After a 3-month run of a 4-day work week schedule, we have reached the end of our trial. And our team was happy to hear that the final decision was to fully adopt this working arrangement!
Prior to running our experiment, we had already set expectations for improvements in factors like employee productivity, wellbeing, and engagement, among other things. Our aim was to ensure that all team members get closer to achieving a state of work-life balance.
To our surprise, our small trial was even noticed by the 4 Day Week Global Foundation! They reached out to us to find out about our experience as perhaps the first and only workplace in Cambodia to test the 4-day work week.
Our trial has kicked off the conversation about productivity at Mäd, highlighting how trust and personal accountability can empower your team.
4 Day Week Global, the leading authority and point of reference for 4-day work week implementation, advocates a 100-80-100 model – 100% of the pay over 80% of the time in exchange for 100% of the productivity. To achieve that, we focused on reducing distractions and spending fewer hours in meetings to carve out more time for deep work.
This structure aims to teach individuals to become more deliberate with time spent on work by encouraging an increased sense of responsibility and accountability. In return, they get the benefit of being able to make more time for personal matters without compromising their earnings.
As a result, team members feel more valued and respected. And this is what paves the way for a higher level of commitment to the organization, which is invaluable to future growth.
To get some statistics and insight from our team, we conducted a company-wide survey halfway into the experiment and once more at the end of it.
Adherence to a strict 4-day week structure was moderate for our team. Just over 60% of team members fully followed it, while the rest adjusted their schedules based on their situation. This is reasonable: some of us work with clients, so there may be occasional urgent matters to deal with during days off. But since we also advocate flex-time, individuals can structure the rest of their time differently – some may choose to work fewer hours daily but extend their tasks into the weekend if it works better for them.
On average, team members work for around 8 hours per day, with some deviations (+/- 1 hour). These likely happen due to the varying nature of work and different time management choices. For instance, over 80% of the team has shared that they are most productive and creative in the mornings while generally struggling to complete tasks after lunch (the infamous afternoon slump) or in the evenings – when they should be taking time off, anyway.
As for client projects, we’ve been able to keep up with deadlines and reach expectations. We’ve noticed that those who work with clients often tend to be results-focused rather than following defined working hours. Of course, there are Fridays when some of us have to work, but then again – the structure of the week as a whole is flexible enough to enable any adjustments that individual team members want to make.
The majority of the team reported increased productivity (73%) and focus (82%), with most people feeling more productive in the mornings – although this varies, which is why we advocate flex-time. Since productivity and focus are rather intangible measures, a couple of people were unsure if they had experienced any changes at all. Still, everyone expressed an overall positive impression of the experiment.
Over half of the team found they are most productive on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the majority (64%) reported being the least productive on Thursdays. This may raise concerns about Thursday becoming the new Friday, with Thursday afternoon ending up being a less efficient time period. This would result in only 3.5 days of productive work. However, we have yet to discover how much of an effect this has on work output.
We were thrilled to find that ALL (100%!) of our team members reported improved well-being and happiness, stating that they’ve had more time for family and friends, hobbies, and traveling, and feel generally happier. On the same positive note, everyone on the team voiced a willingness to continue with this work arrangement.
Less pressure to work and more time to relax means that people return to work refreshed and ready to tackle the week after their days off. Several team members have expressed feeling more control over their time, making it easier to plan the workload for the week and schedule tasks.
With more time for rest and self-care, most individuals have also gained enhanced intellectual stimulation and creativity in work projects. Thanks to the higher motivation to get work done, their ability to complete tasks efficiently is heightened. More effort and focus are devoted to working since there is less total time required to work.
Having an extra day off has seen our team members start performing to the best of their ability at their job, plus living a fulfilling life outside of work. People shared that they’re experiencing a fuller existence, with many enjoying their extra day off in a different way from their regular weekend. Being able to spend more time with family, friends, and the wider community, as well as having more time and energy for learning and personal interests enhances both happiness and health, resulting in an overall sense of total well-being.
Though this is not only influenced by our new work schedule, we’ve asked team members to rate their job satisfaction. Almost half reported being fully satisfied (5/5) with their job, with the other half seeking minor improvements and solutions to existing problems in order to be fully happy with their work.
Although the trial went well and we’ve yielded great results, there is always room for improvement.
Some team members have expressed concerns about clients being unaware of the working schedule and either setting meetings or requesting urgent work during days off. To avoid issues with aligning schedules, inform clients about the change while also assuring them that there will be NO decrease in client service quality. It might even inspire them to try it out within their own companies!
Another comment from some individuals mentioned issues with lower output or feeling overworked during the 4 days of increased productivity. This could be fixed by delegating work across more people or by hiring additional team members – something that we’ve prioritized in recent months.
One team member was worried about burnout as they felt that their total billable hours are now condensed into 4 days rather than 5, which requires more hours of work per day. We may need to rethink the number of working hours and how we can best split them across the week.
Consider this: work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion, according to Parkinson’s Law. This means that setting deadlines could negatively affect productivity because it can cause procrastination. So people may end up wasting time on trivial tasks that seem necessary for their projects but could actually be avoided.
Meanwhile, condensing your work into fewer days might have unexpected results – it’s possible that your team will be able to complete the same amount of work (or more!) in a shorter amount of time, but with total concentration. This is because looming deadlines are far more motivating than knowing that you have weeks and weeks left to complete a project.
It’s also why at Mäd, we pride ourselves on being able to do client projects that would typically require 6 to 12 months within a span of 8 to 12 weeks.
Overall, it is a leader’s responsibility to encourage the team to seek work-life balance and avoid overworking during their days off. Cultivating a culture of deep work will also help to ensure everyone’s productivity is improved, enabling employees to handle the same amount of work in less time.
Having experienced the benefits of this work structure for ourselves, we believe it’s even more critical now than ever before to look at different ways of working and consider the future of work. There’s no correct answer to the question of what is the most effective method of work in the long term – this depends on a variety of factors, from the industry you work in, to the personalities of the individuals on your team.
Not every company can shift to a 4-day work week and make it work. Some sectors, such as healthcare, emergency services, public transportation, and logistics, require everyday presence. This would make a shorter work week impractical – but organizations could experiment with shift schedules to ensure full-time coverage.
Even individual employees may be against restructuring to a shorter week. Perhaps they prefer working fewer hours daily but for five days. In this case, companies can try an opt-in policy for those who choose a shorter week versus a regular work week.
At Mäd, we’ve always looked for ways to work smarter and invest in the well-being of our team.
The pandemic, in particular, has also made us rethink how we work and seek ways to make our company’s working culture more sustainable and enjoyable for our team. And we can confidently share that the 4-day week trial has helped us improve collective levels of productivity and happiness – achieving our primary goal.
It’s empowering for employees to be able to think differently and independently about how, when, and where they work. It also has an undeniable positive effect on the businesses they work for, as we’ve observed first-hand.
Our belief is that working flexibly – not working less – is what enables individuals to have greater focus during working hours and maintain their output.
We’re optimistic that this experience has allowed our team to learn how to balance their lives better and avoid burnout. Our hope is that we can inspire other companies in the region to conduct their own trials and see the benefits for themselves.