4-day workweek experiment

The Great Resignation and the war for talent point to the dire need for a change in the workforce. Add that with the pandemic woes, a 40-hour workweek is no longer sustainable. Fortunately, we’ve seen that there are better alternatives—countries like Iceland have paved the way by trialing a 4-day workweek (4DWW). The trial was a significant success, proving that this way of life is both possible and beneficial for the wellbeing and productivity of its citizens. Since then, few companies within the states have followed suit with the hopes of the same outcome.

I believe truly changing the nature of work isn’t just about where, but also how and when. At InDebtedwe believed moving to a 4DWW of 32 hours with asynchronous systems in place that would enable the entire company to work according to what best suits them, focusing on goals and results instead of time put in.

Since implementing our version, we found that 93% of our employees strongly agree or agree that they know what they need to do to be successful in their role—a 6% increase since this question was last asked pre-4DWW— implying employees are learning new ways to work smarter to deliver the same or better outcomes.

How we made it work

We kicked off our 4DWW with an opt-in pilot program in select teams, monitoring feedback during 1:1 manager check-ins on how this program impacted productivity and the delivery of quarterly goals, along with how people were using their extra day off. From there, we took a phased approach to transition all of our teams to begin a 4DWW beginning September 1, 2021. Due to our global footprint and team, we could still provide the same customer service as if we worked a typical work week—24 /7 support, seven days a week.

It was vital that when we initially began this program, we considered each teams’ unique needs, hiring requirements, current projects, and quarterly goals to ensure we weren’t creating added pressure or impacting their happiness and productivity. In addition, we encourage everyone to adopt more efficient ways of working, scheduling fewer meetings or having more focused sessions, and inspiring our teams to use this meeting-free time for more deep work.

Winning the talent war

As we continue to scale and grow into new and global markets, the 4DWW has had a tangible impact on our talent acquisition in a highly competitive candidate market. For example, following the launch of our 4DWW program, there were more applicants in the first 45 days since announcing the initiative compared to the preceding four and a half months, and our average number of applicants has increased by 283%. Our Talent Acquisition team has also observed an increase in interest in the company (through organic applicants), and an increase in successful candidate outreach through LinkedIn.

What employees are doing with the extra time

We all could do endless things with an extra day off, and we’ve heard amazing stories of how employees are using the time off. Since we embody a culture of very curious, driven, and entrepreneurial spirits at InDebted, a trend we saw among our employees is that many of them have their own businesses and side hustles—from jewelry brands to early-stage startups. We have seen people become more involved with important causes, such as climate change action to volunteering at their local habitat shelter. And perhaps most importantly, the feedback from employees on the extra time spent with family, caring for loved ones and/or focusing on their health and fitness has been inspiring. In fact, 98% strongly agree or agree that the 4DWW positively impacts their wellbeing, which saw a 5% increase from the previous month. As borders reopen across the country, we also expect to see many more people taking the time to explore new places and travel.

Is it for everyone?

The mix of a global, scalable tech platform and the best engineering minds in the business are key enablers to this initiative. This system may not fit every company, but it’s possible at InDebted because of the business and team we have built to date. The most important thing is to keep your focus on employee happiness, productivity, and autonomy. Measure this constantly and take action on feedback and opportunities for improvement. While a 4DWW is a great talent attraction initiative and will undoubtedly increase your number of job applications and drive hiring targets, it needs to work for your existing employees first and foremost before it can work for new hires to your business.

Bottom line

This is just the beginning of our journey— we’ll continue iterating and building based on continuous employee feedback and results. Still, it’s a significant step in changing how we work forever. We believe that America’s historical approach to work was in need of an update; mental health was at risk, personal lives suffered at the benefit of companies, and people were unhappy. However, we’re seeing a new path forward and one that’s fruitful for both InDebted and its employees. We hope that other companies can also see the value and work towards a better future of work with a 4DWW.

Josh Foreman is the founder and CEO of InDebted.

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