What No One Tells You About A Four-Day Work-Week

You are paid less for showing increased productivity.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

One hot January afternoon, my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing. It thrilled me to see so many notifications on Medium. My story had gone viral — my excitement had touched the roof. While you are still figuring out what all that means — in my naivety, I thought I had cracked the code to make money on this platform.

I decided I have to go part-time, and guess what? In less than two months, I did.

I had this amazing boss at the time who herself was a part-timer as she is a young mother of two beautiful babies. She was fully supportive of my wanting to pursue my writing ambitions. She said to me and I remember — “Asmita, it’s a simple change that I need to make in the system to reflect your reduced work hours and that’s it — You can stop working Fridays.”

So after one conversation, one email, and a hell of a lot of contemplation — I was working for four days a week from Monday to Thursday.

Did it help me in improving my writing quality?

You’d assume that one extra day would enable you to write a lot more or at least create a better writing productivity system. But no — it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. More time doesn’t always equate to more articles, at least not in my case.

Ironically, the article which went viral was about achieving greater work-life balance using a simple ‘8–8–8’ rule. As per the rule, you allocate eight hours each to work, leisure, and sleep. This would help you lead a healthy, productive life. One technique I mentioned in the article was about opting for four-days’ work-week — it was and still is one of the biggest trends in LinkedIn.

I received lots of views, claps, and fans for that, and as a naïve writer, I thought I had cracked the code to make it on Medium. (I haven’t yet and I am not sure if there is a code)

It also gave me a differing perspective about going part time from the people who commented on that piece. One interesting comment alerted me that while a four-day workweek sounds good, you may need to squeeze in five day’s worth of work in four days.

Screenshot of the comment by the author (Name deidentified)

It was an intriguing view — it kept playing in the back of my mind. I knew my roles and responsibilities won’t change, but the compensation will be lesser than before.

Yeah, I get it, I will forego on some earnings, but hey look at the bright side — I get a three-day weekend every week. Having some extra time on hand was just too amazing to care about anything else at that stage. I thought it’d boost my writing career.

But it didn’t happen as I had imagined.

I cannot attribute it to the writing schedule alone, as there are several elements at play. I will explain it in a moment.

But first, let me tell you about my plan to use that extra day on hand.

Strict enforcement of work schedules, communication, and a plan for Friday — Sounds great, huh?

Considering the warning I received, I tried not to exceed the nine hours schedule during the work week. I announced it to my peers and colleagues and then also blocked my calendar to reflect that I would be out of office. Communicating your plans helps in setting the right expectations.

So everyone around me knew about my plan to move part time and no, not because “I am pregnant”. Yes, it infuriates me a little when people assume the only reason a woman can go part time is if she’s pregnant.

But that apart, I feel fortunate to have a very supportive team who not only understood my writing ambitions but also appreciated my work.

Now that I sorted the office front, it was up to me to focus on writing. To make the most of my Fridays, I’d planned to go to the library and concentrate for a solid eight–nine hours. I didn’t want any distractions. Yes, in the pre-pandemic times when we could still do that.

There, I was all set as per my plan. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for me. I had not planned for the curveballs that I would face in my way.

I turned into a work machine and yet my productivity went down

On most Friday mornings, I would still recover from a work hangover from the previous day. Have you ever experienced that? When you crunch your schedule but not the work, you don’t have the luxury to space out your deliverables. While it is super productive from a company’s perspective, it isn’t a healthy practice at an individual level. And you end up having a burn-out in the week.

You need breaks and you require time to network or plan for your next week — I had Fridays to do all that and more. I can’t do that anymore. Also, for certain time-critical output, I had to work on Sunday evenings to ensure I can complete it. In several initiatives, I wasn’t on top of things and was only playing catch-up. I didn’t have the time to upskill, socialize, or grow as a professional. You don’t always think of these impediments when you first switch to a four-day work-week.

It’s only human if you want to cut yourself some slack over the weekend. But here I was in a dilemma. I had a plan, remember? I had to be at the library and focus on my writing on Fridays. While I did it, I can’t vouch for the quality of my work.

What about writing — did that improve?

My reason to switch to the four-day workweek was simple — to write more and improve the quality of my writing. But my writing productivity didn’t shoot up — I still wrote similar articles as I did before.

The eight additional hours in the week didn’t change the game for me.

It helped me get a little better at improving the quality of my articles, doing better research, and socializing with friends. It didn’t change what I was writing. I didn’t become an overnight success as I had imagined.

Okay, no. I never considered going to four days will make me a blogging genius. But having tasted some initial gains, it motivated me in writing more and buying more time would help me with it.

In hindsight, I don’t think I had a sound plan — I was biting more than I could chew. I made writing more of a task than a passion.

When I started blogging, I had a simple aim — I wanted to express myself, organize my thoughts, and learn the art of writing that creates impact. My focus drifted from these objectives when I saw the money flowing in.

Money is a great motivator (it still is) but sometimes it just backfires.

I wasn’t earning more through writing. My small experiments didn’t yield any significant results, and within a few months it demotivated me. I was forgoing my higher earnings in a corporate job for almost peanuts — I was not growing as a writer or making anything except for those couple of viral articles (which helped me be in the top 5–7% writers who earn more than $100)

Maybe if I were on the regular schedule, the outcome would have been no different.

Switching to a part-time setup, however, created undue pressure on me.

What started as a hobby became a job. And not seeing any immediate results only added to the demotivation.

In the hindsight, I realize I didn’t have a definite plan or the right mindset to pursue what I wanted to achieve.

As with writing or any other passion project you pursue, at the beginning of your journey, you will not taste success — it requires patience, commitment, and self-motivation to keep going without a lot of expectations.

While you may already know this, experiencing it is altogether a different story. I don’t (or perhaps I shouldn’t) expect much in the short-term with blogging. It’s a long haul for me as I don’t have any writing background or the language skills one needs to have as a writer — so I need to upskill myself, create a mid-to-long-term plan, and keep practising without expecting money.

4-day work-weeks are great if implemented at the organizational level

When a New Zealand-based company ‘Perpetual Guardian’ adopted the four-day week, the founder Andrew Barnes said,

“We found there is no adverse impact on profitability or income,”

“This wasn’t something that went up and then dropped. This is something that has maintained growth and profitability. That is the evidence of sustainability.”

It is a win-win for the employer and the employees. When no one works on Friday’s you are the only one getting emails. You aren’t the alone one squeezing the work between a Monday and a Thursday. You are not an outlier. And while your work output remains the same, the compensation doesn’t go down.

We should compensate employees more, and not less for higher productivity.

I switched back to a five-day workweek

When I understood this, I switched back to my regular schedule because I didn’t want to kick a definite source of income for the want of an uncertain stream of money. Especially when you are at the beginning of your journey and the focus should be on skills instead of the money.

While some may argue I am not a risk-taker and I might have done well had I waited a little longer. Maybe. I don’t know. No one knows. It’s been six months after switching back to full-time, and I am happy to have made the switch. I have experimented with my writing style, done primary research for articles, got trained by the best in the industry, took it slow during the pandemic, and — I didn’t get buried under the pressure.

I took care of my mental health and allowed myself the freedom to balance the three buckets of work, leisure, and sleep on my terms.

There is no right or wrong in what you choose. Do what is right for you at that point in time. Chasing money isn’t bad. Choosing your dreams isn’t always ideal. Your passion and skills are important for you to grow, but money acts as the biggest motivator of them all. Learn, experiment, fail. Live a life of no regrets. We don’t always have it all figured out. Take a decision and if it doesn’t work out, change the course.

Thinker, self-experimenter, and a newbie writer. I write about personal growth, socio-political issues, and career advice.

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