer, ThredUp, and Poll Everywhere have already implemented this change and have mostly seen positive results. We will explore the outcome of these companies’ 4-day workweek policies, discuss any challenges they have encountered, and share advice for companies interested in making the switch.
But first, let us quickly dive into the history of labor as we seem to be going through changes that our forerunners have already gone through to achieve a more rewarding lifestyle.
Why Do We Work Five Days a Week?
National Geographic has written an interesting piece on the evolution of labor, beginning with the introduction of the five-day workweek in the 1930s. Before this, working six, or seven days a week was the standard. The five-day workweek was pioneered by Henry Ford, who conducted a trial that proved that factories could remain just as productive with a shorter workweek. This was seen as a success, prompting other businesses to follow suit and adopt the five-day week as the norm, largely due to the influence of the labor movement.
A Shift to the Four-Day Workweek
We know that many companies have been experimenting with the four-day workweek behind their office doors, but it wasn’t until 2018 when Perpetual Guardian, implemented it and openly started sharing details about the key findings with businesses around the world. The interest was so high that Perpetual Guardian’s founder, Andrew Barnes, began communicating his knowledge through 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit community that offers guidance to companies transitioning to the four-day workweek.
Let’s look through some of the companies that followed the lead and are now benefiting from the shorter workweek and share the results of the transition.
Companies That Have Adopted a Four-Day Workweek
Bolt, a tech start-up based in San Francisco, is leading the way in shaking up the traditional workweek. To improve efficiency and combat burnout, Bolt has launched an experiment with a four-day workweek.
Ryan Breslow, the founder of Bolt, stated in a post that the concept behind it is to complete work from Monday through Thursday, ensuring that Friday is a genuine day off, with no meetings or work obligations.
Soon after the implementation of the new short workweek, the company started to encourage employees to set their out-of-office email notifications stating: “I’m out of the office today because we’re working consciously here at Bolt and are currently testing out a four-day workweek. I’ll be back in touch with you on [Monday].”
Ryan later reminds everyone that this four-day workweek is an experiment and that they will track its successes and failures, sharing the results on their page Conscious.org – Bolt’s platform for cataloging future work experiments.
It is yet to be proven if this new way of operating will be successful, but Bolt sees it as an opportunity to challenge the status quo and potentially make improvements to their internal culture.
For the past two years, Buffer has been experimenting with the four-day workweek and recently ran an internal survey to check in on how things are going since bringing in the new short-week schedule.
The results are:
- 91% of their team are happier and more productive working four days a week.
- 73% only work four or five shorter days per week.
- 84% feel they can get all of their work done in four days.
Nicole Miller – Director of People at Buffer notes that the main challenges that have come up since transitioning to the four-day workweek include finding time for casual conversations and team-building activities within the reduced hours. To counter this, Buffer is creating more team-building events as well as occasional in-person meetups when possible.
Buffer’s experiment with the four-day workweek serves as inspiration for other companies looking to explore the same option.
They recommend starting out small by testing it for a month with surveys measuring success, then rolling out to a six-month pilot trial with continual surveying and data collection.
Buffer also advises setting clear expectations around the use of the fifth day, such as not scheduling meetings or expecting communication via email, Slack, or threads.
Buffer is still learning as they go and encourages other companies to do the same. They are open to hearing questions and feedback from others who want to learn more about working a four-day workweek.
ThredUP an online clothing-consignment company adopted the four-day workweek in 2021 to help its employees have adequate downtime to care for themselves and have time to invest more in their personal lives.
The company’s CEO, James Reinhart, wanted to create an environment where people can do their best work and have sufficient downtime to care for themselves. It was also intended to create more equity between genders, help parents spend more time with their kids, and give employees the opportunity to pursue their passion projects.
As ThredUp reports the four-day workweek has helped reduce stress and burnout, improved productivity, and reduced turnover among corporate staff.
ThredUP has adopted the four-day workweek as company policy and they have no plans to change it in the future. They are dedicated to creating a sustainable workforce and a circular economy with regard to fashion, and they believe the four-day workweek helps them to achieve this.
4. Poll Everywhere
Poll Everywhere is a technology company that focuses on providing services to facilitate online events such as webinars, online meetings, and conferences.
The company implemented the 4-day workweek to improve employee experience, mental health, and engagement after some difficult years through the pandemic. They also wanted to try something new and different to evaluate the potential of a 4-day workweek for the company.
After the first trial, their main observations and the outcomes of the 4-day workweek were, improved mental health, no impact on employee retention, improved creativity and mental energy on Mondays, and reduced meeting structure and communication pathways.
They further shared in a follow-up post key findings that, show the drawbacks of the 4-day workweek. They noticed a 10-15% loss in productivity mainly due to missed deadlines. Additionally, they found that while the 4-day workweek experiment offered potential benefits in employee engagement and mental health, the company needed to focus on further improving employee retention to offset some of the costs associated with the lost productivity. Lastly, Poll Everywhere noted that the positive benefits of the 4-day workweek could wear off quickly due to hedonic adaptation.
In the results, Poll Everywhere implemented the 4 Day workweek differently by only having it available in the summer, when it is seasonally slower on their calendar. This minimized the risks to their growth and level of service to customers.
As depicted by the companies above the 4-day work week could be a feasible and successful way of running a business. For companies considering this change, it is important to ensure that employees are still getting the work done and that there is still time for team-building activities. Additionally, it is important to set clear expectations for the fifth day and to start small with surveys and data collection to measure success. Thanks to pioneering companies like Bolt, Buffer, ThredUp, and Poll Everywhere, we can learn from their successes and failures, and take steps toward a more efficient and balanced workweek.
Companies should take their time to assess their individual needs and consider the potential risks and rewards of making the switch to a four-day workweek.
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