A Four Day Week? Let’s Start With a Four Day August

In: BlogDate: Jul 16, 2019By: Henry Stewart

Around the world some organisations have experimented with a four day week, with some evidence that it can be as productive as working five days. 

For those of us who like the idea, but feel it’s a big leap into the unknown, how about trying it for a month? At Happy we will this year be working just four days a week throughout August.

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20% productivity increase from a four day week

In New Zealand, the finance company Perpetual Guardian moved to a permanent four day week after a two month trial. MD Andrew Barnes comments that "Our total profitability, revenue, service standards didn't drop, so as a consequence our productivity must have gone up 20 per cent."

What did change was a reduction in stress, and improvements in work-life balance, loyalty to the firm and employee empowerment.

Benefits of a shorter working day

Others have tried a shorter working day. Tasmanian finance company Collins SBA switched to five hours. The FT reported that the firm's bottom line has been unaffected, sick days have plunged and some advisers have done record business.

In this video Martin Banck, CEO of Toyota Gothenburg in Sweden describes how they introduced a six hour working day back in 2002 and increased sales and profit.

The City of Gothenberg responded by introducing a six hour day in its care homes. There were early indications of success but the project was abandoned after political control of the Council shifted from the left to the right.

Four day weeks for the summer

In their (strongly recommended) book It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work the founders of software company Basecamp describe how they work a four day week through the summer. At Basecamp the summer lasts for five months.

Inspired by this, but not yet ready to take that big a step, we are at Happy going for a four day week throughout August. In the UK, August includes a bank holiday so we are only talking about three extra days off.

Our people will be paid their full salary and the company will stay open for the full five day week, with different people taking different days off. 

The unexpected benefit of a non-working day

I am hoping it will bring unexpected benefits. I remember, about 20 years ago, we agreed to give people their birthdays off. When it came to my turn, I was at a loss for what to do. With my wife at work and my children at school, I had to find something I wanted to do in this 'me time'.

I decided to catch a train into the countryside and go for a cycle. It is no exaggeration to say that it opened new possibilities to me and changed my life. I am now a regular weekend club cyclist, have ridden the public stage of the Tour de France twice and enjoyed a glorious seven days cycling through the Alps (three Tour de France cols a day). I reckon that, at 60, I am fitter than I was in my 20s.

Join us in a four day week for August

So I am looking forward to finding new things to do in those three days in August. And hoping, though short, it will improve our people’s wellbeing generally.

Will we manage to find efficiencies and get as much done? That will be interesting to see. That could determine whether we continue it next year, or even extend it.

Will you join us? Could your organisation help make the four day August a thing?


My thanks to Robert Hawkins and Sam Spencer, who commented on my initial LinkedIn post, for some of the links here.

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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