How RescueTime joined the four-day workweek for fun and profit

Here at RescueTime, we always want to be sure to put our money where our mouth is. We know we give a lot of advice—especially here on our blog—about how best to navigate your work and your life.

And as we’ve explored, as a company and as people, our own personal relationship to work, productivity, and the balance of life, we’ve begun to see trends we don’t like. If we’re not careful, a pursuit of productivity can turn toxic. And if you get stuck in negative patterns of chasing ultra-efficiency and increasing hours spent at work, your efforts can harm your health and wellbeing and negatively affect those around you.

RescueTime’s products are intended to promote digital wellness in your life, from work to home and beyond.

And as we shift our product from a focus on productivity and peak efficiency and blasting through unread emails, to one of digital and productive balance, we’re looking to cultivate more harmonious relationships with our work, our devices, and our ambitions.

We want to walk the walk as much as we talk the talk. We want to practice what we preach.

So, RescueTime is ringing in a new era for our company: we’re adopting the four-day, 32-hour workweek.

We’re excited to be joining a new and growing movement with companies and start-ups around the country that have adopted the same program, following the proven results of case studies from around the world. All of those studies, from places like New Zealand, Ireland, or this one in Iceland, show stunningly positive results. 

Microsoft’s operations in Japan tested the model and reportedly saw, along with generally more happy workers, a 40% increase in productivity across the board.

Microsoft Japan’s CEO Takuya Hirano put it simply: “work a short time, rest well, and learn a lot.”

“I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”  

Even developers of popular video games, in an industry notorious for thin margins, high pressure, and overwork, have made the push towards cutting out their Fridays

It’s all part of a heartening and encouraging movement across industries and disciplines to re-examine how best to work and live in our new modern times.

There are multiple benefits that at this point have been all-but-confirmed under the four-day workweek schedule. Costs of running businesses, from physically “keeping the lights on” an extra day to other physical or personnel costs, are noticeably reduced. CEOs and supervisors report marked increases in productivity and rarely any actual losses in efficiency or output across the board. And employees report not only a decrease in mental and physical issues but an increase in general happiness.

And to be clear – the four-day workweek is not about trying to shove 40 hours of work into four days. This is a four-day, 32-hour workweek. And that’s what RescueTime is committing to.

There’s a kind of improved focus that comes about when working hours are compressed a little bit. Think about the times when you’ve had a longer amount of time, or infinite time, to complete a task or project. I’m willing to bet the time you spent on that task expanded to fit the time limits you were working with—because it’s a well-proven quirk of human nature.

And of course, in a normal day-to-day office scenario, not every task is going to be a high-stress hard-deadline sort of situation. But that thought of “if I don’t get this done by quitting time Thursday it’s going to be hanging over my head all weekend…” can sometimes be the little push you need to get something done.

There’s a subtle urgency and pep in your step that can come when you know your time to work isn’t unlimited. There’s no dread of the unending day and the slow-moving clock. And in general, it’s a satisfying step further away from that classic depressing “Office Space” vision of the day-in, day-out work grind.

But it’s also almost exciting, especially if you like your job, to give yourself the challenge of filling that time as smartly and productively as you can.

Work is but one element of your life. The rest is up to you to design, as it always has been. But under this system, you just have so much more room to work with. Tipping those scales a bit closer to 50/50 feels good. It feels right.

And of course, there will be some situations, some roles, even some entire industries, where this will not be a feasible option. This is not a cure-all or an “apply to everyone” solution. But we encourage you to at least allow the idea to float around your head. Even if you’re stuck in a five-day week situation but are fascinated with this idea and its potential benefits, there are still things you can do to survey your own situation and maybe apply some “4DWW” thinking.

Structure your workflow to lighten up Fridays

How do tasks and projects flow through your workspace? Is there a way to break up the chunks and pile them all up on the first four days of the week? Or at least take some pressure off that Friday? While it may not be a true day off, a nice light “check-in and answer some emails” day at the office can be a welcome way to wind down the week and welcome in the weekend while staying “clocked in” and attentive. It’s what a lot of us in 9-5 land have spent many Fridays doing anyway—why not make it official?

Examine your own productivity and see what works

It’s possible you’ve never had a problem with five days of work in a week. It’s also possible you’ve spent some weeks languishing in overwork, playing the “please make time go faster” game with the clock starting every Wednesday afternoon.

Just as we can be morning or night people, or caffeine drinkers or decaf types, it’s likely some of us are four-day workers while some truly prefer five. There is probably still the ~1% of our population that swears by a six- or a seven-day week. 

It’s also entirely possible that within those companies that made the hard switch to four-day workweeks, there are employees that quite liked their old routine and chose to stick with it voluntarily. And that’s all totally fine. 

As long as you know yourself and can be open and communicative with those around you about how you work best, it’s hard to see a downside.

Broach it with your team

Even if your workplace doesn’t currently seem conducive to cutting a day out of the schedule, it would still behoove you to check around with your colleagues and take temperatures. Are people burning out under the current system? Do you all look at each other every now and then share a realization that you can cut out early most Fridays?

But if you work from home or are lucky enough to be focusing on passion projects or just have days that are open to schedule as you like, we would suggest you at least give it a try. There’s so little downside to spending even an entire test run of a month trying out a new cadence.

Most importantly, if you’re lucky enough to get that extra day off from work, make sure you do something good with it.

This does not at all necessarily mean you need to work on your side hustle or something on your newfound day off. You are fully entitled to all the relaxation and recreation you can possibly fit into that three-day weekend. That’s the whole point of the idea. 

This is something that RescueTime is committed to for the long haul. In the coming weeks and months, we look to explore how this shift in our calendars affects and enriches our lives, as well as how we might more creatively deploy our newfound added free time. With an upcoming internal survey, we’ll take a look at how we’ve settled in, what’s worked and what hasn’t, and ultimately how much our lives feel changed.

If you’re interested in trying the four-day workweek out for yourself, you can even use RescueTime to help you adjust. Just go to your account settings in The Assistant and change your work schedule to a four-day workweek. The Assistant makes it easy to make that change.

Try bringing more balance to your work life. See how things change for you.

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Robin Copple

Robin Copple is a writer and editor from Los Angeles, California.

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