In the effort to reset the scale on work-life balance, prevent employee burnout, and deliver business results with higher efficiency, many forward-thinking businesses are instituting a four-day work week. The evidence in support of adopting this shortened week is mounting: improvement in staff morale, higher retention rates, increased quality of work, attracting the best talent…and the list goes on.
Inspired by this movement, and curious as always to forge new ways to work, NinjaCat is embarking on an experiment to test the boundaries of the traditional work week.
We want to challenge perceptions about how work gets done, what work-life balance really means, and how a focus on results and outcomes, not just outputs, can empower teams to be more efficient.
Business benefits of a shorter work week
The benefits of a four-day work week schedule probably seem pretty clear for the employees, but what about the business case for such an endeavor?
Since the five-day, 40-hour work week model is so ingrained, the idea of removing an entire day from the schedule can seem counter intuitive.
Modern businesses are already hard-pressed to overcome the challenges of asynchronous communication, juggling teams over several different time zones, and balancing the need to maintain revenue and customer satisfaction while respecting individual workloads and bandwidths.
But research shows that working more hours isn’t the solution to these issues. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of organizations that implemented a four-day work week saw gains in productivity and employee satisfaction.
A “work hard, play hard,” mentality is extolled (and unfortunately exploited) by many employers. But the cost of such hyper-focus on “grinding” has left millions of employees burnt out.
We believe that work-life balance isn’t about a magic number of days or hours clocked. It’s about being able to show up in both places–work and personal life–fully.
Founded as a remote-only company focused on building a unique culture from the very beginning, a four-day work week experiment at NinjaCat feels like not only the right thing to do, but a necessary step in living by our values of compassion, action, and trust.
The hypothesis for our four-day-work week experiment is: we believe that through strategic prioritization, skillful communication, and a focused work ethic we can maintain high levels of performance and productivity across our organization while working one day less every week.
We also believe the additional time away will have a significant and meaningful impact for each of our team members' mental health and wellbeing. We hope more recharge time will encourage employee retention, increase innovation and creativity, and bolster our recruiting efforts.
And, it turns out that engaged, happy employees lead to better customer experiences as well. In the words of Simon Sinek, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” NinjaCat’s high level of customer service has always been–and will continue to be– foundational to our success. Our customers will reap the benefits of working with an even more focused and dedicated team.
At NinjaCat we believe that outputs just don’t matter as much as outcomes. We use the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework to set overarching company, departmental and individual goals on a quarterly basis. We strive to align our teams and prioritize their workloads to focus on tasks that are important, rather than always putting out fires or dealing with workloads that leave them feeling unmoored and purposeless.
Paired with clear articulation of OKRs and expectations, the four-day work week can provide a boundary for our teams to work against, helping them reorient their bandwidth on activities that serve common goals, build relationships, and strengthen balance and discipline.
How we’re testing a four-day work week
Like any other experiment, implementing a four-day work week requires documenting a plan. Writing down the plan can help you understand the constraints and potential pitfalls while setting up the appropriate metrics and feedback loops to measure effectiveness and gauge the progress of the initiative. Some questions we asked ourselves to help frame our experiment:
- Are we clear on our goals and priorities as a business?
- What meetings could be shorter? And, what meetings could be cut entirely?
- How will we manage customer needs on the extra day off?
- Will we require people to work 10 hour days?
- What metrics will we use to track progress of the experiment? Note: the measures will likely be very different from department to department so we had each team weigh in on their own plan.
- Could we start with a half day off as a starting point and see how that goes?
In fact, we started with a half-day Friday approach for two months to test the waters. Before and after that test run, we set up a survey to benchmark sentiment and to keep the lines of communication open between staff and leadership.
Through that survey, we learned that our employees are happier, more optimistic and in fact the prospect of a four-day work week was a deciding factor for some new hires to join NinjaCat. We’ve seen no discernible downsides to hitting our goals or to our level of customer service.
A reality for most startups is that we are continually challenged to do more with less. Paradoxically, a four-day work week, if properly implemented, can help make that possible. With more recharge time, people are able to bring more energy to their work.
We are excited to see how an abbreviated work week can make our team and our business stronger, and we’ll keep you posted along the way. If you’re interested in learning more about our experience, or are interested in adopting a more concentrated work schedule for your organization, get in touch with us!