As far as work perks go, the four-day work week has been the most buzzed about offering since unlimited vacation. A temporary reaction to the pandemic? Initially, perhaps. But now, more and more companies are making it a permanent perk as a way to not only lure top talent, but to answer the call of employees who are burned out and seeking the answer to a better work/life balance.
Still, we were curious: Is the four-day work week something that is good in theory but not in practice? The Wanderlust Group, an outdoor tech company behind sites like Dockwa and Marinas.com, implemented it as a trial in May 2020 and has never looked back. We asked Meghan Keaney Anderson, chief marketing officer, to share how going from a 40- to a 32-hour work week actually works.
When She Joined, the Concept Sounded Cool, but Suspect
“I joined the company as CMO in February 2021 after working somewhere else with a traditional five-day schedule. The Wanderlust Group is a team of about 60 people. Initially, I applied because I was drawn to the company mission: We are trying to get people outside, which felt like a welcome change after a year of Zoom meetings, Netflix and doom scrolling, repeat. But in the interview process, when they casually said, ‘Oh, BTW, we have been offering a four-day work week and it’s now a permanent practice,’ my ears perked up. Still, I took the job for other reasons. The policy sounded good, but also suspect in the way ‘no meeting Fridays’ still have occasional meetings.”
It Was Originally Implemented as a Reaction to the Pandemic
“In May 2020, our CEO was looking around and saw just how strained everybody was. He said, let’s try this for a bit of time and see if it makes a difference. If it impacts productivity, the mindset was we can temporarily deal for the sake of our employees. But that never happened. We found we could really truly function at full productivity even with fewer days.”
But You Have to Say No to Slacks
“There are different ways to handle a four-day work week. The Wanderlust Group made the decision that we wanted everyone to be off at the same time as a way to limit emails or Slack notifications blowing up your phone. If employees choose their own day, those alerts will still be flying; if everyone takes the same day off, then it’s truly a pause and the company isn’t operating that day. The only exception is our support team—they rotate their four-day work week schedules so that we stay available to customer needs.”
It’s Also Not as Simple as Just Dropping a Day
“You can’t just drop a day and change nothing else and expect it to work. It will fail. We had to make thoughtful choices for this succeed. First, the natural decision is to take Fridays off. But because we work with outdoor destinations, like marinas and campgrounds, their Fridays are busy, so the company is closed on Mondays instead. We also had to make intentional changes to how we operate so we weren’t losing a day only to cram 40 hours into four days. One thing we did was do an audit of every standing meeting on our calendars and we killed about a third of them. The new rule is what I like to call a ‘no agenda, no attenda’ plan—if it’s not clear what the point of a meeting is and what you’re going to get out of it, then we cancel it. This saves so much time.”
And If Something Urgent Crops Up…
“I very much try not to log onto my computer on the day that I have off on Mondays. If there is an emergency, my boss knows that he can get to me by texting me on my personal phone, but largely—and this is a company-wide mantra—we’re trying to stay off our devices because the whole point is to get that mental space. If a crisis occurs, like a product outage, then yes, there’s an understanding that you’d be called in for that. But we have processes in place for how to handle urgent matters and how to communicate with colleagues on their day off. As a result, there is zero expectation that you’re scanning your inbox just in case something important happens.”
Ultimately, It’s Led to Productivity…and Presence
“In 2020, 102 people applied to join our team; in 2021, we had 2,055 applicants. Part of that is what we’re growing and have more roles to offer, but we’re also frequently touting our four-day work week. We also saw 100 percent year over year growth and surpassed our goals, one of which was to hit 5 million stays booked on Dockwa, which we achieved. But also, as an outdoor tech company, we’ve learned that it’s really important that people actually get outdoors. Our head of product now has more time for competitive water skiing; we’ve got a woman on our success team who teaches youth sailing at a non-profit; someone else got their pilot’s license. Even if you’re spending this extra bit of time on errands like grocery shopping, it means you’re not multi-tasking on the weekends or cramming errands in during the workday. It’s amazing what a little bit of time back for yourself can do for the rest of your schedule.”
There Are Also No More Sunday Scaries
“Our CEO jokes that this policy should be called the Game of Thrones rule because he used to watch the show on Sunday nights and found that he couldn’t enjoy it because he was thinking about Monday to-do’s. Now, there’s this buffer day. I’m a parent and my daughter goes to school on Monday, so it’s a wonderful break between the chaos of parenting a 5-year-old on the weekends and the chaos of the work week. The other unanticipated positive of Mondays vs. Fridays off has been that instead of an early dismissal into the weekend, Mondays are a space where I get time for myself to not work, clear my head and start Tuesday strong. Full disclosure, I don’t get the Monday Scaries either.”