A. S. Apothecary’s 4-day week

A. S. Apothecary, a “small batch distillery making natural scents, creams, aromatic waters and balms from flowers, bark, leaves, roots, blossom and moss,” moved to a 4-day workweek this February. They’re an 11-person company with a shop and treatment center in Lewes, England.

As they explain in a blog post, they were partly inspired by the upcoming International Women’s Day, and partly by the Wellcome’s exploring the idea of a 4-day week. As they write,

We have to stop the culture of over-working, the macho bullshit of staying at the office half the night, the expectation that burn out is a price worth paying. Because it’s not. And this patriarchal working culture militates against women succeeding. We need a root and branch change, we need more women in business who will shake up the status quo. We most of all need to feel empowered to make the changes we instinctively know will work.

How’s it going so far?

Two weeks into this change everyone is happy, better rested and in good spirits. What might be overly complex for a multi-national is actually pretty simple for a small company. This small change allows people the time to go away, visit parents, rest for a day before a weekend with kids, to get the shopping done to avoid wasting half of a weekend in the supermarket or just sit at home in peace with a book.

In my book SHORTER (US | UK), I talk about several health and beauty companies that have moved to 4-day weeks, including a number in Korea (of course). They tend to be smaller companies (like most that are early adopters of shorter working hours), with focused product lines, and many (like A. S. Apothecary) have all-female workforces. They tend to be batch manufacturers, and do a lot of the work of manufacturing, packaging, and shipping themselves. You might not think of these as the kinds of jobs that a small business can do faster (automating your production line would be cost prohibitive at a small scale), but they figure out how to make it work.

They haven’t revealed much about how they make a 4-day week work, but they do have some leadership advice:

[I]f you run your business by micro-managing, not trusting your staff, assuming that a change like this will cost you money through lost production, it’s not for you.

If, on the other hand, you trust your staff, you believe that less stress and a better life/work balance equates to greater productivity and a better, happier workplace. This is for you.

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