I'm Joe Sanok and I research, advocate, and implement the four-day workweek AMA
I believe that in the next 20 years, we as the post-pandemic generation, will have monumental challenges. Do we want to be as stressed out and maxed out as we were pre-pandemic? Is 2019 the be model for work schedules, creativity, and productivity? Or is there a better way?
My research, case studies, and experience have shown that we've left the old Industrialist way of thinking, we no longer see people as machines to be maximized. Instead, we want freedom to choose, discover, and create. I believe we are made for more than just productivity. The research is showing that too, that when we slow down, work less, and all free space, we're more creative, productive, and focus on the best tasks.
This matters to me because I'm a trained mental health counselor, single dad, and person that cares about addressing big issues in the world. I know we can do better and the next step in the evolution of business and life is the four-day workweek.
Yes, I totally agree. Hourly employees or specific industries like this make it much harder to implement. There are jobs where productivity it completely tied to time worked, in those jobs employers would need to see the ROI on reduced hours, reduced stress, and better health outcomes for staff.
My hope is that the four-day workweek does not become something available only to the upper class. The research I look at is showing that a four-day workweek helps with health outcomes, a reduction in family situations that could cause work disruptions, increased creativity and productivity...but especially for the industry you're in the employer would need to think of their staff in a holistic way, not just in one specific way.
Does that make sense?
Yes, that makes sense. Thanks for answering, and it it is good to see someone doing research into the benefits of the 4 day work week.
Thanks, Europe is doing a lot around it. Also, Shopify, Emtrain, and KVCC are too
Where I work, we run 24 hours a day, sometimes 6 days a week with some machines required to be staffed during lunch breaks as well. If there is an absence on one of the shifts, the others will extend to provide coverage. My supervisors and managers would rather have an aneurism than see us run 20 hours 4 days a week (2x10 hrs).
That makes sense, there are industries where 24/7 is needed, the big discussion then is around scheduling, outcomes, and whether creativity, retaining staff, and worker happiness is something that is part of the equation for the business.
It may not, which means that implementing this may not be part of something they want to explore.
Then it's more of a decision as to whether that's an environment you want to stay in?
I work for a company where a 4 day work week is absolutely viable but the owner/management is pretty old school and likely would not be very receptive to the idea.
Can you recommend any approaches or resources for initiating these conversations?
Absolutely! In having these discussions often it reveals whether a company can actually make this move. The Industrialist Model focuses on treating everyone the same (like a machine), whereas the new model outlines experiments.
So discussing doing an experiment for a quarter usually goes over much better. This Harvard Business Review article I wrote goes super in-depth (https://hbr.org/2021/09/how-to-ask-your-boss-for-a-4-day-workweek) but the basic ideas is: 1. Look at the KPIs you are already judged on 2. Have a Three month experiment working less 3. Report out weekly on whether you are meeting, missing, or exceeding your KPIs 4. Give an overview of the data and other info
Companies right now want to retain top talent, if you can help them do that by testing the four-day workweek, it often shows you are even more valuable.
The question I always have when considering a 32 hours workweek is, will the employee then miss out on 8hrs of pay? I have a hard time believing that employers are going to increase wages to meet the same paycheque.
Personally, this would put me in a situation where I need to take on hours at another job to replace the lost 8.
Am I missing something?
That is the main mindset shift for employers. The research right now shows that employers will make as much money off a 32 hour workforce (in most industries) as a 40 hour, so their profits will stay the same, they'll pay less in heat/space/support, and have a happier and healthier works force.
what are the disadvantages you recognize with a 4 day work week?
I think the major challenges are specifically with hourly workers, manufacturing, and people genuinely slowing down if they have time off. Some people might just go get another job, so the value of slowing down and allowing the brain to reset would then be lost.
I think specifically with manufacturing, hourly, and people actually slowing down we see challenges. If someone has a three day weekend and then just goes and works more, the employer doesn't get someone that comes back rested and more creative. So, understanding how when we slow down, we do more productive and creative work needs to be part of the education.
What do you suggest for all the people who work shifts? Retail, emergency services, healthcare, transport workers etc. Or industries where there are staff shortages? I would love to work a 4 day week but I am a healthcare worker and for my role in my country, 2 out of every 3 jobs are unfilled.
That is one area where implementation is very difficult. As we are seeing right now the Great Resignation/Recalibration is showing where our entire model has cracks.
Some models are showing that moving people from hourly to salary can help address this, secure employees longer, and build longevity. While additional models look at increasing worker wages.
The big shift from thinking like an Industrialist to this new model is that there is not a "one size fits all" answer. I know that can sound like a non-answer, but experimentation, adaptation, and implementation of core principles helps to create a plan that works for both entrepreneurs and workers.
Why a four day workweek rather than a shorter workday? Keeping people fresh every day seems better for productivity than making their Mondays especially productive.
Yes both can have value and that is where experimenting within a specific business can be helpful. Imagine two teams with the same KPIs that try different schedules as an A/B experiment, it could be a great way to see what works best for that team!
What do you think of the hours worked by paramedics and EMT’s? It’s very common for them to work a either a 12, or 24 hour shift. Most employers require them to work 48 hour workweeks at a minimum.
While sometimes this can be great, and they may be able to spend 8 hours resting, other days they may spend 18-24 hours “on task”. In busy areas, it’s not uncommon to be on task your entire shift. Many studies show that after 16-24 hours of intense stress, with no sleep, medics make more mistakes, and it’s unsafe for the patients and providers. One study rated their driving skills after 24 hours awake, and stated they made as many mistakes as a person with a BAC if 0.10! Since the pandemic, 60 hour weeks are not uncommon. Forced overtime is normal in this industry.
Despite this fact most EMS service providers/directors cite lack of staffing, and increased costs to continue business as usual. How do you fight a system that seems designed from the ground up to oppose reasonable hours?
Many EMS professionals are scared of change because their pay is so dismal; without overtime each week, they would be destitute. Most voters oppose tax increases and are already angry about the amount charged by transport agencies.
Have you examined this arena, or had any experience in making changes to these types of systems?
I have discussed this quite a bit on podcasts. In general, the medical field is a tough one to implement this, but much needed. Much of the shortage we are seeing right now is a natural reaction to this type of unhealthy work environment.
Which industries have you found to most benefit from 4 day work weeks, and which industries are best suited to produce good data? For example I would think the tech industry would benefit, but not sure if it's so easy to measure the difference in productivity where manufacturing you can more easily measure the differences in output, defect rates, etc.
In the first phase we are seeing most success in start-ups and companies with less than 100 employees. But, Kalamazoo Valley Community College successfully started implementing it five years ago and now saves millions in just AC cost in the summer, retains employees longer, and student success has gone up.
Also, what this discussion reveals is how few of the jobs/occupations actually have a solid Key Performance Indicator other than hours at work.
Does it matter which 4 days? I would personally go for M T Th F. but I think many would go for M-Th.
It does not, it's more important to start with an experiment that lasts at least 3 months. Some do MTTF, others MTWT
Why do you think 32 hours of labor for the same pay will be just as productive as 40 hours of labor? Or are you talking about 4 days of 10 hours of work? If you mean 32 hours of work, how can you expect proponents of the 32 hour work week to win out over those willing to work conventional 40 hours, either from other people willing to sell their labor domestically or abroad through outsourcing?
That's a great question, most of the research I have evaluated and write about show that 32 hours is as productive or more than 40. That 40 hour people tend to not actually do more work than a 32 hour person. Therefore, in most industries it makes sense to maintain the same salary, even with fewer hours worked.
It is a huge shift, but in 1926, we went from working 10-14 hours a day six to seven days a week to the 40 hour workweek. This experiment is only a couple generation old.
Do you think this is a case of Parkinson's law? The work expands to fill the time alotted?
Yes, I actually go pretty deep into that. Also, the other side of Parkinson's Law is the natural blotting of organizations.
Given that technology will always ensure that productivity per person-hour continually increases, how have you controlled studies to show that 32 hour work weeks are as productive as 40 hour work weeks long-term?
I have not been the one doing the research as much as bringing together research. I look for peer reviewed studies that are both qualitative and others that are quantitative.
Are there any large companies in the US that do a 4 day work week?
Here is an unverified list from Feb 2022 of US companies doing it:
How well is it working out? As a software developer, I find that some weeks, I do 20ish to 40ish hours of work, but during tax season, I can do up to 50 a week. Do you ever have to deal with crunch like that?
Yes, in the chapters on "Killin'It" aka sprints and getting a lot done, I talk about how the brain does well with sprints. It sounds like you have good awareness and boundaries in down time. But a lot of people just default to the 40+ hour week. Instead, the neuroscience is showing that when we slow down, we do more productive and creative work.
Has there been any comparative studies done, comparing 4 day work week and 5 day work week with shorter workdays?
A lot of the studies are so new that they don't do that level of comparison, usually it is to a 40 hour "regular" workweek. There was a great article form 2018 in HBR that discusses 6 hour days and much of that research can be aligned with the four day week research: https://hbr.org/2018/12/the-case-for-the-6-hour-workday
We know that a four day work week is feasible (and many other economic improvements for the working class) with the degree of efficiency and automation we have achieved. I don't think this is really debatable.
The problem is how do we implement it and convince people that it is doable? There are so many people who just work and argue against their own interesets tTat this is probably the bigggest challenge.
And especially those who have the biggest options to drive change are those who have the least intrest in doing so.
What do you suggest?
Such a great question! What you point to is the shift that really could occur around reducing our stress and valuing free time. You are right that people really could experience significant change that helps them, but they don't do it.
As people with power/options see that having a less stressed and more creative work force actually helps the bottom line, to retain people, and to launch more creative products, then they'll be more likely to buy in.
But this model is directly challenging the idea that staff/employees are just parts of a machine and are disposable, which a lot of people can't understand.
Why not go for 3 12 hour shifts? I personally love it
That's great too! I think each industry has to experiment how to do it. But, four days is a start for most.
The big shift is away from the 40 hour/5 day week being the default. If the pandemic taught us anything, it's that we can reshape things way more than we think.
I did a rotating 4-3 3-4 12 hour shifts and loved it. Work ruins the day anyways, not much time to do anything after 8 hours anyways. A 12 hour shift gets more of it out of the way. I got a smidge of OT every other week and 4 days off every other week.
That's awesome! How did you find that that schedule helped you to be more creative and productive?
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Sounds good, looking forward to this AMA
This is a great topic. Thanks! Now, if I remember correctly, there are certain countries that are testing this. What do we know so far granted that it hasn’t been long?
Iceland did a three year study with thousands of people and showed 32 hours to be equal or better to 40, Spain and New Zealand have tested it. Numerous companies and colleges are showing its benefit.
For the rest of the working world with actual skills in trades, public safety, and other services.... why should they care about the happiness of paper pushers and keyboard monkeys who contribute little to the greater good?
I wouldn't agree with the premise of your question, in that I think all people and work can have value. I would say that your question sounds like the Industrialist mindset coming to life.
It's easy to see how the 4 day week with reduced hours can be rolled out across so-called white collar jobs, where the same level of productivity can be squeezed into a shorter amount of time. However, I work in a call centre, and I cannot handle the same number of calls in 32 hours as I would in 40 hours. I am fortunate that my employer has allowed me to go to a 4 day week, albeit a condensed 4 day week.
My question to you, is whether you foresee that the 4 day week is going to open up a class-based divide, and the attendant resentments of such, as free time potentially becomes the luxury of the middle classes (rather than a fundamental human right), or do you think that a standard 4 day work week with reduced hours is a right that could be expanded to blue collar jobs as well, without loss of pay?
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