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Here's Where You Can Work 4 Days a Week or Less

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Four the Better

The five-day, 40-hour workweek is a way of life most of us don’t get to question, but it wasn’t always like this. It’s actually the lingering result of industrialization and struggles between moneyed interests and workers’ rights, meaning it’s not necessarily the best for us as individuals or a society. There’s been a recent groundswell of support for four-day schedules based on the notion they would bring boosted productivity, lower costs, and higher satisfaction levels among clients and staff, and the COVID pandemic’s shift toward remote work and flexible schedules gave it a boost. Here are companies — and a few public agencies — experimenting with a four-day approach, and how it’s worked out.


Related: 20 Work Benefits You Shouldn't Overlook in Your Job Hunt

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Perpetual Guardian

This New Zealand-based trust management and estate planning firm helped make the four-day workweek a serious topic of consideration in 2018, giving employees the choice to opt in with no loss in pay. Academics studying the trial found lower reported stress levels and improved job satisfaction and sense of work-life balance, resulting in a 20% boost in productivity. That October, the policy became permanent, and in 2020, founder Andrew Barnes published “The 4 Day Week” advocating for its broader adoption


Related: 10 International Work Benefits Americans Wish They Had

Microsoft
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Microsoft

For a “Work Life Choice Challenge” pilot in the summer of 2019, Microsoft granted its employees paid leave every Friday, cutting meeting times in half and capping attendance at five to accommodate the shift. The reported results were a 40% boost in productivity and 23% reduction in electricity costs, as well as arousing the envy of many. Despite this, the Big Five tech giant has yet to announce any other steps toward instituting or making permanent such a policy in any of its workplaces. 


Related: 15 Companies With Unusual Employee Perks

Madrid: Cafe in Plaza Mayor
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Spain

The biggest trial for the four-day workweek yet is set to begin in Spain, where the government will distribute 50 million euros to 200 companies volunteering to test the schedule on as many as 3,000 to 6,000 employees for up to three years. The money is intended to cover expenses incurred by participating employers as a result, such as adoption of new technologies or hiring additional staff.  


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Iceland

Reykjavík, in the Nordic island of Iceland, ran its own test of a four-day workweek between 2015 and 2019 with roughly 1% of its working population — in settings from offices to preschools — and found that productivity was stable or maybe a little higher despite an overall drop of up to five hours from schedules. Labor unions asked for changes as a result, “and now 86% of Iceland's workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to,” BBC News says.


Related: 14 Countries Where You Can Travel if You’ve Been Vaccinated

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Unilever

Also in New Zealand, Unilever, the importer responsible for distributing such high-profile products as Dove soap and Lipton tea, announced in December its own one-year trial of a four-day workweek. With consultation from Perpetual Guardian’s Andrew Barnes, the company was inspired to experiment and make the tentative switch for employees by the remote work shakeup of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Related: Competing Brands That Are Actually Owned by the Same Company

Shopify
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Shopify

Having already instituted nonconventional workplace norms such as no-meeting days, Canadian ecommerce site Shopify leaned into the evolution of remote work amid the pandemic, announcing in June 2020 the switch to four-day workweeks until August. While employees’ responses to the increased leisure time were overwhelmingly positive, there’s been no announcement whether the policy will be adopted on a more permanent or recurring basis. 


Related: 18 Big Companies Letting People Work From Home Long-Term

Shake Shack
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Shake Shack

The popular fast food chain Shake Shack shortened managers’ workweeks in some locations to 32 hours without cutting pay in 2018, and noticed a spike in recruitment, particularly among women. In 2020, the chain expanded the trial to a third of its 164 locations across the U.S. by employing a new ground beef supply-tracking software to compensate for the reduced staff hours. Most recently, Shake Shack noted it would invest $9 million in wage increases for current employees as well as $1 million in hiring bonuses through Aug. 31. 


Related: These 32 Stores Are Getting Rid of Cashiers and Checkout Lanes

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Wildbit

Inspired by Basecamp and Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work,” which argues humans’ capacity for intense cognitive work maxes out at around four hours per day, CEO Natalie Nagele instituted a four-day workweek at her Philadelphia-based software company Wildbit as early as 2017. Nagele has since become another committed advocate for reducing work hours to improve not just productivity but the quality of work and life, arguing that this shift calls for a differing, “deep” approach to work largely antithetical to the current corporate mindset. 


Related: 30 Ways Your Employer Could Be Cheating You

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Elephant Ventures

The Philippines office of Elephant Ventures had already been excelling with a four-day schedule for several years before the New York-based software engineering firm relinquished its global offices in March during the pandemic. That’s also when it piloted a companywide, four-day workweek with 10-hour days starting in August, which it reportedly resulted in a 15% to 20% productivity boost and better retention rates for staff.


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Uncharted

In the summer of 2020, social impact accelerator Uncharted launched a four-day workweek test of whether it could deliver the same volume and quality of work in 80% of the time. An evaluation by third-party partner Coeffect was documented in a series of Medium posts testifying to benefits like others reported: decreased stress, improved work-life balance, steady performance levels, and even slightly improved workplace dynamics and sense of support among staff. Perhaps needless to say, it’s chosen to stay with a reduced schedule. 


Related: 23 Entry-Level Jobs You Can Do From Home With No Experience

Boulder Colorado
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Boulder County, Colorado

About one-third of public offices and departments in Boulder County, Colorado, tried a four-day workweek for the first four months of 2021, making services unavailable on Fridays. Measuring the program’s impacts on employee productivity, public satisfaction, and cost showed a largely positive response from the public and an overwhelmingly positive one from staff; all Boulder County clerk and recorder offices adopted a four-day workweek with 10-hour days on an ongoing basis in May


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Jefferson County, Colorado

Also looking to cut costs and boost productivity amid pandemic-related budget shortfalls, Jefferson Country, Colorado, instituted a four-day workweek for many government offices, exempting departments such as the library, courts, and sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices. The changes took effect June 5, 2020. 


Related: How Much Does Your State Spend on Law Enforcement?

Morgantown, West Virginia
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Morgantown, West Virginia

Another local government trying a shortened workweek in 2020 was Morgantown, which launched a yearlong test in July. Most public employees transitioned to the regular hours of Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., aiming to reduce the town’s carbon footprint while extending residents’ windows to access services before and after their own work hours. 


Related: 40 Best Neighborhood Food Co-ops Still Thriving After Decades

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Kickstarter

The internet-famous crowdfunding platform Kickstarter announced this June its plan to experiment with a four-day workweek in 2022. Though still relatively small at 90 employees, the Brooklyn-based “public benefit corporation” will nonetheless become one of the most prominent U.S. businesses to launch the schedule, and it’s doing so with the academic researcher-backed resources of the just-launched Four Days a Week campaign, sponsored in part by one of Kickstarter’s executives. The campaign is trying to enlist more employers and establish more rigorous data to back the idea. 


Related: 18 Ways to Help Small Businesses Survive

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Nursing Homes

Beyond the prominent white collar experiments in tech and related industries, many nursing homes allow four-day weeks for their employees, though more quietly. Many nurses have the flexibility to schedule four 10-hour shifts a week or even three 12-hour ones. In one example chronicled in Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book “Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less — Here’s How,” a Virginia nursing home improved retention by giving nursing assistants 30-hour schedules with 40 hours’ pay, ultimately saving on recruitment and overtime pay while reducing accidents and infection rates. Shipping factories are also experimenting.


Related: What is Assisted Living and 15 Other Important Questions Answered About Senior Care

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Target Publishing

Citing the forced family time of quarantine as inspiration, Target Publishing also switched its 30 employees to a four-day week with no reduction in pay. David Cann, owner of this English publisher responsible for 20 magazines about health and education, reflected that the staff’s tasks started taking up considerably less time after the switch. “A meeting that would normally take an hour will take 15 minutes,” he said. 


Related: 30 Most Satisfying Jobs That Also Pay Well

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Think Productive

The U.K.-based team of this business management consultancy has been able to opt into a four-day workweek since November 2011, with the choice between a traditional Monday-through-Friday schedule or an extra 50 minutes per shift from Monday to Thursday. Encouraged by the principle of diminishing returns after roughly 30 hours of “knowledge work,” it ran a one-month trial and found staff surveys saying about the same amount of work was getting done with everyone feeling a lot happier. 


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Greenpeace Canada

The nonprofit Greenpeace Canada was another organization transitioning to a four-day workweek during the pandemic, in part to promote self-care during a difficult time. Ten months after making the change in May 2020, executive director Christy Ferguson wrote that work and morale had improved, resolving a tension staff had long felt in juggling home and office lives.  


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Radioactive PR

Among the first U.K. companies to try a shortened workweek was Radioactive Public Relations, which began a one-year test phase in June 2018, changing Fridays from active to “on-call” workdays. The next year, it decided to extend the policy indefinitely, citing positive results such as greater recruitment interest, fewer sick days, and greater staff satisfaction.

 

Related: 17 Celebrities Who've Survived PR Nightmares

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Volt

After shifting to remote work for quarantine in March 2020, the Seattle-based startup Volt, developers of an AI-based fitness training app, moved to a four-day week. Following a six-week experiment demonstrating good productivity and increased job satisfaction, it made the new “Flex Fridays” policy permanent, giving employees the final day of the old workweek off with the understanding they would still try to maintain the same volume and quality of work. 


Related: Why Trader Joe’s Employees Are Surprisingly Helpful and Happy

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Chanty

Rather than offer Fridays off like many others, the Zurich-based software company Chanty eliminated Wednesdays from its work schedule, giving a midweek break they say has led to a more energized workforce. In light of the shift toward more remote working, founder Dmytro Okunyev said it was also time to change how employee performance was measured as well, beyond the amount of time one sits in the office. 


Related: Chipotle, Costco, Under Armour and Other Companies Paying at Least $15 an Hour

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Buffer

After already relaxing productivity expectations with the onset of the pandemic, this social media marketing platform Buffer executed a long-anticipated switch to reduced work hours in May 2020. Staggering days off to ensure consistent customer service, it soon joined the ranks of companies proclaiming the benefits of a four-day week on employee happiness and productivity levels. Internal surveys reflected workers’ perceptions that this change lowered stress and increased feelings of individual autonomy. 


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