There’s a classic (classic among grad students, anyway) Matt Groening cartoon about graduate school:
At the risk of being the person who reads another book in order to avoid finishing, I want to flag yet another company that’s been doing four-day weeks for years: Australian Web and interface design company Icelab.
Last year, Icelab founder (and ex-philosophy graduate student!) Michael Honey wrote a piece explaining how they decided to move to four-day weeks. As he tells the story, the move to shorter hours happened gradually after the company’s founding in 2006:
We started the company [Icelab], two of us in a room, working five eight-hour days, and late if we had to: the same hours we were used to at the advertising agency we’d just left, scrounging for work, taking what we could get.
Little by little we got better at what we did, and after two or three years we’d improved our skills and our processes, grown to five people, and we were in a position to do something with that productivity. So we started taking Fridays off.
At first, they worked 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, but
After six months or so we said stuff it: let’s just do four normal eight-hour days. Thirty-two hours, not forty. And it worked.
We seemed to get the same amount done as we did before, only now our partners liked us better and we got to see the daylight. We turned some of that productivity into time. We converted 20% less work into 50% more weekend.
According to a 2011 newspaper article, the company moved to four-day weeks in 2008, making them one of the longest-running four-day week companies I’ve found so far.
In an interview with acidlabs founder Steven Collins, he adds to the story:
After having worked for three or four years as regular five-day a week sort of company, not having to do any overnighters, which was appreciated by myself, we made a decision to go to a four day week… We realised that we weren’t getting a lot of extra value out of the couple of hours extra we were theoretically working. So we just stopped doing it, we just decided we’ll work four normal days.
This is similiar to what I heard in a number of interviews, including the ones I did in Europe earlier this month: Fridays are already kind of a lost day, so why not figure out how to eliminate them entirely?
Of course, I far prefer to hear about these companies before I finish the book, rather than after, especially if they’ve been doing it successfully for years. There’s been a quite revolution in work happening for years now, playing out in companies around the world, and it’s time for them to be introduced to a wider audience. And their success raises a question for companies that are struggling to improve engagement, work-life balance, and retain better workers; why aren’t you doing this, too?