The 4-day workweek is gaining momentum. Trials by companies around the world are demonstrating that a 4-day workweek can be good for both businesses and employees.
- After companies piloted the 4-day workweek, more than 90% of companies have kept it.
- 81% of workers say a 4-day workweek would make them more productive.
- Employees experienced reduced burnout and increased job satisfaction on a 4-day workweek.
- Talent recruiting and retention increased on a 4-day workweek
The 5-day workweek has been around for less than 100 years; Henry Ford originally piloted a 5-day workweek (a change from six days) in the 1920s as a way to spur demand for more automobile purchases (people needed time off from work to justify driving more). Today, some experts predict that artificial intelligence will further unlock a 4-day workweek for the masses.
From remote work to shorter workweeks to new technologies like ChatGPT, our workweek has undergone a major transformation in the last five years. But whether you work 4-hour workweeks (from Tim Ferriss fame) or 7-day workweeks, the principles used to make the 4-day workweek work can be valuable for anyone seeking to optimize their workweek and deepen their focus.
I moved my company, Uncharted, from a 5-day workweek to a 4-day workweek in the middle of COVID as a way to reduce employee burnout, increase employee retention, and reclaim a workweek (which had seeped into every part of our lives. A report from Microsoft found that the number of meetings in the workweek have increased 250% since before the pandemic).
Moving to a 4-day workweek ended up being the best thing we ever did at Uncharted (two years later, we merged with another 4-day workweek company), and now through my consulting practice Smart Workweek, I coach other teams on how to optimize their workweek—whether that’s transitioning to a 4-day workweek, decluttering their workweek from meetings, or improving the ability to prioritize the most important work.
The principles underneath the 4-day workweek challenge the norms that dominate professional work-culture today:
- Working hard as a badge of honor: How we spend our time is downstream of the decisions we make. Every time we reinforce the belief that working long and hard is a badge of honor in our work culture, we reinforce our inability to ever break free from working long and hard. If I had to choose between getting better at prioritizing and getting better at being productive, I would choose prioritization every time.
- Everything must be perfect: We live in a perfectionist work culture where everything needs to be perfect. But actual prioritization requires us to choose things we won’t do, and choose things we won’t do well. I’ve found value in asking myself the question: What do I need to get A’s in, what can I get B’s in, and what can I get C’s in?
The 4-day workweek is not for everyone or every company, but its enduring value for me has been in changing the way I think about what’s important, how to prioritize, and the ways we can design our workweeks to be less cluttered, more focused, and healthier.
One of my mentors reminds me that “every business is perfectly designed to get the results that it gets.” I’ve found that one of the best ways to change an organization’s outcomes is to change how that organization is designed—both in big and small ways. For some, that’s moving to a 4-day workweek, for others, it’s reclaiming their sanity and focus with daily routines and rhythms that consistently lead to better outcomes.
If you would like to learn more about transitioning to a 4-day work week, I will be joining Colorado Thought Leaders Forum’s Fireside Chat on September 6th for a transparent discussion about the benefits and challenges.