Why We Prioritize Flexibility Over a Four-Day Workweek
The four-day workweek has been making headlines around the globe, with trials from Iceland, the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia reporting increased employee happiness, reduced stress, and even improved productivity. This has many leaders wondering if their team should adopt a four-day workweek.
However, this is the wrong question to ask.
The more critical question for companies primarily engaged in knowledge work should be: "Is our team working more effectively than our competition?" If your team's 40-hour workweek is inefficient, it's important to understand why.
Our flexible work environment and culture
At Float, we've found that the key to an effective and productive team isn't a four-day workweek but a fully-remote workforce and a flexible schedule.
For the past 12 years at Float, we've operated 100% remotely—and continue to do so as we've grown into a team of 50. Each team member works an average of 40 hours per week, choosing when and which days they work, with the exception of our customer success team, which maintains 24/5 support coverage.
As a 100% self-funded and independent company, we've learned a lot about unit economics, profitable operations, and the impact of team capacity on momentum and output. Empowering team members to decide where they work, set their work schedules, and choose how best to integrate work into their life (optimized around their most productive times of day and days per week) is incredibly fulfilling ... and good for business!
Evaluating the four-day workweek for our team
In 1926, Henry Ford famously said, "It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege."
His decision to adopt a 5-day workweek was a game-changer. In the early 1900s, the Industrial Revolution was defined by a 6-day workweek, with Sunday being a day of rest. The 40-hour workweek didn't become standard in the U.S. until the 1940s. Fast forward to today, and the factory work of Ford's era is almost unrecognizable compared to the knowledge work that drives modern businesses.
At Float, success is measured by the power of our ideas to solve problems, our creativity, and our speed of executing and iterating on those ideas. Productivity isn't just an aggregate of hours spent; there's a quality score attached to the time spent, and as leaders, our goal is to create environments that foster high-quality output.
Simply reducing hours doesn't guarantee improved results.
The headlines touting productivity gains in four-day workweek trials can be misleading. Companies like Microsoft Japan, Unilever, and Perpetual Guardian have reported productivity improvements, but when asked about the contributing factors, they cite time saved from not traveling to the office or having fewer meetings—changes not directly tied to a four-day workweek.
The impact of a four-day workweek on revenue and profitability remains uncertain as well. Bolt, the first tech unicorn to implement a four-day workweek, later cut a third of its workforce. Buffer saw a decline in revenue after adopting a four-day workweek. While it's difficult to determine causation or correlation, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried, who offers four-day workweeks during summer, admits: "We don't get quite as much stuff done."
Perhaps the key takeaway is that organizations should focus more on creating work environments that allow their teams to thrive rather than debating the pros and cons of a four-day workweek. In the spirit of Ford's quote, let's prioritize improving our teams' quality of work and life.
Why we're sticking to a standard workweek for now
Most of our team members work the standard 8-hour day, Monday to Friday. If the global work world eventually embraces a 32-hour workweek as the new standard, we hope to have a robust, sustainable business ready to compete.
For now, we're focused on offering flexible work schedules that allow our team to be their best selves and strong compensation that rewards performance.
Over the years, we've updated our benefits to improve individual choices for planned time off. We understand that vacations and personal days help refuel the creative tank. In 2023, we added nine additional time off days, and we now offer 20 days of PTO, four Life Leave days, five No FOMO days, five personal days, and 10 public holidays (44 days off in total). Today, 17% of our workdays are available as time off!
In a recent team survey, pay ranked as the top benefit of joining Float. We aim to improve in this area and benchmark our pay at 95% of the median San Francisco salary for everyone—same work, same pay, no matter where you live.
Our team spans 20 countries, providing us with diverse societal and cultural perspectives. Internally, our operations team regularly surveys team members to understand what's essential for maintaining a balanced life. Just as Henry Ford did in 1926, we run experiments, learn, and improve.
As we continue to grow, we remain committed to exploring new ways to help our team thrive and achieve a healthy work-life balance.
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