You know that “fuck yeah!” feeling when there’s a long weekend coming up? Well, imagine having that feeling every week. The famous 4-day work week has found its place in the spotlight lately, and it’s easy to see why. But is this just a five-minutes-of-fame scenario, or something much greater (and, in our opinion, badass as hell)?
Workers rights have come a long way since the 1800s, and the 4-day week might just be the next big step towards better work-life balance and quality of life.
But is this dream achievable for businesses of all sizes, or only those with resources to spare? Here’s our take, and our experience trialing the 4-day work week as a small business!
Why is the 4-Day Work Week Blowing Up Now?
Iceland recently shared the results of a 4-day work week trial which took place from 2015-2019. The positive results have been stirring up workplaces around the world, and Pepper decided to hop on board. Choo f*cking choo!
The 40-hour, 5-day work week was established by Ford Motors in the 1920s. Nearly 100 years later, it feels like it’s about time to reassess, don’t ya think?
Especially since the labour market has changed a shit ton, and many of us now work jobs that didn’t even exist back then (content creators, for example 😅).
And the truth is that, despite the 40-hour work week, many employees are putting in more hours than that in any given week (hustle culture is seriously a buzzkill).
Employees are burning out. They don’t feel like they have time to pursue their passions, hobbies, or even just get some freaking downtime outside of work. They want to spend more time with family and friends. Their priorities are changing.
Now, add the pandemic-that-won’t-be-named. During this time, people have become more burnt out than ever. Working from home, boundaries have become blurred. Those who were forced to take time off have realized they don’t necessarily want to return to the grind, spending 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week in an office. That life-is-too-short feeling has definitely sunk in real quick.
Then came the 4-Day work week to save the day.
What Companies are Offering 4-Day Work Weeks?
Many companies (and even countries) have been playing around with the four day work week, including some serious bigwigs. Like Microsoft, for example, which saw a 40% increase in productivity during their 4-day work week trials in Japan (Japan, as a nation is actually pushing for the idea as a new norm).
Oh yeah, and Meet Pepper, of course. 😎
4-day workweeks = more time for drinking beer with friends!
Why Did Meet Pepper Decide to Try a 4-Day Work Week?
“Ever since I started Pepper, I was interested in the 4-day work week and was beyond stoked that when it was brought up by the team recently, we were in a position to finally give it a go!” said Stacey, Pepper’s Founder and CEO.
The idea of a shorter work week was already on the Peppers’ minds for a few reasons:
- As a company that advocates for work-life balance, we’re always open to innovative ways of achieving it.
- We believe that keeping our employees happy is essential to our success, and that better work-life balance helps to do just that by improving quality of life and decreasing burnout.
- Having more days off each week gives employees the chance to get regular-life shit done, play, and relax, which is good for our physical and mental health (as long as you’re not playing too hard, at least 😉). Two days just flies by too damn quickly.
- Because our work is creative, the extra time off allows us to recharge our brains and come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to make cool shit.
- Less need to take vacation days, which is a win for both employees and the company.
- We knew it might be possible, based on the nature and structure of our business.
- Because we work mainly with creative entrepreneurs (especially photographers), Friday was already a slow day for communicating with clients who were often busy shooting or creating on those days.
- We already have many remote workers and flexible scheduling, so this seemed like a natural progression.
Shorter workweeks = more time to focus on side hustles and self-care.
But it always felt a little bit out of reach. Because as a small business—and not only that, but a startup that has yet to celebrate its third birthday—how the friggin’ hell were we supposed to do the same thing as these big companies with deep pockets and resources to spare?
After discussing amongst the whole team, we came up with a solution to try. Here’s how it worked and how it went.
How Our Small Business is Rocking 4-Day Work Weeks
There isn’t one single formula for the shorter week. Companies have taken different approaches, and it depends on the nature of your business and, truthfully, what you can afford.
At this stage, Pepper simply couldn’t afford to keep paying its employees the same amount for less hours of work since it would have worked out to a ~$8/hr raise per employee. It’s definitely a goal for the future, but for now, it would sink the ship.
So here’s what we did instead.
Employees were given options and chose what worked best for them. Unsurprisingly, everyone on the team opted for a 4-day work week (because who the heck doesn’t want more 3-day weekends?!).
So, we’ve decided that the office is technically “closed” on Fridays, meaning clients shouldn’t expect to communicate with us on those days (unless it’s an emergency—as far as marketing emergencies go, that is!).
Here’s a breakdown of what our shorter weeks look like, and some common questions we get.
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Longer weekends = more time for adventure!
Can I work 4-days a week and be full-time? Is a 4-day work week still 40 hours?
It definitely can be, but most of our full-time team members chose to take a slight reduction in hours instead.
Most of us choose to work 36 hours per week—4 x 9-hour days per week.
Most full-time employees opted to also have occasional flex weeks where they still work a regular 5 day, 40-hour week. Fridays are nice and quiet and the perfect time to catch up on stuff.
Adding an extra hour Monday–Thursday ended up being no biggie. If anything, Peppers were already in the zone and happy to have another hour to get shit done. We see how regularly working 10 hour days in our field could be pushing it, though. There are only so many creative juices to go around in a single day!
Does a 4-day week mean less pay?
It doesn’t have to, but it depends on how it’s structured.
For most of the Peppers, it did mean a slight decrease in pay. However, most employees find that the work-life balance far outweighs the minor cut in overall takehome pay. In the end, thanks to the flex week, and when considering income tax deductions, the loss in pay was far less than 1 day’s worth of pay / week.
For Pepper’s part-time employees, the 4-day week mostly meant more flexibility in their schedule. Booyah.
Stacey still works 5 days a week, but she loves that Fridays are more relaxed and chill: “I can really focus on things I need to get done without worrying about what the team needs from me. I feel more organized for the following week.”
Our 4-Day Work Week Trial Results
After over a month of rocking 4-day work weeks, here’s what we found.
Does a 4-day week save money?
Overall, Pepper’s profitability increased with the shorter work weeks.
Payroll hours decreased by 3.28% and overall total payroll costs decreased by 3%. All things remaining equal, it can be projected that the overall reduction in costs for an entire year will be around 5%. However, revenue remained the same, which means that profits increased.
How? Well, while the number of hours clocked by the team diminished slightly (roughly 12-16 hours / month for full-time employees), the amount of client work that Pepper completes and number of billable hours did not change.
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Fewer days spent at work = more days to spend with family!
This was possible due to a combination of things:
- Less time spent on administrative tasks. Every day, every employee tracks some internal time, which comes right out of Pepper’s pockets. This is time spent communicating, switching between tasks, getting organized, and just shooting the shit (because we think it’s important to have a little fun at work). It adds up over time, and cutting it down one day / week adds up, too!
- Getting in the zone. With our type of work, “the zone” is where the magic usually happens! And slightly longer days means more time to get in the zone and do good work.
- Fridays were a low productivity day. Because let’s be honest, by 2pm on Fridays most of us are already dreaming about cracking a beer. Plus, like we mentioned before, it was a low response day from clients.
- Coming back to work re-energized and ready to go. Longer weekends mean more time to rest, which means it’s easier to organize our days efficiently, focus, and get shit done.
Does a 4-day week improve productivity?
Hell 👏🏻 to 👏🏻 the 👏🏻 YES! 👏🏻
In our experience, at least! Our team is still working the same number of billable hours and producing the same amount of work for our clients, but more efficiently and with less internal/downtime needed between tasks.
“There’s less burnout, people are happier, and the team feels more appreciated which means I feel more appreciated, too,” said Stacey.
What the Meet Pepper Team Has to Say About Shorter Work Weeks
We kept track of each Pepper’s thoughts and feelings throughout our four day week trial, and the resounding sentiment was definitely a #fuckyeah!
The team feels more rested and prepared coming into work on Monday. The Sunday scaries (which are still a thing, even if you genuinely enjoy your job) started to disappear. The extra day off each week means there is time to take care of typical adult stuff (blerg), have fun, and relax. The possibilities for weekend trips and adventures also opened right up.
For some Peppers, the extra day off means more opportunity to focus on side hustles or passion projects. More time with family (furry, four-legged family included). More time to recharge. More time to figure out who the heck we are.
You can hear it for yourself by checking out our 4-day work week Instagram Highlight.
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4-day weeks = more time and energy to try new things!
In a way, the 4-day work week is like the friendly slap-in-the-face we all needed.
It’s a wake up call that you can love your job and do super rad work, and also enjoy other areas of your life to the fullest. That you don’t have to work unthinkable hours and sacrifice all your free time to be worthy. And that maybe working more hours isn’t always the solution, but that working smarter, taking time to rest, being innovative, and trusting and supporting one another is.
What do you think of the 4-day work week? Is it here to stay, or just a fad? It’s definitely here to stay in the Pepperverse, but we’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Pepper – Your Badass Business BFF Inc.