There has been a lot of talk about major companies seriously considering moving towards a four-day work week.
But as an entrepreneur, is this something you should consider doing for yourself and your business? For me, I had thought about implementing a 4 day work week for years, but never took the steps that could make it a reality. It wasn’t until my work schedule began to affect my work/life balance that I knew that it was time to make a change.
Why I Switched and Why You Should Too
Reason #1-Greater Life/Work Separation and Balance
As entrepreneurs, we are told over and over that it is important to love what you do. There is such a thing as loving your business too much.
My business was beginning to seep into every area of my life. I began to think so much about it that even when I wasn’t working on the business, my brain was.
With a 3 day weekend, instead of driving to the beach, I began to take the entire day to myself. That day would be a “recovery” day for me. If I didn’t get enough sleep during the week, I would make sure to sleep in on Friday.
I would also forbid myself from checking email or using the internet for anything work related. In the beginning, I promised myself that I would not use the internet at all, since it was too tempting to read things related to my business.
Since then, however, my discipline has improved to the point that I spend a little time on YouTube watching sports highlights or random movie trailers.
Reason #2 Learning to Trust the Team More
The other reason to start to try a 4 day workweek is to allow your team to do their jobs without you. Whether you have a remote business, have a team of freelancers, or if you have 100 full time employees, your business should not fall apart if you take a day off.
Reason #3-Increased Productivity
In 2019, Microsoft conducted an experiment that involved reducing the workweek by one day, which led to a 40% boost in productivity in a Microsoft subsidiary in Japan. During the “Work-Life Choice Challenge,” the company closed its doors every Friday for the month of August. They found that productivity had increased by 39.9%.
Another pilot run by the New Zealand-based financial services company called Perpetual Guardian resulted in lower stress, happier employees, and a 20% rise in productivity. These early results have inspired companies such as Shake Shack to make the move towards a 4 day workweek for their managers.
For my switch, I did not track my productivity, but I knew that productivity improved. I could tell this by there being no left over vital tasks by the end of my work week.
Reason #4 Employee Satisfaction
My business is unique in that the employees have the freedom to work when and where they would like. The important things in my business are that the weekly and monthly projects get completed on time and without errors. As long as that happens, my business is fine.
My team is able to create whatever schedule they would like. They can work 4 days a week, weekends, or just nights. It is really up to them. Overall, employee satisfaction is great in my company, and my retention rate is high. One of the reasons I attribute this to is the freedom they have in their work. I realized that since my team has that freedom, why shouldn’t I?
Reason #5 Reduced Stress
Even though I had been working a ton in my business, I didn’t really feel like I was stressed. But sometimes the body can be stressed without our knowing it.
One of the things I noticed that happened when I consistently worked 4 day weeks was that my sleeping habits improved. I began sleeping longer and deeper. I also noticed that it took me less time to fall asleep.
So should you consider testing a 4 day workweek? If you run a certain type of business, you are a good candidate for shortening your work week. If you fall into any of the categories below, you may want to seriously consider testing a 4 hour work week for your business.
You Should Consider a 4 day work week for your business if:
- You are a freelancer or solopreneur (run a solo business).
- Your business is mostly online.
- Your business struggles with morale.
- You have multiple remote employees.
- You can meet customer demands and requests without having to be in the office or store.
- Your business is driving you crazy and takes up all of your time.
How to Switch to a 4 Day Work Week
Test the Idea before switching
Before implementing a 4 day work week, you must first test the idea to see if your business can handle the switch. Depending on your type of business and how you and your team work the best, you will need to know what issues will arise if a change is made.
If part of your plan to switch to a 4 day work week is to stagger schedules of your employees, you should test those schedules to see if they are feasible. You may also test the different methods you intend to employ in order to make sure that your customers are not impacted. There is more on that later in this article.
Expect longer days
Most of the companies that have switched or tested a 4 day workweek have not abandoned the 40 hour work week. Instead, they have just made their work days a little longer. This means instead of five 8-hour workdays, employees will work four 10-hour workdays.
As an entrepreneur or business owner, your work hours are not always that cut and dry. For me, the amount of hours I work per week can vary. There have been weeks when I have worked well over 60 hours, and there have been some weeks when I’ve only worked 20.
During the process of implementing a 4 day work week, I knew that I would need to work longer days. In the beginning, my long days were anywhere between 12 and 16 hours long. But, as my productivity increased, my work hours decreased. Soon, my long days rarely lasted longer than 12 hours, with most days being between 6 and 8 hours.
Make Sure there is No Customer Impact
One of the first things that you need to evaluate is what, if any, will be the impact on the customer if your business or employees are only available for 4 days out of the week. This will be especially difficult if you have a service business or a business where your sales need to take place in person.
But just because it may be more difficult, does not mean that it cannot be done. Try to schedule meetings and services during the 4 days you are working. Or you can entice customers and clients to schedule meetings during your working hours by offering discounts on days that you are working, and attach premiums on days that you would like to schedule off.
Outsource customer service
If you provide in-person or phone customer service, you will have to deal with the issue of how to service your customers when you and your team are not available.
Companies such as Support Ninja and Simplr provide outsourced customer service support for businesses. Although this is an option for those with a higher volume of customer issues and emails, it may not be the best option for smaller businesses. If your business falls into that latter category, hiring one or two virtual assistants and training them on how to resolve common customer issues may be a better option.
Finally, it may be time to take a look at using smarter chatbots to handle some common customer issues. Chatbots are not meant to replace their human counterparts; instead they are designed to help optimize human interactions.
The goal is to have these bots relay information instantaneously to consumers and send them quick links to help them find the right forms, while collecting information for customer service reps. These bots will allow the customer to feel attended to while giving you time to respond to their request when you get back to work.
Remember that the Extra Day Off Does Not have to be Monday or Friday
For a period of time, I was taking Wednesday or Thursday off. At the time, I didn’t think I could take 3 days off in a row without it impacting my business. But over time, as I became more comfortable with my process, I tested the idea of taking either Friday or Monday off.
To my surprise, it turned out that I could take either of those days off without it severely impacting my business. There were some drawbacks, such as my email box being more full than usual. But the emails were never vital or time sensitive.
For you and your team, it is important that you know which days are the best off days. Although everyone may want Fridays off, it may not be feasible for your type of business. Allowing a rotating schedule or a “one Friday off per month” option can be a fair way to make sure your employees get what they want and you stay in business. Communicate with them and come to an arrangement that works for them and your business.
Quality work is better than a lot of work
Earlier, I mentioned that, in the beginning, some of my long days lasted between 12 and 16 hours. The important thing to know about these work days is the fact that they were focused work days. While working longer hours, I eliminate all distractions, do not allow for text or non business emails, and set lofty productivity goals for myself. I also begin my day around 4 a.m., so that there is even less of an opportunity for distractions.
The important thing for me was not how long I worked but what was accomplished. This focus on productivity and working on the right things is why I am able enjoy work weeks that are much shorter than 40 hours. Focusing on quality work also allows me the freedom to take time off when needed.