The 4-day work week: benefits, challenges, and how to run an experiment at your company
Can employees really get their work done in a 4-day week? Learn 6 ways to be just as productive in fewer days and how to manage a 4-day week at your company.
The concept of a 4-day work week has been gaining traction in recent years as a way to improve work-life balance, boost productivity, and reduce employee burnout.
Companies around the world are experimenting with this model, and Streak is no exception.
Last summer, we conducted an experiment of our own called "Summer Fridays," where employees got every Friday off in June, July, and August. In this blog post, we will review our Summer Friday experiment to share what went well, what the challenges were, and what our plans are for a 4-day work week in Summer 2023.
Recent studies have shown that a 4-day work week can have a positive impact on both employees and companies as a whole. A Microsoft study in Japan found that a 4-day work week led to a 40% increase in productivity, with employees taking fewer sick days and feeling more motivated. In Iceland, a trial of a 4-day work week found that workers were happier and less stressed, with no negative impact on productivity. The state of California has introduced legislation called the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act.
The benefits of a 4-day work week are clear, but there are also potential downsides to consider.
For example, some workers may find it difficult to balance the demands of their jobs with only four days in the office. Additionally, companies may need to adjust their schedules and workflows to accommodate a shorter work week, which can be challenging.
Below, we’ll lay out the benefits of our 4-day work week experiment, what challenges we faced, and our plan to address them.
Last summer, Streak conducted an experiment called "Summer Fridays," where employees got every Friday off in June, July, and August.
We didn’t ask employees to work more hours during their four-day work week, but instead asked them to focus on ways to increase productivity by limiting distractions, and generally improving time management.
Learn more about how we implemented these practices in our initial 4-day work week blog post.
Overall, our 4-day work week experiment was a huge success. Employees loved it and we maintained our work responsibilities at a high level of quality and timeliness.
Some of the benefits of our 4-day work week were:
Streakers made full use of their extra day off to spend time with friends and family, do fun activities, or just relax and recuperate. The extra day allowed team members to feel they were getting value out of Summer pool memberships with their kids, use the extra day to do a bike packing adventure, or enjoy a wine tasting on a Friday afternoon.
People reported feeling more motivated and productive throughout the week with the promise of an extra day to be more adventurous and experimental with weekend activities – or to relax and recharge.
One of the highlights of our 4-day work week experiment was learning more about each other by way of how we spent our extra day off.
We created a #SummerFridays Slack channel to post updates and discuss how everything was going, ask questions, and (optionally) share what we did with our extra free time. Many employees enjoyed sharing what they were up to on their extended weekends and learning more about each other's families, hobbies, and local communities.
We saw people spending more time outdoors, with their families, and engaging in hobbies or projects outside of work.
Crucially, we were able to maintain our operational needs and responsibilities throughout the week and especially on Fridays by using an on-call system for Engineering and Product teams, and rotating shift coverage for Sales and Support teams.
By the end of our Summer Fridays experiment, we hadn’t experienced any issues related to reduced team coverage.
While there were many positives to the Summer Friday experiment, there were also some challenges that we can improve on.
One of the biggest challenges was the 3-day work week that occurred whenever a holiday fell on a Monday. During the period of July - August, our US- and Canadian-based teams observed 3 holidays.
The holidays combined with Fridays off resulted in a few extra short weeks for our team. This created a more intense environment during the 3-day weeks and decreased the opportunity to get things done and connect with team members as needed.
A 4-day work week plus the inevitable vacations that both Streak employees and customers take in the summer months made it difficult to schedule external meetings and connect with customers at times.
Overall, the experiment was a success, and we plan to continue offering a 4-day work week during the summer months in 2023.
In order to make this successful again, we’ve identified some improvements and changes we can make to continue offering great service to our customers and managing our responsibilities.
We plan to proactively communicate our plan to customers so we can plan meetings around vacations, summer Fridays, and other holidays. This will allow us to continue providing the support and resources our customers need throughout the summer months.
This summer, we’ll eliminate the three-day work weeks that came with holidays like Juneteenth, Canada Day, and 4th of July. On these weeks, it will be business as usual on Friday with the 4-day work week coming from the observed holiday.
We’ll also work to ensure that teams have the necessary support and resources to manage their workload and maintain their well-being. This issue was felt more by Support and other customer-facing teams throughout the summer, so many of the solutions are structured around their needs.
This may require more oncall time for certain teams on Fridays or Saturdays. Most likely, this would be a rotating schedule so these team members would still enjoy a 4-day workweek for the majority of the Summer.
Our Summer Friday experiment was a valuable exercise in exploring new ways to promote employee well-being, productivity, and work-life balance. While the experiment was not without its challenges, we have taken feedback from employees and customers and are committed to making improvements for next year.
It's important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to employee well-being and happiness. Different industries may require different approaches, and companies must be willing to experiment and adapt to find the right fit for their teams.
At Streak, the Summer Friday experiment demonstrated the value of taking a proactive approach to employee well-being and happiness. As we continue to grow and evolve, we remain committed to exploring new ways to promote a healthy work environment, where employees can thrive both personally and professionally.