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The 4-day workweek: How social media firm Buffer made it a reality, and you can too

Posted by Neha De

March 17, 2022    |     6-minute read (1146 words)

In April 2020, Buffer CEO, Joel Gascoigne, informed his employees: “For the month of May, Buffer will operate under a 4-day workweek across the whole team.” At the end of the month, while collecting the data on how the experiment went, Buffer found it to be as productive and decided to continue working a 4-day workweek. 

And, after seeing that the results were overall positive, the company shifted to a 4-day workweek for the rest of the year. Buffer chief of staff, Carolyn Kopprasch, wrote: “Since the intention was to give temporary relief from typical expectations to teammates during an especially hard and unprecedented time, we did not set goals around productivity or results. In fact, we expected a tangible drop in productivity due to reduced hours.

However, 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.”

The results they got made Buffer shift to a 4-day workweek for the foreseeable future. Now, after working a 4-day workweek for almost two years, the company ran a survey and found that 84% of their team members manage to get all of their work done in four days a week, and 91% of them are happier and more productive working four days a week. 

How Buffer made a 4-day workweek a reality?

Buffer has always been ahead of the curve. The social media firm adopted remote work long before everyone else had to (it let go of its office in 2015), salary transparency (the company publishes every employee’s salary details online) and several other workplace flexibility options. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the CEO, realizing that the staff members were stressed, granted everyone 4-day weekdays for the month of May 2020. The policy that began as a month-long experiment has now been adopted permanently. This is how they did it: 

Step 1 – They first tested it on a small scale, and added a few essential survey questions to measure success.

Step 2 – Then, they rolled it out to a six-month pilot trial, continually surveying their employees and gathering objective productivity statistics, including lines of code written, customer satisfaction numbers and the like.

Step 3 – They then simplified and polished how they approached a 4-day workweek with their customer support team. The support staff gets alternate days off so that the company can provide 24/7 support to its customers.

Step 4 – At the end of the seven-month period, Buffer noticed enough momentum and positive reaction to commit to another year of a 4-day workweek, with added clarifications around the use of the fifth day as overflow and performance expectations for this as a perk. 

Step 5 – After almost two years, the company feels more confident than ever with this new system, but plans to question, survey and test out different habits to work efficiently and still grow as a company. Buffer is working on the ideal balance of team engagement and events within the midst of a shorter workweek.

Other organizations that have embraced the 4-day workweek

Buffer is not the only company that offers a three-day weekend to its employees. Take a look at these three businesses that have successfully implemented a 4-day workweek: 

Wildbit – Wildbit transitioned to a 4-day workweek in 2017. It began as an experiment and has now become an official company policy. According to the company website, “Working a 4-day workweek at Wildbit means 4 days of truly focused work where we solve hard problems and three days we have completely to ourselves to do whatever we need to recharge. Thanks to three-day weekends, our team is happier, more committed, refreshed, and ready to go on Mondays.

Since transitioning to a 4-day week, we’ve… grown as a company, remained a strongly profitable business, and helped many other organizations recognize the value of focused work and the 4-day workweek.” 

Primary – Online kids clothing retail store Primary adopted the 4-day workweek after it realized the harsh impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its employees. The employees work regular hours Monday through Thursday, except for the customer support team, which works on a 4-day schedule that includes Friday, according to CNBC

According to Cap Watkins, chief experience officer at Primary, “As we’ve looked back over the last couple of years, what we’ve seen is our attrition rate staying pretty flat, which I consider a huge win.” 

Kickstarter – New York-based crowdfunding platform Kickstarter is planning to pilot a 4-day workweek this year. As per reports from CNBC, despite the reduced hours, employees will receive the same pay. And in those four days, there will be fewer interruptions and more focus on work. “I fundamentally believe that something like this would allow us to be more potent as a group,” Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan told CNBC

How you too can adopt the 4-day workweek for your business?

Piloting a 4-day workweek needs proper planning. Check out these four-step strategy for getting started: 

Step 1: Communicate with your employees – Communication is essential if you want to make the 4-day weekday a success. Check with your staff members if they would like to make this change and if so, how they would like to make it work. Brainstorm and test several ideas. Keeping the employees in the loop will encourage and motivate them to make it work. 

Step 2: Be clear about why you are planning to make a change – You need to be clear about why you are keen on incorporating a 4-day workweek. Is it to increase productivity, or lower retention rates, or is there another reason? 

Set measurable and motivating goals, in order to get the rest of the firm on board.

Step 3: Develop a flexible work policy – It is important to set out clear guidelines, so your workers are aware of how they are expected to work and communicate. Some points to consider are working hours, any potential changes to salary or expenses, any changes to holiday allowances and so on. 

Step 4: Opt for a trial period before making it a permanent policy – To see whether this change will work for your company, consider doing a one-month trial. This will allow you to iron out any challenges that might arise and accordingly make changes to your flexible work policy. This will also help save money that would go into legal work if the change is made permanent.

Is a 4-day workweek the choice right for your company?

There is no direct answer to this question. Every business is different, and what works for one may not work for another. That said, the face of the workplace is changing, and companies need to keep an open mind about the changes happening around them if they want to keep their workers engaged and productive. 

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