What would you do with the gift of an extra day?
This question was posed by Kirsty Wark at her recent talk advocating for a four-day work week at TEDx Glasgow. She argued that working shorter weeks makes staff more productive, improves staff retention, makes people happier and gives them time for self-development.
All stuff I believe, obviously. Because I’m one of those four-day week workers.
I can’t say it feels much like a gift – I did take a hefty pay cut for the privilege of having a day off – but working four days a week is great, and (for the most part), I’m a great example of why.
Let’s address some of Kirsty’s main points:
I don’t think I’ve ever been more productive as when I realised that I didn’t have time to waste. I decline pointless meetings, focus harder and work smarter, and let me tell you – my work gets done. People often forget that I’m technically part time because I’m smashing deadlines like I’m the Hulk.
Productivity isn’t just about getting stuff done – it’s about getting the RIGHT stuff done. I’ve stopped doing a lot of things that don’t add much value, and outsourced other things to people who can do them better. Knowing that I have eight fewer hours than everyone else means that I’m empowered to hunker down, get the work done, then fuck off at 5pm on Thursday.
Science says that working longer hours actually makes us less productive – plus it can lead to long-term health issues and an increase in errors – so why do most companies still expect it?
Improves staff retention
A big part of the reason I’m still with my current employer is because of the flexibility that I’ve been given – including that Friday off.
Yup, Friday is my non-working day. Because is there any other day when you’d less like to be at work?
Makes people happier
I’m happy that Fridays mean spending time with my daughter. I’m happy that I’m not paying for full-time childcare (which would be literally cost more than half my paycheck). I’m happy that Friday mornings are relaxed, as opposed to the mad rush to get the kid dressed/fed/to nursery by 8:15 Monday to Thursday. I’m happy that on the rare occasion that Friday is a glorious, sunny day, I get to spend it at the park or the beach instead of in the office.
Suck it, desk jockeys.
Time for self-improvement
Given that my “day off” is spent running after a toddler, I can’t say that leaves much time for…well, me. If I truly had the gift of an extra day – a day that was just for me – I’d self-improve the shit out of myself. Write that novel that I abandoned ages ago. Volunteer. Exercise. Finally learn to bake cakes that don’t look like they were made by a drunk toddler.
So yeah, I love the idea of a four-day work week – but I think revolutionizing the way we work requires an even more radical approach. Let’s forget eight hour days Monday-Thursday, because even that’s missing the point. In our knowledge-based economy, many jobs can be done from anywhere, at any time. Let’s give employees and employers the freedom to shape working patterns that work for everyone, however unconventional they may be. That might mean working during school hours only, or working a few extra hours on the weekend so you can to attend a weekday uni course. Early birds getting their work done by 2pm and night owls not starting until then.
It’s time we started changing the way we talk about work.