About a year ago, we made a fairly major decision at Growing Agile. We realised we were too busy, so we decided to work less. We committed to only working 4 days a week. The idea was we would take Monday’s off and have a 3 day weekend, every weekend. When we tell people, many ask if they can join our company 🙂 It sounds like a nice life. But it also sounds like waste of a work day, a money generating day. What most people don’t realise is that since making that decision we have become more productive, more focussed and more profitable.
I’ve seen lots of people talk about the benefits of 4 day work weeks. Recently I watched this video from Treehouse. Everyone focusses on how much better their work life balance is, and how much happier their families are. And of course, happy employees are more productive. We all get that, it’s kind of obvious. What I want to talk about in this post is how it actually makes more business sense for us to work less.
A funny thing happened when we started taking Monday’s off. They became precious, and we wanted to protect them. Which meant that we would do anything so that work didn’t spill into the weekend. Anyone who has ever used time boxing understands the magic of this. We got really good at making sure whatever needed to be done in a week, would be wrapped up by 4pm on a Friday. If it wasn’t going to get done by then, we’d talk about what was possible, instead of just defaulting to “we’ll wrap it up on Monday”, or even worse “over the weekend”.
We love the benefits of time boxing so much that we use it for nearly everything. Got a lot of emails to answer? We set a time box, divide them up and go. When you know you only have 30 minutes to answer 10 emails, you get the quick ones out the way, and you don’t spend too long getting the wording perfect. Now days if I find myself struggling to explain myself in 1 paragraph, I pick up the phone and deal with it that way, or use the email to schedule a call to discuss in more detail.
Limiting our work hours has also forced us to focus. We have LOTS of ideas. We want to explore them all. We don’t have the time. This was true even with a 5 day work week, but somehow choosing to limit our time even more, made us more conscious of the trade offs. i.e. We know that working on one more thing would mean working on our precious Mondays. So for each extra thing we decide to do, we weigh it up against the joy of a full day off. It’s amazing how few ideas seem great in comparison to a day of leisure 😉
What this means is that for everything we choose to do, we make a decision about how much time is worth investing in it. We also generally only spend a day or two on a new idea, before we test it in the market. If we don’t see the result we expected, we ditch the idea or change it, without having spent too much time on it.
One of the best ways we have found to do this is to have a physical board for ideas. As soon as we think of something cool we write it down. Then we schedule regular time to work on ideas. When we have the time scheduled, we look at the idea board to see which ideas we still think are good ideas. We then discuss what is the minimum we need to test the idea. It’s amazing how many ideas seem like fantastic ideas at the time, but once we’ve had 2 weeks to think about it, we are much less attached to the ideas and willing to discard them. Having this ‘parking lot’ for ideas really works for us. But it is critical that you review it regularly and throw out any ideas you no longer want to do. In fact at least once a year we empty the board completely and start over. If an idea is good, it will come up again.
Scarcity Improves Sales
Given that we don’t work Monday’s, we now have less days available for client work. You might think this would lead to less business, but for us it has actually been the other way around. When we give clients proposals, we let them know that our calender fills up 4 to 6 weeks in advance. As a result, clients tend to make decisions more quickly and commit to the work. Even clients that have previously been notoriously bad at planning and usually want to do everything last minute, have learned that they need to book us in advance.
Although I can’t prove it, I think that subconsciously clients think that the busier you are the better you must be. Being in demand is a good thing. Also because we know what our pipeline looks like two months in advance we can better optimise our sales and marketing activities. We used to spend a lot of time on sales activities that never paid off. Now we find we are spending less and less effort on sales, and getting more and more business.
Let’s face it life happens. We all need to go to the dentist and doctor and other places that are generally only open during working hours. Or we need to be at home for the plumber to fix that leaking toilet, etc. Companies all accept this, and as a result people usually take an hour here or there during work hours or work from home some days to do this. We now just schedule these appointments for Monday’s. That we we get them done on our own time, and when we are at work we can fully focus on that.
On a personal note I also find that instead of running errands on a weekend, I now delay them to Monday. So I get 2 full days of uninterrupted leisure for a weekend. It’s awesome!
Let’s talk about the money. Some of the growth we’ve seen in the last year is likely for reasons other than the 4 day work week. However we can absolutely say that a 4 day work week has not had any negative impact on revenue.
We have increased our revenue by 75% since making the decision to only work 4 days a week. By comparison our revenue for the previous 2 years was roughly the same, i.e. no year on year growth.
Not yet ready to give this a try? Well how about a 6 hour work day instead. It’s a similar idea but maybe easier to adopt. I like that you can decide to start late everyday and go for a run on the mountain or drop the kids off at school, all whilst still leaving early enough to cook dinner and chill out.