It is a fascinating time for workplace culture. Over the last year companies all over the world dove headfirst into new experiments in how to make “work” work. Some of those were temporary — a short-term shift to help get through the intensity of the pandemic before returning back to previous ways. Other changes have stuck around. Today, a year later, we are just starting to get to the place where we can now look back on those changes, objectively, and see their long-term effects. Here is our own experiment-turned-permanent work policy: The four-day-work week.
In May of 2020 The Wanderlust Group moved to a Tuesday-through-Friday four-day work-week schedule. We did it at first to help the team, but it ended up helping the company too. Here’s what happened since making the decision to drop to a four day work week:
So it’s pretty clear, the four-day work-week has been working for us, and it’s become permanent company policy, but I want to tell you more about why.
We’ve gotten some questions throughout the year about what a four-day work week actually means in practice. People wonder, for example, if employees are paid less or if we’re working longer hours on those four days. So let’s start with how we structured it:
Hours: The Wanderlust Group hasn’t historically tracked or asked employees to log hours, but generally speaking we maintain working hours of 9AM-5PM. When we switched to a four-day work-week, we did not increase hours on the working days. We just cut-off the fifth day. So, with the four-day work week policy, employees got back about eight hours a week to use as they wanted.
Compensation: Our employees all are on annual salaries rather than hourly. We did not make any changes to compensation as a result of dropping to a four-day work-week. We believe we’re compensating people for outcomes, not hours.
Support: While our company operates on a four-day work week, our customers largely do not. In order to support our customers fully, our Support Team operates on a rotational basis to provide coverage seven days a week. This schedule allows our agents to be flexible with their days off and swap shifts as needed with other agents.
Choosing the day: We selected Monday as our off-day initially because we work with marinas and campgrounds and Friday is typically a busy day for recreation and we wanted to be fully available on Fridays for them. But Monday over Friday has also had some unexpected benefits. I’ve heard from team members that having Monday to themselves — with no family obligations and no work obligations — gives them time to think heading into the week. Whereas Friday acts as a jumpstart into the weekend, Monday can give people the mental break to start off their weeks strong.
Size and location: We are a 50 person team. Being a smaller team enabled us to drop a lot of meetings without harming communication. Could this work with a 5,000 person team? I’m not sure. Though I’ d certainly read that article if a big company were to try it. As for location — while we have offices in Cambridge, MA and Newport, RI, we are a largely remote company. We plan on sticking with that too.
To be clear, this approach may not work for most companies. This is not an attempt to win over those who are opposed to this. This is for companies who are curious and willing to give it a try.
I really believe that killing Mondays and moving to a #4DWW was successful for us because it created constraints. Just like 280 characters on Twitter or no links on Instagram, constraints call for creativity. Creativity creates energy. When you have four-days to move the company forward in a week, you find creative ways to get that done. The team has found new ways to create leverage in their work: Repackaging content across teams to solve for multiple goals for example, or connecting the dots between a customer’s needs on our Marinas.com site and their needs on our other brand, Dockwa.
Second, dropping to four days gives people more space and time to be charged for the week. There’s a ton of research — most recently from Microsoft — on the necessity and power of breaks in creating surges in productivity. Breaks allow the brain to reset, and slow the cumulative buildup of stress in your system. Microsoft’s research was on the impact of breaks within a work day, namely between meetings, but I believe the lesson holds true across the week.
In addition, four days limits the amount of meetings you can actually have. Meetings aren’t bad inherently, but I think we all know they can be wasted time. This constraint forced us to only have the really important meetings and to not put so many meetings on autopilot.
Is our four-day work-week flawless? Of course not. There are occasional times when something comes up that needs to be addressed on a Monday, and it does require discipline in not emailing or slacking your peers or direct reports on Mondays. It also requires discipline to be highly focused the remaining four days. But the benefits far outweigh the flaws and make that discipline worthwhile.
A year later, I am damn proud of how much we respect our Mondays. Here is a Slack chart showing our engagement on Mondays to show you this is legit.
Keeping to a four-day work-week takes discipline from everyone at the company.
The traditional 9–5 started with Henry Ford and even that was an innovation from prior schedules. But times change, new business models are born and to just replay the same old frameworks for work without testing new approaches doesn’t make much sense. We wanted to create a schedule and environment that is more conducive to us and how we best operate. The four-day work-week was it.
We changed none of our goals.
We work hard. We work smart. We get it done in four days.
Hopefully this has been helpful for others exploring the concept. You can read more about our approach in this Huffington Post article by Monica Torres.