My brief experience with a four-day work week

In one of my recent articles, I discussed the concept of a four-day work week and I will revisit that topic to talk about my brief experience with that

I have a full-time job as a Project Manager for a tech company, and one of the perks of the job is that my hours are very flexible. As long as I'm making sure that things get done, they don't really care if I work during the night, on weekends or whatever.

Of course, joining meetings is a big part of my day, so I must accommodate that, but besides that, I have full autonomy to decide my work schedule.

Before moving on with my story, I believe it's important to say that the company I work for has not and doesn't plan to adopt the four-hour work week but, due to a chain of events combined with the flexibility I mentioned above, I was able to do my own little pilot of this concept.

My brief experience

What happened is this year, April was a month with regularly spaced holidays where I live, and I also had some days off to take. Normally, I would take advantage of that to spend a good couple of weeks in paid vacation but this time I wanted to do something different so I asked my boss if I could spread my days off over a few weeks.

He was a bit confused with that ask but also very happy that he wouldn't be losing one of his main guys for two or three full weeks and was immediately on board and that's how I got to pilot a four-day workweek on my own.

Now, my situation is not exactly similar to the four-day workweek pilots I mentioned in my previous article, so I didn't really do this to compare my experience to an actual structured program, but, because I still got to learn a few important things, I decided to share it anyway.

As I said, the company itself was not really working on a four-day schedule, just me, so I thought things would get very crazy very fast. To my surprise, that's not really what happened.

The upside

I'm usually very organized because, as a Project Manager, I'm very used to planning ahead and prioritizing but as I was "losing" a full day of work, while my colleagues would remain on their normal schedule, I really took it to extreme levels and did not stop until I had an airtight plan for the whole week.

To achieve that, I delegated everything I could, pushed back on a lot of things that did not make sense and "returned" requests that were not clear enough, as I would not spend time trying to understand them before I could even start working on them.

Another thing that happened is I became really ruthless about denying calls and meetings. This was a bit hard for me at first because I like to be involved in everything so I would hardly ever say no to a meeting invite but during these few weeks of my experiment, I simply didn't have time to take all of them so I only accepted those call where I believed - or was told - I was absolutely needed and also, more than once, I excused myself in the middle of the call and kindly informed everyone that I was leaving as I could not contribute to the topic in point.

That was very liberating and, to my surprise, I got very good feedback from my superiors and peers and a lot of messages saying things like, "we need more of that!"

The downside

I'm not gonna lie, it was not all roses. To begin with, having to be extremely efficient 100% of the time is very stressful. When you have very little room for error you need to be on your toes all the time and that can really drain you out if you are not careful. However, the main cause of this is because the rest of the company was working on their normal schedule. On a proper pilot, everyone would have the same number of working hours so I think this feeling would be very much alleviated.

Another thing that was hard was making time for the calls that were actually important. As a Project Manager sometimes I have to connect with people high up in the company structure and their calendar is very busy. Combine that with the fact that I had one less day on the week to squeeze in the calls and you might be able to picture the challenge I went through.

And finally, the last downside was going back to normal. Unfortunately, I eventually ran out of days off and had to return to the "good old" five-day work week like everyone else, and, after working at light speed for over a month, getting back to the normal rhythm of things made me feel like things were moving really slow and the weeks were really long.

As always, however, I got used to it again and now I'm very much back to the old normal but I do miss my shorter, more efficient weeks and I long for the day when my company - and hopefully many others - will experiment with a four-day work week for real.

Final thoughts

I had a very interesting experience trying a four-day workweek by myself. It was a bit stressful times but I made it work even without the formal support of the rest of the company. I really believe that a well-planned program can do wonders to increase our productivity at work and also our quality of life outside of it.


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