Dr. Phil McParlane is on a mission to normalize the 4 day work week. He’s the Founder of 4/day week — the largest job board focused solely on job opportunities at organizations with a 4 day work week. The majority of organizations on his site work 32 hours for the same salary as 5 day/40 hour organizations.
In 2016, we adopted this schedule, and took a weekly sprint approach to increase our creativity and productivity by having a true work/life balance. Three day weekends allow space for our team’s minds to percolate on ideas and come in fresh each week to create.
Our Creative Director, Eric Ressler, sat down with Dr. McParlane for a back-n-forth about how the 4 day work week is being adopted by the social impact sector and the benefits to this increasingly popular approach.
Digging Into the 4 Day Work Week
Have you seen the social impact space start to adopt the 4 day week?
Definitely. There are now many companies in the social impact space adopting a 4 day week. The focus tends to be on companies who are addressing climate change and improving gender equality. For example, some 4 day week companies working on these issues include: Scene Connect, Carbon Switch, Daye and of course yourselves! I think the 4 day week is a popular choice for these companies as it’s genuinely a benefit to society. It reduces burnout, improves mental health, reduces carbon emissions and is better for gender equality — a no brainer!
Are there trends as to what sectors or verticals in the social impact space have early adopters?
I’d say climate change is the biggest trend - a decent percentage of companies in the climate space have adopted a 4 day work week or similar (e.g. summer Fridays). This is because a shorter working week reduces carbon emissions by up to 20% as shown by many studies. This is mostly due to less vehicles on the road.
Aside from these eco-friendly companies, it’s also becoming an increasingly popular choice for female led companies. This is due to the fact that the majority of childcare responsibilities, unpaid domestic work, and care work is undertaken by women. Therefore, for many women an extra day off is the difference between working, and not being able to work.
In the social impact space, workers can often suffer from “compassion fatigue” as they deal with helping to right the wrongs for people and the planet. How might a 4 day week help with this “fatigue” or “burnout”?
Given that many of us are now working from home, it’s common for employees to find it difficult to switch off - after all, they are usually only a few paces away from their work laptop. Due to this, reported levels of employee burnout have never been higher.
Reducing burnout / fatigue is one of the largest benefits of a shorter working week. In every 4 day week study I’m aware of, burnout decreases and job satisfaction increases. An extra day off allows employees to decompress and catch up with life. As the saying goes: 1 day for housework, 1 day to explore, and 1 day to rest.
As younger people lead the way in unionization and life/work balance for labor in the US, are you seeing the 4 day week as one of the rights that people are pushing for?
There are two groups of people who I see pushing for the 4 day work week: Gen Z / millennials and employees who are towards the end of their career.
The younger generation, by nature, have worked less time in industry and are naturally questioning the way we work. Afterall, working hours haven’t changed much in the last 50 years, despite huge gains in productivity (due to technology / automation).
Attitudes are slowly changing and I expect the legal system to follow suit. For example, there was recently a law passed in the Netherlands giving staff the “right to work part-time” - I’m sure this is just the beginning.
Do you have any thoughts on how a large adoption of the 4 day week might help with climate change mitigation?
I think that reduced carbon emissions is one of the most underappreciated benefits of a shorter working week.
It’s probably the issue I’m most passionate about. Whatever study you read: a shorter working week reduces carbon emissions. And this isn’t just theory. For example, both Sri Lanka and Pakistan have recently reduced government working hours in order to reduce energy usage. The fact of the matter is that less days working, equals less vehicles on the road as well as less space needed for offices as there wouldn’t be as many people working at once.
With a large shift to remote work are you seeing any correlations with the 4 day week?
In my opinion “the 4 day work week” is the new “remote work”. If you go back ~7 years, early adopters offered remote work as a way to attract talent. But now that almost every company is remote, that hiring advantage has been taken away from them.
I think that many companies will now adopt a 4 day work week to make themselves more attractive from a hiring perspective. I believe we are already seeing this with hundreds of companies making the switch in 2021.
Funding is always a challenge in the social impact space. What are you seeing in terms of salary trends with a 4 day week?
Most companies who adopted a 4 day work week originally worked 5 days so when they made the switch, salaries weren’t affected. So you could say 4 day work week jobs pay “market rate”. Unfortunately there is little research on this however.
Anecdotally I’d say that the typical profile of a 4 day work week company is: a small nimble startup who wouldn’t be able to compete (financially) with large tech companies anyway. So maybe the salaries are slightly less by nature - but it’s difficult to say this for sure though.
A Strategy Worth Exploring
We are encouraged by Dr. McParlane’s revelations on how the 4 day work week supports labor, women, and has a positive impact on climate mitigation. Modern social impact leaders are often at the front of the charge to create change for people and planet while creating work environments where people can be healthy and thrive. With all of the benefits of using a sprint approach along with a 4 day work week, we believe that nonprofits should seriously consider making some significant and impactful changes.
In the years since Cosmic adopted the 4 day work week we adjusted our approach and found a weekly cadence that made our schedule a plus for us and our clients. Learn more about our experience with the 4 day work week in the interview that Dr. McParlane conducted with Eric on the 4/day week website.