Boundless #31 - Four Day Workweeks
Is The 4-Day Workweek A "Hack" To Unlock Leisure?
#1 The Four Day Work-Week
Tash Walker is the founder of a firm and spends her Fridays making marmalade.
Before instituting a four-day workweek at her firm, The Mix, she barely had time for her relationships. She decided to start doing research about different ways of working. There had to be a better way than the default options of "Summer Fridays" and "flexible work," that never seem to make less anxiety or stress-ridden.
In her research, she discovered many examples of Swedish companies embracing 4-day workweeks and also found that when they instituted it, they often helped improve productivity. After bringing the option to her team at The Mix, they decided to do a three-month trial. They didn't even tell their clients.
The funny thing? The clients didn't even notice. Even better, when they shared it with their clients - they weren't offended. They were curious to learn more and impressed that they had prioritized their people. While many quickly reflex to "well that can't work here," Tash and her team went forward anyway and have shown that a 4-day work week can work and it can work in professional services - an industry where many take for granted the fact that you should always be available for your clients.
Beyond improving the lives of the people at the firm, they achieved some incredible results:
Revenues up 57%
Absenteeism down 75%
Productivity stayed the same
Doubled the number of clients
Client referrals up 50%
#2 Is The 4-Day Workweek A "Hack" To Unlock Leisure?
While the four-day workweek still seems risky for most of the world, it seems to be catching on in Europe. In Germany, some workers have won the "right" to a 28-hour workweek, France passed a "right to disconnect" law in 2017, as well as an Italian law recently, passed that explicitly calls out rest:
"The agreement also identifies the worker's rest periods as well as the technical and organizational measures necessary to ensure that the worker is disconnected from the technological equipment."
While technology does seem to be a driver, I believe there is likely a deeper tradition of the embrace of a certain type of "leisure" that makes these types of laws a perfect fit for Europe. A quote I offered in a previous issue shared a de Toqueville quote on America from the 19th Century that called out this difference.
"In the United States a wealthy man thinks that he owes it to public opinion to devote his leisure to some kind of industrial or commercial pursuit or to public business. He would think himself in bad repute if he employed his life solely in living. It is for the purpose of escaping this obligation to work that so many rich Americans come to Europe, where they find some scattered remains of aristocratic society, among whom idleness is still held in honor."
Tash Walker's team highlighted this point in their extensive and very much worth reading report:
Work exists to produce income, the purpose of which is to enable leisure, but leisure exists for its own sake. - Brennan Jacoby, Philosopher
Compared to Summer Fridays and "flexible work," which leave the door open to staying longer if your work is important (which will always favor the people who want to outwork others and I hypothesize, the most reward-driven men and women), the four-day week sets a constraint which only allows work on Friday under extreme circumstances
This constraint, for the business people who still need a "business case" (as if the human case is not enough for them yet), the four day week can act as a way to eliminate a lot of the nonsense, extra meeting and reports and "busy" work that I have experienced in every single work environment I have been in (even the best workplaces).
My takeaway: The four-day workweek is a current release valve for a lot of the nonsense, busyness and "bullshit work" happening in the world, especially in the knowledge sector. I don't think moving to a four-day workweek will move us towards a much different state than our current system, but it might perhaps open people's minds to the deeper question of "what is it all for?"
Is your workplace experimenting with anything like this? I'd love to help or get the word out. Let me know!
On the history of "clerks" in the late 1800s / early 1900s:
"A good clerk besieged his bosses’ emotions the way he did customers—flattering them to the point of obsequiousness, until the bosses were assured that they had a good man on their hands. These personal abilities were part of the skill set of a clerk—something we know today as office politics—and though they couldn’t be notched on a résumé, they were the secret of the supposed illustriousness of business life. The work might dehumanize you, but whatever part of you that remained human was your key to moving up in the job"
Cubed, A Secret History Of The Workplace
‘Because gipsies’, I said, ‘also see themselves as hunters. The world is their hunting ground. Settlers are “sitting-game”. The gipsy word for “settler” is the same as the word for “meat”.
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwick
More 4-day Work Reads:New Zealand company trials 4-day week Six hour workday two year study in SwedenFive #goodreads: Weekly Reads #99 (Issue #100 will have top links from the year coming out in a few weeks)
Past Reads: Future of Work Mindset Shift
Are Dogs Workers Now?: A new book titled "The New Work Of Dogs" argues that our pets are carrying the emotional labor of humans:
The New Work of Dogs profiles a dozen such relationships in a New Jersey town, like the story of Harry, a Welsh corgi who provides sustaining emotional strength for a woman battling terminal breast cancer; Cherokee, companion of a man who has few human friends and doesn’t know how to talk to his own family; the Divorced Dogs Club, whose funny, acerbic, and sometimes angry women turn to their dogs to help them rebuild their lives; and Betty Jean, the frantic founder of a tiny rescue group that has saved five hundred dogs from abuse or abandonment in recent years.