A few months ago, I started getting dissatisfied with the status quo. I wanted change. As CEO, I wanted our company to be more productive and continue its growth. I wanted to use my time more effectively. Our company culture and employee satisfaction matter a lot to me, so I wanted to look at ways of improving work life for our employees. I also wanted to spend more time with my children. They were growing up so quickly, and I felt like I was missing out.
All that got me thinking about the four-day work week. I wondered if it could meet all those “wants” that I listed above. I wanted to give it a real chance at succeeding, though, so I did my research. I also took a long hard look at what activities we did that might need to be eliminated, or at least restructured, to give the four-day work week a fighting chance.
Do No Harm
Of course, whatever changes I instituted needed to improve, or at least not hurt, our current productivity. So I did some research on factors that impact efficiency and productivity. I learned that:
- We produce the bulk of our results in just 10 percent to 20 percent of our work time
- We are most productive in the morning—probably because we have more energy then
- The amount of rest we get significantly impacts our productivity (and most of us don’t get enough sleep each night)
- The state of our personal lives greatly affects our ability to work effectively
- The more we give to people, the more they give back
Identify and Fix Time Wasters
We knew that if we want to be more productive, we need to eliminate activities that are not valuable. By doing so, we will have more time to focus on important things.
As a company, we held a brainstorming session and came up with these policies for using our time more effectively:
Hold only on-demand meetings. We realized that pre-set meetings offered no value. We will only hold a meeting when something important needs to be discussed or a decision or plan made. We also restrict the time allowed for a meeting based on the type of meeting, and the number of attendees.
Split every day in half and devote the first half to productivity and the second to creative. We want employees to spend that first, most productive part of the day on productivity. That means a 100 percent focus on tasks—no disturbing, no chatting, no emails, no communicating via Slack, and generally “no” to everything that can be done in the second half of the day.
Get everyone to work during the same hours. The work day should start between 7am and 9am. That prevents people who came in early and are done with the productivity half of their day from socializing or disturbing others who came in later.
We also implemented a host of other time-saving measures or activities that we whole-heartedly recommend. These include:
- Provide free lunches and eat in the office. No decisions to make about what to eat and no time required to go to a restaurant or food cart.
- Use Slack for all internal and external communications—we love it.
- Use Basecamp to manage all our projects and tasks.
- Use MonoRovers around the office. These personal transportation devices save time, and to be honest, they’re loads of fun.
- Trust each other to do the respective parts that contribute to the collective end goal.
- Use Sketch and InVision for sketching up and sharing design ideas. We recommend everyone try it.
- Use Google Apps for Work.
- Respect each other and don’t spend extra time on unimportant issues.
- Delegate. We know we can’t do everything on our own.
- Prioritize our tasks. That lets us do the important things first.
Because of our important deadline, to launch PICR, we also added the stipulation that no employee could take time off during the three-month time period we have to prepare and make sure everything is working property.
Check Employee Response to the Change
At PICR, employees welcomed these changes, and the transition has been smooth. I don’t know if other companies would receive such a positive response. We’re fortunate that all of our employees feel passionate about the success of PICR and also take pride in their professional growth.
Recap the Rationale Behind Making the Switch
So why did I conclude that it was a safe bet to switch to a four-day work week? In other words, why did I think it would allow us to progress faster and manage our time better? Here’s my rationale:
To work more rapidly, you need to do more. Fail quickly, iterate, and make more smart decisions. This requires discipline to work harder, do more in less time, and stay results-focused.
The five-day work week promotes poor time management and burnout. Before we switched to the four-day work week, we all worked anywhere between eight and 12 hours a day. Everyone felt that they didn’t have enough time for their families or simply away from work to get excited about coming back. I would be upset at myself for working inefficiency, and found that a two-day weekend wasn’t enough time to recharge.
Our employees give more and we get the best employees. It’s true: by giving more to our employees, they give more back to the company. Because potential employees like our company culture and sees that we have high employee satisfaction, we have an edge over our competitors when it comes to hiring great specialists to work for us.
The biggest reason for this change was what I mentioned at the beginning of this post; by spending all my time at work, I was missing out on seeing my children grow up. Time was flying by that I could never get back. It was one of those life-changing realizations: the way things were going, I was just a guy, any guy, and not their father. I didn’t want to continue down that path. I needed to allocate time for children and my family—something that should always come first.
Reporting the Preliminary Results
We’ve been piloting our four-day work week for a month, and though my take on the results may be premature, I am confident that the results are positive. I believe that they will get even better. Here’s what we’re seeing so far:
- We have increased our productivity and the speed of our progress
- We have more energy
- We are all clear about and focused on the company’s goals as well as our own personal goals
- We are more careful and efficient with our time in the office
- Many of us actually voluntarily work more hours a day (from 10-14 hours)
- Everyone spends more quality family or home time
I think these results come from increased focus, more determination, greater fewer distractions, and more discipline.
Determining Future of Our Four-day Work Week
Although I am not yet used to the three-day weekend, the four-day work week is here to stay. I think my family is happy that I can spend much more time with them, and I am confident my employees are happy about it. The truth is, life is short, time flies and children grow quickly. The four-day work week lets me and the employees of my company strike a balance between work and personal life without sacrificing any productivity—an all around win-win.