There are a number of companies that have discovered during the pandemic that they could permanently shift to a 4-day week (I wrote about some of them for Fast Company), but I’m also seeing a growing number of organizations that have run 4-day weeks for a month or two as a way of rewarding workers or avoiding burnout.
Canadian ecommerce giant Shopify, for example, shifted to a 4-day week for much of the summer. (They had already implemented a No Meeting Day to give people more time to focus on key tasks, and they had previously worked with Wildbit, a Philadelphia software company that’s been running a 4-day week for years and that I talk about in SHORTER, my book about companies adopting 4-day weeks.) Executives noticed that employees weren’t taking vacation days (where could you go?), and they were worried that this was going to translate into lost productivity and more burnout. So on June 15 they announced that the company would move to 4-day weeks through August:
Today Shopify announced Fridays off for R&R through August. A response to lower rates of vacation being scheduled, despite the increased mental pressure from the changing times that we’re in. And, we also have no meeting Wednesdays (since before it was cool) THIS. IS. THE. PLACE
— Carl W Rivera (@postcarl) June 15, 2020
The results were positive:
Today was our first @Shopify R&R Friday.
I spent the day catching the sunrise, going for a mountain bike ride with my buddy, visiting @MuskokaBrewery & Webers, and catching up with some cottage friends.
It’s refreshing to be part of a company that truly puts its people first. pic.twitter.com/M85q5DkAbt
— Mark Kryshtalskyj 🍁 Black Lives Matter (@mkryshtalskyj) June 20, 2020
Before joining the comms field, I spent my uni career in music. Over time, 🎶 was put on the shelf, collecting dust. When @Shopify announced R&R days, I decided to dust it off & dedicate time to learning my original craft. Big 🙏 to @JohnKofiDapaah for taking me on as a student! pic.twitter.com/uoaC9EJ4uZ
— Samantha Tam (@SamanthaMayTam) July 10, 2020
It’s now been 1+ months since @Shopify gave Fridays off for R&R. A few thoughts on 4-day work weeks:
– 4 days per week is plenty of work
– Many end up working 4, 10-hour days
– At first, I used Fridays to goof off. Now I read/learn new things
– Prioritization is key Mon-Thurs
— Brian Peters (@Brian_G_Peters) August 4, 2020
Many people report using these days to get outdoors, or revive old hobbies or learn new things. Employers who worry that a 3-day weekend will mean that employees will just good off should stop worrying (assuming it’s their business to begin with).
Last week, the NBA did something similar. As KSL Sports noted, “Though the NBA restart lasted just three-and-a-half months after a four-and-a-half month hiatus, many employees worked through the coronavirus pandemic leading to the longest season in league history.” Dealing with the death of Kobe Bryant, a feud with China over support for Hong Kong, and then having to figure out how to play a season during the pandemic was no small thing: it’s hard to take issue with Fortune’s description of the league’s management as “a case study in leadership.”
Now, Silver’s gone one step further:
In recognition of efforts during a historic season, NBA commissioner Adam Silver informed league employees in “Thank You” letter that they are all receiving a $1,000 bonus and four Fridays off beginning Oct. 30 as well as Thanksgiving week.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 12, 2020
It’s not a huge amount of money, but four Fridays plus Thanksgiving week is a pretty significant amount of time.
It’s too early to know if these programs will inspire further, more permanent changes; but the idea that shorter hours are a good reward for hard work, and a good tool for organizational renewal, is one that more executives should learn.