We’ve been promised a four day work week on and off for many years. Rising efficiency, our jobs being outsourced to Japan, China or India or the machines taking over, no matter what the reason the work week has been promised to shrink and it never really has. A few companies – mainly startups in the US are experimenting with it. Perhaps the most notable example is web design and training company Treehouse. When they launched the CEO took Fridays off to spend more time with his family and it was soon made into a company wide policy. Their argument is that productivity is not tied to the number of hours you work and their 4 day long week with 8 hour days is as productive as a normal work week. The employees get the advantage of the extra time and are usually more relaxed and focused and the company has found it an excellent way to recruit top flight staff without having to pay top flight wages. The other benefits are a sense of urgency for the staff – less time means that things need to be done faster and a more team like atmosphere all being in it together. Treehouse is growing well and is up to over 70 staff and their strategy works well for them. They have the advantage of having started that way rather than trying to switch to a new way of working.
Others have been experimenting with a half way house. Beholder is an ad agency that specialises in video production and in the summer they shift to a four day work week. To do so they adjust their working hours from the regular 9-5 to 8-6:30 and hence do not lose out on hours but gain the extra day. I’m personally not convinced by that one – it might be possible for people to adjust to but only doing on for 3 months in the summer might make it very difficult for people to adjust schedules, child care and the like.
If you look carefully you can find many examples of companies – usually small – trying this. If you are starting out in business or control a company yourself it may be a viable option now.