Work Less, No Stress? It Really Might Just Be That Simple
You know that feeling of excitement leading up to a 3-day weekend? Don’t be shy — you know what we’re talking about! Long weekends to spend time with friends and family, BBQs, outdoor activities, travel, exercise, floating on a boat, or whatever strikes your fancy. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing that you can relax 72 hours in a row — the true FREEDOM to have FUN.
Unfortunately, it feels like all the fun comes to an end when you consider that there are usually only 10 3-day weekends in a calendar year. Summer as a kid is about fun, but summer as an adult can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day! There’s never enough time to squeeze in all the activities — or even step outside to see the sunlight after work — and burnout is real.
Can anything be done to fix it? At Market Veep, we say yes, there absolutely is.
Getting Inspired: 4-Day Workweeks
One year ago in August 2021, in the height of COVID, I received an email newsletter that peaked my interest with the following article in it:
Click here if you wish to read the full article — we think it’s worth it.
To sum up the highlights, Iceland conducted a study from 2015 to 2019 with 2,500 participants. The participants reduced their work hours to 35 or 36-hour workweeks and had 3 day weekends every weekend.
So, how’d they do it? For starters, all those “meetings that could have been an email” moments actually became emails, reducing excess meeting time during the day. One office even blocked schedules after 3PM to give employees enough time to focus on work and less on meetings. Employees also ran personal errands and scheduled doctor appointments outside of the working 35-hour blocks.
The outcome? Less stress, happier employees, improved team morale, and overall better work-life balance.
Taking the Time to Make it Work for Our Team
After reading the article, we brought it up to the team. We were not at a place to offer a 4-day workweek, but how could we implement more time to focus on well-being and family? Our answer was what we call “First Fridays”.
The First Friday of every month we are closed (and paid) to focus on health, both mental and physical, spend time with family and friends, and reset.
September 2022 marks our official 1 year anniversary of observing First Fridays and quite honestly I cannot imagine stopping the program — or how we didn’t do it sooner! Watching teammates come back refreshed, sharing stories with the team of fun adventures they had, or simply feeling better because they got to get some chores done has been so rewarding.
No External Friday Meetings
As part of the program, we also implemented a “No External Meeting Rule” for Fridays. This gives the team an opportunity to get caught up from the week, start the weekend with a fresh mind, and come in on Monday organized.
Summer Hours that Became Forever Hours
We love long weekends so much that we piloted a program in 2022 for “summer hours” that gave us a half-day on Fridays with the remaining Friday hours being made up as “flex” hours during the rest of the week.
The half day Fridays were almost like having a 3-day weekend every week as we got out early enough to run errands, schedule appointments, and otherwise enjoy the day while still having the whole weekend ahead of us!
The “flex” hours were actually a positive experience as well. We all know how it goes when you come in 30 minutes early one day and stay 15 minutes late the next. Now with flex hours, those times you were already working are actually accounted for towards your workweek. By flexing those remaining Friday hours we were actually working less than before while being even more productive and motivated!
Our team loved it so much that we have officially made it a permanent workweek adjustment.
We All Work Differently
In addition to half day Fridays, summer hours originally changed our business hours from our typical 10am - 6pm to 8:30am - 4:30pm. The idea is that we could get out earlier and enjoy some quality sunshine (which, for our friends in New England, doesn’t last long!).
We quickly realized that getting on camera for our morning huddles at a bright-and-early 8:30am was not anyone’s favorite part of the day. We also found that while some people on the team loved the new start time (and would even start earlier if they could!), others on the team saw an immediate and sharp decline in their personal productivity and motivation.
The solution? Flexible scheduling. We need to be available to each other and our clients during a core set of business hours, but we found that we could achieve that without forcing a schedule on the entire team that only worked for some. Instead, we gave our team the option to choose between different schedules that would both work for them personally and give our team the time we need to be collaborative and productive together.
The lesson learned is that a great idea rooted in positive intentions might not always work the way you imagined. It’s important to try new things, listen to feedback, and make adjustments so that everyone is set up for individual and shared success.
What Will We Do Next?
A year later, it begs the question: what would it take to truly have a 4-day workweek, EVERY WEEK?
We might not be there just yet, but it’s certainly food for thought.
If you haven’t seen the TED talk, click here. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting!