Work Less

This is the second installment in our new series Fully Carsonified, where we reveal how we work. Today we’ll explain how and why we work a 4-day week.

Have you ever noticed that right before you go on holiday you get double the amount done that you would on a normal week? Why? Because you have a time constraint. You have to get all of your work done before you leave for holiday otherwise those cocktails by the pool just won’t taste as sweet will they? You’re sacrificing your time now so that you can enjoy it later.

When we tell people that at Carsonified we only work 4 days a week (Mon-Thurs, 9am – 6pm) then the general assumption is that we don’t get as much done as other companies. That our workload has to be reduced in order to fit into our smaller work week. “You can’t do a full time job in just four days,” is the most popular reaction.

The words '4-day week' illustrated by Mike Kus with children playing on top of the words, on a red background

Infact, you can. If you work every week like you were going on holiday on the Friday then you can get all of your work done in four days rather than five. It takes concentration, dedication and a zero tolerance approach to distractions. The reward is an extra 52 days off a year. Is that worth it to you?

Humans are in general efficient beings. However, we have an annoying habit of making our work fill our time. When we were students we would always finish our essays with an hour to spare before the deadline. We could have written the paper the day after it was given and taken the rest of the week off but we didn’t we made the work it the time – it’s the same now that we are in the workplace.

Most offices work Mon – Fri, somewhere between the hours of 9am and 6pm. Because this time is designated as ‘work’ time we feel guilty if we are not working during that time. If you agree that Fridays are not ‘work’ time then you won’t feel guilty about not working on that day.

Of course it doesn’t have to be Fridays that are non-work days. It could be any day of the week. However, it does help to have a regular day planned in as your non-work day. That way everyone knows what to expect.

Common questions and answers

“It’s okay for you, you don’t have clients ringing you every day and expecting you to be there.” Well, that’s true. However, we believe that if you manage expectations then clients will be accepting of your schedule. Make sure to let them know when you won’t be available and also put a note on your answer-machine to remind them when you’re in the office and when you’re not.

“I have SOOO much to do I can hardly fit it into five days nevermind four!” You may think that you have five days of work to do but you don’t. Again, you will always fill your time and there will always be more work to do. Take a deep breath, re-organise your to-do list and work like crazy. It can be done.

“But what about downtime? I like my Friday afternoons in the pub/long lunches and shopping trips.” We have to admit that this is one of the downsides of working a four-day week. You don’t have much time to socialize with your work colleagues. I guess you have to decide which is more important to you, having more time to yourself to use as you wish or hanging out with the guys from the office more?

What if I have employees?

Many people ask us what to do when employees are put into the mix. Should you offer a four-day work week to them as well? It’s up to you but we pay our employees a full-time salary (not pro-rata) and offer them the same amount of holidays as they would receive in a full-time role. We think it keeps things fair.

We also never refer to their job as ‘part-time’ and write it into their contract that they agree not to work a second job on their day off.

Tips to get you going

Three practical tips to help your 4-day work week run smoother:

  1. Make your non-work day the same each week
  2. Keep a close eye on your to-do list. Make a reasonable list for each day and work through it methodically.
  3. Do something cool on your day off. Don’t waste your new found day off watching TV or doing chores. Go to a museum, visit the park with your kid or take up a new hobby.

We have 15 full-time people at Carsonified and the 4-day week works just fine for us. Try it, you just might work 20% less improving your income, happiness and creativity.

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Comments

56 comments on “Work Less

      • Whenever I have a 4-day week I find I’m much more focused than normal and I start the next week fully refreshed and ready to get stuck in. But I wonder if the effect would wear off as I settled into the routine. A shorter week during Summer sounds like a good compromise. That way you’re guaranteed not to take it for granted.

  1. I think a 4 day week-ish approach is more common that you might imagine.
    My employer gives me one day a week to study for an MSc, I can’t use the time to do anything I like, but a day studying with my mind off normal work stuff is as good as.

    • Having a day to study is completely different than having it completely off. Trust me. I’d advise trying it if possible and you’ll see.

  2. Yeah, my only concern with this is that fridays are the day that we socialize with the rest of the team.

    Maybe another good idea would be to have fridays as a day where everyone on the team can work on personal projects and research other technologies that they dont usually get time to. Then you get some downtime and also the opportunity to socialize also.

      • True. I guess friday has always been seen as the main socializing day, as it signifies the start of the weekend.

    • a) Thursday is the new Friday.

      b) The problem with designating a work day in like this, rather than having it off, is that you won’t get the downtime, you’ll just allow the rest of your work to spread into that day. As it says in the article: “you will always fill your time and there will always be more work to do.”

  3. I think a 6 hour day is optimal for productivity in a creative job.

    Where I work we all have 37.5 hour work weeks (with full pay), but I’m considering reducing my working hours to 30, with 80% pay – I have a couple of colleagues with that arrangement.

  4. I love my Monday’s off, it may sound stupid, but that day of freedom really does make a difference to my life.
    I choose to study & work on personal projects…and it’s great being able to spend more time with my family too.
    I totally agree with not wasting the day…i feel cheated if i have done nothing constructive.
    As for working hours, my four days at work are that little bit longer than the norm! But for what i get out of it, it’s absolutely worth it.

    • To add, I am lucky that my employer has a great attitude toward a work/life balance. Initially i had assumed that a 4 day week would fall upon deaf ears, but no. As long as i make the correct judgement with regard to my workload & hours…and of course, don’t take the piss, a reduced working week is fine.

      If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

    • To add, I am lucky that my employer has a great attitude toward a work/life balance. Initially i had assumed that a 4 day week would fall upon deaf ears, but no. As long as i make the correct judgement with regard to my workload & hours…and of course, don’t take the piss, a reduced working week is fine.

      If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

      • That’s freaking awesome that you asked and they said yes. Please let everyone know that it’s actually possible, if they just ask and show results!

        • Damn straight. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

          Ideally everyone out there is in a great relationship with their employer to have the brass nuts to ask those questions. If you frame it right, prove to them you’ll be more productive and a better asset to the company – what’ve you got to lose by asking, and what has your employer got to lose by considering a different approach?

  5. That means asking my boss to put me on 80% (which would mean less money for me obviously) would actually be a favour to him as I’d get the same amount of work done but paid less … I’ll forward this article to him ;-)

    • Ideally, you should still get paid 100%. That’s the main point – you can still get all your work done, just in four days instead of five. :)

  6. Working less hours requires you to set the boundaries and learn how to say no to clients, even more than before, which is of course a good thing and will only make you grow, I think (and hope). Already partially implemented it myself, and that’s exactly where I’m going! As always, thanks for the tips Ryan :)

  7. Ryan I’m so on-board with this idea since I spoke about it to you! Like you mentioned to me we can make it happen by telling our boss what we are going to do on that day and how it will benefit them and the company. Certainly can’t be used as a completely free day for me, but am really keen on using it as a day for exploration and driving our podcast in new directions!! Great article, keep up the good work captain ;)

  8. Why do you require the employees to not work a second job on their day off? Is it not THEIR day off to do whatever they want?

    • I think the reason is that Carsonified are paying their employee’s as full-time (and therefore 5-day weeks). So why would Carsonified want their staff to be spending a day off that they paid for doing work for someone else?

  9. I love Carsonified’s outlook on the work/life balance. Very few companies adopt such a radical (if that’s the right word) way of thinking & it obviously pays off for you guys. As a result, very high team morale = increase in quality of work. Many companies focus on the quantity and not the quality and this really does gal me as a designer/developer.

    thumbs up for this post

  10. I love this idea and approach… but what about if your job, like mine is in Real Estate and your on call or need to make last minute adjustments? Any thoughts or insights into this?

    Great Post!

  11. I negotiated this at the last place I was at – admittedly I only got 4 days a week pay, but it worked wonders for me. 95% of the time my Fridays were spent being productive in a way that would end up to the benefit of the company anyway – I’d work on my own projects, learn new bits, whatever.

    Fantastic to know you have this as a company policy!

  12. Ryan,

    I’ve got years of experience building, leading and working in alternate teams and schedules. From my time building products in aggressive schedules, I’ve learned to multi-manage a variety of schedules and influence creativity and value by stopping manager’s from thinking ‘seat-in-ass’ is more valuable than ‘brain-in-head’.

    Some of my own tried and true rules are:

    1. 12 hour lockout – do not allow a team member to return to work (except in the rare crisis) within 12 hours of departing

    2. Understand your team member’s commute and work with them to minimize their transit time and impact (see below)

    3. Get to know when your team member’s are most productive in and outside work (night people vs. day people); personally I work best from 5AM until 12PM and then return diminishing results for focus as the day goes on.

    4. Work with people to transition to a point where they have skills and discipline to keep regularity in their schedule and thinking patterns; in some cases this means a person may be best from 11AM until 8PM. I used to have one absolutely brilliant guy who vegetated at his desk until 2PM and then by 5PM was in full swing. He usually went home by 7PM after ‘putting in a full day’. I switched his schedule, raised his value and productivity.

    5. Seek alternate methods of interrupting people’s time; we put stand-up meetings for various efforts at the same time on the same day each week. We eliminated mandatory meetings and required people who raised topics and discussions to circulate the key notes; this not only reduced the amount of wasted time in meetings, but clarified the critical messages and feedback loops.

    6. Build mingling spaces in work spaces; bean bags and white boards go well together. But not all work spaces should allow mingling; “quiet please” signs should be acceptable (see below).

    7. Organize your team work spaces/seating chart by clique not function. Certain people work best in a collaborative manner where social interaction is constant and often loud. Others, like myself, work best in quiet without movement and noise. If you’re able to, put your concentration-freaks in single offices with a closed door or if you must, pool the concentration-freaks in an ergonomic pod with a closing door.

    8. Encourage spaces for discussion and collaboration – along the hallway where there are offices and one blank wall, run dry-erase down the length and encourage people to meet while standing. Solicit feedback from passerby’s. This worked well outside my leadership team’s office and also brought up a strong sense of connectedness from management to the artists and designers, chatty hackers and social developers.

    9. Overpay your staff; or like you’re doing decrease the working hours and maintain industry standard. I like what you’re talking about because in effect it is standardized and not specialized “that guy doesn’t work Fridays”…

    10. Take the chairs out of your meeting rooms (with a few exceptions, obviously) and at best replace them with stools or elevated director chairs. I like stools; you get to watch the bored guy slip off constantly and this, believe it or not, never gets old.

  13. Ryan,

    I’ve got years of experience building, leading and working in alternate teams and schedules. From my time building products in aggressive schedules, I’ve learned to multi-manage a variety of schedules and influence creativity and value by stopping manager’s from thinking ‘seat-in-ass’ is more valuable than ‘brain-in-head’.

    Some of my own tried and true rules are:

    1. 12 hour lockout – do not allow a team member to return to work (except in the rare crisis) within 12 hours of departing

    2. Understand your team member’s commute and work with them to minimize their transit time and impact (see below)

    3. Get to know when your team member’s are most productive in and outside work (night people vs. day people); personally I work best from 5AM until 12PM and then return diminishing results for focus as the day goes on.

    4. Work with people to transition to a point where they have skills and discipline to keep regularity in their schedule and thinking patterns; in some cases this means a person may be best from 11AM until 8PM. I used to have one absolutely brilliant guy who vegetated at his desk until 2PM and then by 5PM was in full swing. He usually went home by 7PM after ‘putting in a full day’. I switched his schedule, raised his value and productivity.

    5. Seek alternate methods of interrupting people’s time; we put stand-up meetings for various efforts at the same time on the same day each week. We eliminated mandatory meetings and required people who raised topics and discussions to circulate the key notes; this not only reduced the amount of wasted time in meetings, but clarified the critical messages and feedback loops.

    6. Build mingling spaces in work spaces; bean bags and white boards go well together. But not all work spaces should allow mingling; “quiet please” signs should be acceptable (see below).

    7. Organize your team work spaces/seating chart by clique not function. Certain people work best in a collaborative manner where social interaction is constant and often loud. Others, like myself, work best in quiet without movement and noise. If you’re able to, put your concentration-freaks in single offices with a closed door or if you must, pool the concentration-freaks in an ergonomic pod with a closing door.

    8. Encourage spaces for discussion and collaboration – along the hallway where there are offices and one blank wall, run dry-erase down the length and encourage people to meet while standing. Solicit feedback from passerby’s. This worked well outside my leadership team’s office and also brought up a strong sense of connectedness from management to the artists and designers, chatty hackers and social developers.

    9. Overpay your staff; or like you’re doing decrease the working hours and maintain industry standard. I like what you’re talking about because in effect it is standardized and not specialized “that guy doesn’t work Fridays”…

    10. Take the chairs out of your meeting rooms (with a few exceptions, obviously) and at best replace them with stools or elevated director chairs. I like stools; you get to watch the bored guy slip off constantly and this, believe it or not, never gets old.

    • I’m sure this is a good post so I’m going to try to read when I get time. One suggestion is adding a tl;dr…they’re becoming popular because of the value they add. I’m at work and would hate to get busted reading an article about only working 4 days!

      • I’m not sure you’ll appreciate the big rolling belly-laugh I just had at your comment.

        If the value add is shortening a list of suggestions to an easily consumable fragment it would be this:

        Want to be valued as an asset to the company in any role and be supported to do your very best every day? Work for a boss like me.

  14. I’m just wondering: reduce the pace and get the same work done in 5 days bs perpetually work ultra stressed and get a 4 day week instead… I’m wondering what the gains are for the company, the same amount of work is being done. And can people really keep this pace up perpetually? Not the highly self motivated segments of the population, everyone, including those who like to smell the roses.

    • Fundamentally the issue comes down to what your senior management expects in return for your compensation and how that belief impacts an organization. The common tech start-up approach is to provide adequate incentive in compensation and some amount of incentive-added equity or bonus. The common expectation is that the value and contribution of the employee will be measured by how many hours a week they are physically present, ass-in-seat, able to hack.

      Big companies, which I have far too much experience with, manage based on the number of people and the cost of time versus the perceived value of the total investment in resources and costs of goods and services to keep the headcount employed. Efficiency and personal sense of contribution don’t really figure into it and they don’t have to in order to make a “human wave” of effort successful.

      Ryan’s point, and mine below, is really about understanding that the highest-value contribution of a team member doesn’t always involve them being present at their desk, in your office, constantly. As Paul Graham calls it so well in an essay last year, “shower time”, http://bit.ly/cRW2jY.

      When you’re using the human brain every day to generate revenue, you don’t want to abuse it or the individual host. You need to protect your investment, which is exactly why I feel my management style is a better way to overachieve repeated results. Or I’d do it differently. Check this out: http://bit.ly/b7X0B1.

      I’d much rather have you at your desk 32 hours a week trying to solve things in a brilliant, clean, sustainable way than spend 160 hours (or much more) a month cleaning up after tired employees. Sometimes you need to hustle and hack in a hurry; it is precisely those times when a good manager can reach into the reservoir they’ve helped create with their employees and tap the good will, joint sense of sacrifice and measurable payoff of getting a critical goal accomplished with a heroic team effort.

      • There’s a huge point you are making and it’s interesting how you bring in basic principles of economics while also pointing out to psychological factors like motivation, performance and collaboration (or a more self-inflicted form of it – conformity). I’m not sure if motivation on its own can sustain a market mostly fueled by a compensation vs. work hours approach.

        • I’ve been around the development business a long time and most of my “shower time” is spent thinking about ways to improve outcomes. People, sales, product. My own experience has been that if I preserve my own early morning hours with limited interruptions, I can often finish a day of work before taking a break at 10AM.

          My most cogent, well-formed ideas occur over coffee. Others are different and require different paradigms and techniques of self/management. I know for a fact that if senior management and culture at a company can support it, over time, entire teams and groups can be converted to highly productive, supported/supportive assets with strong good will to each other and the company.

          That breaks down almost instantly when top leadership stops paying attention or no longer can influence group culture in an organization. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being small.

  15. I wish every company would think like this! At least my new VP has started “Flexible Fridays”. This is where no Friday afternoon meetings are scheduled and we can work from home.

  16. Great post. We’ve been following your way of doing things for a while and are considering something similar here. Very progressive thinking but it challenges the status quo. Some people just can’t get their head round the idea (especially clients!). There’s a challenge in offering the same level of service and responsiveness, within a shorter work week. I’ve always thought a time restriction makes you more focused and effective, prioritising what’s important, with less chance of distraction (we call them ‘work fidgets’).

    For challenging the traditional model of how companies are run, I’m sure you’re aware of St Luke’s ‘the ad agency to end all ad agencies’, set up in the mid 90s. Their story is a great read http://amzn.to/hdAtzK I also love Maverick http://amzn.to/e5ZH2Y (if only for the cheesy cover!).

    I believe if you’re running a creative company you should give your staff the flexibility and trust to work how they choose in order to be their most effective. For us it’s not necessarily about working any fixed days or times. It’s working how you choose and when you choose to get the work done. If you work best wearing your PJs on the beach with a laptop, go for it. Just don’t expect your colleagues to claim to know you!

    It’s that longing for control that is the reason many people set up their own business in the first place. Working long hours isn’t healthy (or logical) – time to fight for a return to work/life balance. We’ll be a happier, healthier society as a result…

  17. Great Inspiring article, when I start up my own company this will definitely be top of my list of core values. Even using that extra day even as a training/hobby day would be so beneficial to any business in the long run. Love the concept and hope to push it through in future.

    Keep pioneering Ryan!

  18. In The Netherlands, working less than 40 hours is pretty common, but it doesn’t go with a 5-day pay. I’m considering going back from 40 to 36 or 32 hours a week later this year. Of course I’ll use that extra day to do something to relax, but I’d also would want to use to do some projects to learn new stuff for work. It’s just something I never get around to during a normal work week.

  19. Like the 4-day work week idea. However, do you find that you micro-manage your staff more during those 4 day? (it is possible to give them the flexibility to set their own times and schedules as long as the work gets done…but just curious as they have less time to complete things). Also, do you think this applies to all professions/positions equally (i.e. an analyst versus a manager versus a professional etc.)?

  20. First off, I think a 4-day working week is great and I applaud you for running a company on a 4-day week.

    Personally I think what’s more important than a 4-day week for healthy working environment, is trust. I don’t mind working 5-day weeks as long as my employer trusts me to get the job done. This implies no snarky comments when you turn up an hour later than usual because you had some unexpected errands (also assuming you didn’t miss a meeting…). My point is freedom and empowerment to basically create your own working regime, as long as it fits in with the overall company working regime.

    On a slightly different note, I always feel that in creative industries, the whole notion of working hours is a little outdated. I solve many of my days problems whilst in the shower or doing other non-work activities. Does that mean I can I book that as working hours? Of course not. It does however imply that I can take the occasional half hour break on company time during my working hours. Thankfully my current, and in fact former, employees have all operated in this manner. Maybe that’s something I subconsciously look out for when applying for jobs.

  21. I d love to try that applied at Greece!

    we work 10+ straight hours at companies (sometimes with no lunch breaks), research and report from home (more extra hours there) and we get summoned everyday any time…….smn get the whip please?

  22. I’d love to move to a 4 day week, but even though I don’t think that is possible, another healthy idea would be a half day Friday, where you go to work as normal, but down tools at lunch and then work on a personal or creative project to keep the juices flowing outside of the standard target driven work we normally do.

    I do think work places in general need to be more forward thinking about working hours. You should help staff get the best out of themselves. In my previous employment, they employed a school bell type policy to let people know it was the start and end of the day. Oddly enough a great many of the staff behaved like kids.

  23. Excellent idea.

    However, why not go further, and simply reduce the amount of work that is considered a “full time job”? The definition of a full-time job is arbitrary, and varies according to time and place. Why not simply reduce the time nationally, if not globally?