Our startup is getting bigger and I'm thinking about decreasing our weekdays to 4. I always wanted this for myself and now I thought I can give it a try in my own company.
We are fairly small, about 5 people now, what do you think of this idea? Has anyone done it? Productivity decreased?, increased? Didn't change?
As long as you and your employees are getting results, the calendar and clock are basically irrelevant.
Ten years ago, when I was still coding in a corporate environment, I worked a flex-time schedule of four 10-hour days. I don't think the schedule had any real impact on my productivity. I did appreciate the long weekend, though.
As an entrepreneur, I work far more than 40 hours a week, but take off whenever necessary (so long as my clients' needs are met). My employees have the same flexibility - as long as their work is caught-up and they give me a little advance notice, they can take off whenever they feel like it.
Give it a shot. Freedom to focus on results instead of keeping up appearances is one of the best things about having a startup.
I did this for about 2 years while working at a growing startup. I was the only one on this schedule.
Pros for employee - The quality of life improvement for me was dramatic. I was MUCH happier, more relaxed and less stressed in general. I've never been able to feel truly relaxed on a 2 day weekend, but 3 days is perfect. I loved it.
Pros for employer - I was a harder working employee on the 4 days I was there. Overall my productivity was probably higher.
Cons for employee - In order to get my employer to agree to this I took a 1/5th paycut, but I probably worked just as much or more than people working the full 5 days. Other employees definitely resented me for it and it came out whenever I had to adjust the schedule for my day off. I often pushed myself much harder on the days I was there to "make-up" for my day off. I was managing one person at the time and I was lucky he was great and never complained about it, but I do think this would have been a problem if I had a larger team.
Cons for employer - Morale was hurt for other employees, who were clearly jealous. Coworkers always asked me "why can't I work 4 days?". Management always had the feeling that they could get more out of me if I was there 5 days a week, even though I think that was more perception than reality.
Eventually I switched back to a 5 day schedule because of a very demanding project that had everyone working 7 days a week anyway. I stayed back on a 5 day schedule because I didn't like being resented by my coworkers.
Overall I would say do it if you can do it for everyone, but not if it's only for a select few and definitely not for management only.
Yes, try it! The employees will enjoy it and will pay big dividends in terms of people wanting to work for you.
I did a 4-day work week for a company for a while and it was absolutely fantastic. It made the 4-days more productive not trying to fit errands and other stuff into them. And it made me love working for them.
It seems to be working well for 37 Signals at least: https://37signals.com/svn/posts/893-workplace-experiments. They found it didn't make a difference for productivity.
I admire the effort to try and benefit your employees, but make sure you have an understanding of what each person needs. A working parent may prefer to work 5 days as long as they can leave in time to pick their child up from school.
Maybe you can let each individual decide what works best. Some weeks may need 6 days and another can be 2 days depending on workload and deadlines.
Flexibility and trust will probably go a lot further. Keep any eye out workaholics on the verge of burn-out and send them home. They'll appreciate it in the long run.
If you decide to try 4-day-weeks, remember that they don't have to always be Mon - Thu.
I knew a guy who worked this rotating schedule:
so, his weekends were 2, 3, and 4 days long. This let him go on some interesting adventures on the 4 days weekends.
If you're looking at ways to offer your employees more empowerment, check out the Results Only Work Environment, which has been implemented in a few places. I saw a really interesting presentation on this at a conference, and it was fascinating to me. No idea how it would work in real life.
fx, it depends on the roles your employees play.
Management can usually work 4 day weeks no problem.
I think developers sometimes get burn out after 6 hours. and the option to give them 6 days of 6 hours is actually more productive. Most developers I hire are on the honor system. They have to attend meetings, the rest of the time they are on their own to do as they wish.
For customer support and sales this could work.
So long as you have coverage during business hours.