Since we adopted a four-day workweek in 2020, everyone’s been jumping on the train across different industries and countries. Most notably, however – and the reason we are gathered here today – is the UK’s four-day workweek experiment that has yielded positive results. It’s also proven what we already know — that working four days a week works.
With the four-day workweek gaining traction worldwide, we thought it was about time to check in, yet again, with the folks working at Buffer about what it’s like to work four days a week.
We implemented a four-day workweek experiment in May 2020 to test its effects on our collective well-being, mental health, and personal relationships.
The experiment wasn’t intended to track its effects on productivity, so we set low expectations around this measurement, but we were pleasantly surprised by the results.
At the time, our Chief of Staff, Carolyn Kopprasch, wrote, “...due to increased rest and reflection, many of you have shared that you felt your weekly productivity was in fact not all that different, and that your quality of work was higher while experiencing improved overall wellbeing.”
We ultimately shifted to a four-day workweek through the rest of 2020 and are now approaching the three-year mark.
We’ve checked in with our team several times since implementing the four-day workweek — enough to know it works. But the recent increase in interest had us thinking — what does the four-day workweek look like for us, three years in?
That led us to put out a survey filled out by 53 Buffer employees (out of 78), 60 percent of whom have been working at Buffer for over three years, which is as long as we’ve been running the four-day workweek. Here’s what they had to say.
Everyone loves the four-day workweek
Unsurprisingly, 100 percent of survey respondents stated that they’d like to continue working a four-day work week for the rest of their careers.
This is in line with results from the UK experiment, with 90 percent of employees saying they definitely want to continue on a four-day week with no one saying they definitely don’t want to continue.
Most employees — 78.8 percent — work four days a week OR five shorter days, up from 73 percent the last time we did a survey. Meanwhile, 21 percent work more than four days a week, down from 27 percent the last time we did this survey.
We can infer from this that time spent working a four-day workweek has allowed each person to figure out what works best for their schedule. We can also connect this result to adjusted internal expectations for the four-day workweek.
As Carolyn explains, “We have somewhat adjusted the expectations of the fifth day so that it is more of an “overflow” day if needed. This is in line with our regular flexibility, but now managers are being more explicit: we encourage teammates to work on that fifth day if they choose to or if needed, based on their workload or the team’s needs. (If it’s not needed, then the teammate is encouraged to take it off entirely as usual.) Working on the fifth day is not necessarily a failure of the system or a problem. It’s just not expected or required like in a five-day work week environment.”
Burnout has no place in the four-day workweek, say 100% of Buffer teammates
We think and talk a lot about burnout here at Buffer, so it’s encouraging to see teammates not feel burnt out working a four-day workweek. A majority, 73.1 percent, of teammates stated that they feel more energized, while 26.9 percent don’t feel particularly different.
The UK experiment had results in a similar vein — 71 percent of employees had reduced levels of burnout by the end of the trial.
Additionally, 99.1 percent of teammates are less stressed since they started working a four-day workweek.
Measured against the trial respondents, 39 percent of whom stated that they were less stressed, this may seem like an outlier. However, it’s important to consider that Buffer is both remote and running a four-day workweek. This is likely a major factor in the decreased stress levels found among the survey respondents.
Work-life balance is a major benefit of the four-day workweek
Most Buffer teammates, 61.5 percent of, find it easier to balance work and life. One teammate specifically highlighted, “There is more time during normal business hours on Friday to manage the "Admin" of my personal life.”
A healthier work-life balance is also reflected in the UK’s trial results, with 60 percent of trial respondents reporting an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities and 62 percent reporting it was easier to combine work with their social life.
The reduced workweek isn’t without its challenges
While 65.4 percent of teammates are able to complete their work within four days, 40.4 percent feel like they can’t finish all their work in that timeframe. However, as highlighted by Carolyn, we encourage using the fifth day as an overflow day, which 61.6 percent of teammates find that they have to do most or some of the time.
The downsides of operating both a remote and four-day workweek system are also reflected in the survey responses, as teammates highlight that making connections with coworkers is challenging.
One respondent stated, “Remote work combined with a 4-day work week means that connection with team members sometimes takes a back seat to ensure that the work gets done.” Another shared, “You give up some of the things that aren't core to your job but were kind of fun to do at work.”
Other highlighted challenges include:
- Time management: “Managing my time well during the four days to account for one less day.”
- Overwhelming meeting schedules: “It's near impossible to have a meeting-free day with a condensed schedule.”
- Feeling isolated from other teammates if you work a less common schedule
Many people use the time off for non-work activities
The UK’s experiment found that most people do not use their extra day off to take on paid work elsewhere. They use it for hobbies and leisure, housework and caring, and personal maintenance.
The same is true at Buffer – a teammate highlighted that they use their day off for life admin, specifically mentioning that they take care of things like grocery shopping and meal prep to fully enjoy the weekend.
We’ve covered how some teammates take advantage of their unique schedules – check out this article to read further.
We’ll keep working the four-day workweek
Overall, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the four-day workweek. The reduced schedule allows employees to focus on personal interests, hobbies, and self-care during their extra day off. Life admin is better handled during a four-day workweek — people have more time for their families and friends.
We aren't planning on moving away from a four-day workweek – we’ll keep refining our approach to ensure its success for both our teammates and Buffer as a whole. We look forward to more data on this new way to work and more companies joining us on this journey.