WorkWritingAboutContact
Category
Writing
Date
05.10.2021
Length
4 minute read

Moving to a four-day week


About three months ago we decided to trial a four-day week, at no loss of pay, for all members. We recently reviewed our trial and it easily passed as a permanent change to our employment statuses.

In this post, we'll outline how we did it, what we discovered in our trial and why the four-day week is an important step for any organisation.

Why move to a four-day week?

The idea of moving to a four-day week has been gaining a lot of traction in the last few years, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Governments and businesses around the world have already run successful trials:

According to pilot studies, workers reported anywhere from a 25% to 40% increase in productivity, as well as an improved work/life balance, less need to take sick days, more time to spend with family and children, less money spent on childcare, and a more flexible working schedule which leads to better morale.

— From A four-day workweek is the future. Here’s why by Congressman Mark Takano

But it's not just about the benefits experienced by individual workers. The Four Day Week campaign have an expansive list of reasons for moving to a four-day week and how this can have a wider impact on our society, including:

  • A fairer society: more equal share of paid and unpaid work, including of caring roles traditionally ascribed to women
  • Strengthened communities: more time to build relationships, to care for children, the elderly and the disabled.
  • A reduced carbon footprint: research has shown that a four-day week could reduce the UK's carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year, equivalent to taking 27 million cars off the road (effectively the entire UK private car fleet).
  • More time to engage with politics, participate in local campaigns and shape society at a local, national and international level.

A colourful, Expressionist oil painting of two people sitting at a table in the sun, next to a tree. In the time of leisure by Martiros Sarian, 1930

Our hesitations

As a worker co-operative, it's admittedly fairly simple to initiate a change like this. We followed our usual consent-based decision making process: one of us made an initial proposal, we clarified it and addressed critical concerns as a group and then documented this decision on Loomio.

Our main concerns were:

  • We're already very busy, so will this impact our productivity?
  • We don't have a lot of surplus cash sloshing around month to month, so can we even afford it?

It can be a bit strange to make decisions around finances and productivity as a co-op member, because you're playing both the role of employee and employer, which can feel like you have somewhat conflicting motives. Ultimately, inspired by the four-day week as a political demand and we were curious to try it ourselves. We decided that a three-month trial was "good enough for now and safe enough to try".

Scheduling

We agreed that we would each work 32 hours per week, and take either Wednesday or Friday off. We hold regular team meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we wanted to make sure that we could retain these rituals and have at least three days per week when we were all working. On the first few weeks, we found that we had a pile-up of meetings on Thursdays, so we've had to be very conscious of distributing our schedule across the whole week.

What we do with our time

Most of us have opted to take Wednesdays off. We find that only ever work two days at a time creates a good cadence that allows us to approach work in a much calmer way. It somehow seems to have an impact on mental health and happiness that is disproportionate to the actual amount of hours off.

Some of the things we do on our days off include:

  • Life admin, like going to the bank, doctor or other appointments
  • Personal projects, sometimes loosely related to work
  • Reading
  • Volunteer at a local community garden
  • Go to the gym (for a longer time than usual)
  • Write songs and play the guitar
  • Learn magic tricks
  • Do housework

We've found that having a day in the middle of the week for housework makes the rest of the week feel less stressful and also frees up the weekends for truly disconnecting from any type of work. Weekends feel more spacious and abundant, and weeks are calmer.

One thing that we've noticed is that some of us do find it harder to switch off than others. It's important to give yourself permission to actually take the time off and relax.

Productivity

We were amazed to find after three months that there was no drop in productivity. That's right, despite the fact that we were collectively putting in 24 hours less per week (one member was already working four days), we haven't noticed a difference in our output. Wild!

Of course, productivity is notoriously difficult to measure, so this isn't an exact science. But we are getting through roughly the same amount of tasks per week, and are completing the same amount of projects. If anything, it makes us be more realistic about the time we have, and perhaps more cautious in our estimation of the work we can take on.

Try it yourself!

This is one of those decisions where we wonder why we hadn't done it earlier. We feel happier and calmer, we're just as (if not more) productive, and it's allowed us to take a more balanced approach to our work. We hope that more organisations will make the same move soon. We're happy to chat to anyone about our experiences – just email us at hello@commonknowledge.coop.

Further reading

  • The 4 Day Week Campaign offer practical advice and support for moving to a four-day week.
  • Our friends at Autonomy have done extensive research into the four-day week, and offer consultancy to help organisations move to a four-day week.
  • Kyle Lewis and Will Stronge have recently published Overtime which explores why we need a shorter working week.
  • In the Common Wealth report Organised Labour and the Green New Deal, Ellie Mae O’Hagan explains how the four-day week links to the aims of a Green New Deal.
  • Is this the age of the four-day week? by Robert Booth explores how different firms have implemented the four-day week.

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