The standard full-time work week is 40 hours, 8 hours per day, five days in a row, Monday through Friday. This is the norm that much of the business world follows, but why?
We know that our brains are only able to focus intently for about 4 hours a day, and for most people even 4 hours is incredibly difficult to achieve. If we are only able to focus on high quality work for 4 hours, yet we work for 8 or more, what do we spend the other 4+ hours doing? For most people, probably very little of value. We check Slack for unread messages, we look at our email, we scroll through endless social feeds; we generally do things to “fill the time until we hit 8 hours”.
Simply because that’s what working full-time means. We get our main work done in a few hours and then we piddle around doing small tasks and pretending to be productive.
Well that’s just silly. As a fully remote company we pride ourselves on enabling our team to work when and how they want so they can do their best work, and yet we’ve still set the expectation that everyone should be putting in 40 hours per week. Since 2013 I’ve always told my team that it is not important to me nor the company that they track their working hours, so long as the work gets done in the timeframes that we set our in our project planning. It is irrelevant to me whether a person completes a project in 1 hour or they complete it in 4 hours. What is relevant is whether they do great work and that they do it in the timeframes agreed upon. What a person chooses to do after they get their work done is irrelevant to to the company, so why do we continue to ask them to keep “working”?
By limiting the amount of time we allow ourselves to get our work done, we naturally become better at focusing on the work and being more intentional about the things we allow to distract us.
This Summer we are trialing a change to how our team works and moving to a 4-day work week. The goal of this experiment is better enable deep work, improved productivity, and happier and healthier team members.
We believe that people do their best work when they are happy and well rested, and we believe that one of the most effective ways to enable people’s best work is to ask them to work less. We are not compressing 5 days of work into 4, rather we are entirely eliminating one of the work days. This means we are moving our team to a 32 hour work week with a full three days of rest between weeks.
The general consensus from companies that operate with this model is that it’s resoundingly positive. Teams have reported significantly higher productivity, better satisfaction at work, and more appreciation for the time of themselves and their co-workers.
One of our core motivations and goals is to give more time back to our team. This experiment aims to put those words further into action. Ultimately this is an experiment that we are testing during the summer months and It is entirely possible it will fail or show less stellar results than we hope. If that happens, we will assess where it went wrong and why, and we’ll iterate on it for a future experiment.
I’ve been a strong proponent for getting 8 hours of sleep every night and not burning the midnight oil, and like the proven benefits of getting enough sleep, I hope that this experiment will show the benefits of working less.