Company culture

From 5 to 4: Why we’re ditching a 100-year-old tradition & adopting a four-day work week

When Rita our Director of People approached Homerun's leadership team with the proposal to adopt a four-day work week, it was a no-brainer. Here's why.

From 5 to 4: Why we’re ditching a 100-year-old tradition & adopting a four-day work week
Listen to this article. Audio recording by
Lydia Kooistra

In February 2022, Rita our Director of People approached Willem (CEO), Adelina (COO) and Bob (Co-founder) with a radical proposal she had been pondering for some time.

A four-day work week for the entire Homerun team with full-time salaries and no increased hours for the four workdays.

Fast forward to June—we’re three months into our four-day work week pilot and it’s time to share the details with you.

"From five to four" with an image of Homerun's mascot, Ted

Rita’s personal experience – a catalyst for the adoption of the 4DWW

Two years ago, Rita chose to sacrifice 20% of her salary to work four days. The emotional demands of her work as People Ops Manager meant she needed more time to process and recharge on the weekend. That third day of rest was crucial for her.

Rita Wittek-Verbeek of Homerun
It's Rita!

Over the past two years, Rita has thrived at Homerun! She’s been able to support her team during a pandemic, she’s nailed some big projects, has been promoted to Director of People and is currently growing Homerun’s People team.

“I realized that in four days, I was getting my work done and doing a full job, just more efficiently and with more balance which enabled me to do it again the next week.”

Rita wasn’t the only one at Homerun who was embracing the four-day work week. 40% of the company was already working part-time, including the founders for various reasons including caregiving responsibilities.

“I saw the same thing around me in my teammates who worked four days. They were doing great work and excelling at their jobs and only getting paid 80% of a salary. I believed that the team members who worked full-time could benefit from a four-day work week too, but understandably, not everyone wanted to or could take a salary cut.”

So Rita did extensive research; she read up on the topic, talked to other companies already doing a four-day work week and made a proposal for Willem, Adelina and Bob.

Luckily for her (and the rest of us at Homerun 😉), all it took to persuade the leadership team was a mix of research and boundless enthusiasm.

Why a four-day work week is a no-brainer for Homerun

1. It’s the right thing to do for our people-first company

We’ve always strived to be a people-first company. This means that our number one priority is creating a work environment in which people can thrive and be their full selves—where work doesn’t get in the way of our team's ability to live a happy, healthy and balanced life; where instead, it’s one of the driving forces behind it.

We’ve committed to this by fostering a culture of freedom, personal growth and trust. Alongside this, we offer meaningful benefits like access to mental healthcare with Oliva, flexible working hours, a lot of time off, L&D budget, gym membership and a book allowance. All things that help us to live well-rounded lives. Oliva says it best with their slogan: “Well-being is not a perk. It’s a must.” We wholeheartedly agree.

That’s why experimenting with a four-day work week is a no-brainer. We’re putting our money where our mouth is and embracing the people-first philosophy more than we’ve ever done before.

We realize that it’s a privilege to be in a position where we can try this and that the nature of our work allows for it. But as a small business, it’s still a risk.

What if this becomes a logistical nightmare? What if collaboration becomes too hard? What if the company culture suffers? What if this has a negative financial impact on the company?

These are all questions we’ve had to seriously consider and take steps to avoid when adopting the 4DWW.

Needless to say, we don’t expect smooth sailing for the entire journey, but we embrace the uncertainty that comes with trying something new that we believe will benefit our team in the long run. ✨

2. We want to improve the well-being of our team

Speaking of benefits for our team, this is what we’re aiming to achieve by adopting a four-day work week:

Decrease stress and burnout symptoms – it’s not a cure, but it might help.

Over the last couple of years, a lot of evidence has been published showing that working four days with three days off provides massive ongoing benefits in wellness, energy levels, happiness and stress reduction in teams. Not too shabby!

Now, we don’t expect a four-day work week to be the cure for burnout. When burnout occurs, there are often more problems at play than just a lack of free time. However, we think that our holistic approach to work and life can make burnout less likely. We’re sticking with our other mental health initiatives and closely monitoring the impact of the four-day work week on stress levels within our team.

More time for other aspects of life – want to spend Fridays catching Pokémon? Go for it!

Work is not the only part of people’s lives nor is it the most important. We want to give our team members more time to spend on things like family, exercise, nature, passion projects, caregiving responsibilities, hobbies and just pure leisure (gotta find time for that new season of Stranger Things 👀 ). We’re confident this will have a positive impact on people’s happiness and mental health.

Help unlearn unhealthy working habits we’ve been taught – an end to hustle culture.

Embracing a four-day work week is an attempt to break away from the rise-and-grind mindset, hustle culture, toxic productivity and the lifestyle of performative workaholism we’ve all been conditioned to view as “success” nowadays. There’s more to life than work—we can’t state that enough.

3. Turns out a 4DWW will probably be good for business too

We’re also confident a four-day work week will bring benefits to the business, too. While this isn’t our main motivation, it’s certainly important.

After all, part of creating a great work environment is doing worthwhile work that has an impact. We have good reason to believe the four-day work week can help us achieve our goal of helping more small businesses make meaningful hires. This in turn results in the creation of more great working environments. A win-win-win in our book.

These are a few of the benefits we’d like to see with our four-day work week pilot:

A boost to the team's productivity through more rest and improved focus

Studies have shown significant productivity gains in teams (as much as 40%) as a direct result of embracing the four-day work week. We’re testing whether the studies ring true in our case: a shorter work week helps to energize and streamline the way people work and be more mindful of how time is spent ultimately improving productivity.

We’re aware, however, that simply working less won’t magically make us more productive. We need to make thoughtful changes to how we work to make it happen. More on this later.

A boost to engagement and motivation in the team

We believe the four-day work week will help our team feel more excited about working at Homerun and the time they spend at work. And when people feel good at work, they do good work! We don’t need studies to back us up on this (though, they’re probably out there).

We hope to attract more talent

We – like everyone else in tech – are struggling to find talent (Hello, Developers, 👋 please apply!) so we hope this will show talent who are looking for a more balanced workplace that when we say we care about work/life balance that we mean it.

Get our team to stick with us for the long haul

Retaining talent is as important as attracting talent, if not more so. We believe a four-day work week will help keep our people with us for longer.

4. How society thinks about work is changing – so we want to change too

Time for a quick history lesson! 🤓

Robert Owen with his eyebrow game on point (Image credit: Britannica.com)

In 1817, a labor activist called Robert Owen advocated to shorten the long 16-hour workday of the time to a mere eight hours. With his slogan, “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” he proposed a collective shift to a 40-hour work week.

Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

Well, it took about 100 years for this system to actually be adopted. Henry Ford’s factories became the first workplaces in the U.S. to formally implement this 40-hour, five-day work week which quickly became the baseline standard for most industries.

Henry Ford factory (Photo credit: The Henry Ford Museum)
Fast forward, to almost 100 years later and this five-day work week still defines the structure of modern work. We’re due for some innovation, no?

It no longer makes sense that an employer is paying for a set amount of time — especially for people working in industries defined by knowledge work. For them, it makes more sense to pay for output, expertise and knowledge instead of an arbitrary 40-hour commitment per week.

We’re certainly not the first to conclude that it’s time for innovation in the work week.

Over the last few years, well-known companies in the U.S. like Buffer, The Wanderlust Group and Wildbit have taken the plunge and adopted the four-day work week, reporting back with huge benefits.

Now it seems like every other day there’s a new company announcing their switch to a four-day work week. If it’s not that, then it’s a new study being published with more evidence about its benefits. Not to mention that everyone is talking about it just from a glance at our LinkedIn feed.

It’s clear that there’s something bigger going on that’s driving this work week innovation forward. We’re in the midst of a shift in how we as a society think about work and its place in our lives.

The pandemic, the Great Resignation, growing anti-capitalist sentiments, increasing numbers of burnout and a growing need for fulfillment at work are all part of this shift, be it a cause, symptom or effect.

And we’re up for this much-needed change in how people are valued in the workplace. The work we do, day-to-day, is already to help companies hire with this top of mind. But if we can help to drive this change forward by trying out a four-day work week and inspire others to do the same, then we’re going to do just that.

And it suits us to try this despite the risks. After all, one of our company values is Stay Weird, which means we take joy and pride in doing things differently. 🤪

How we’re tackling it

Like everything we do at Homerun, implementing the four-day work week was done thoughtfully with a lot of preparation. Here are a few of the practicalities we’ve decided on:

It’s a pilot

We're trying it out for nine months during which we’ll evaluate whether it’s truly improving the team’s well-being. We’re running dedicated 4DWW surveys every month with the whole team. If all goes to plan (even with the anticipated bumps in the road), our intention is to make the 4DWW permanent after the pilot.

The team can choose their day off

Instead of having a fixed day off, we’ve opted to allow people to choose their day off (with 3 options). From the first team survey, it became clear that this was a big preference for the team.

Two days for company-wide meetings

Team members can choose from Monday, Wednesday or Friday as their day off so that we have two days for company-wide meetings. Contact moments will be important to maintain connection and our company culture.

Changing how we work

As mentioned, in order to benefit from the magic of a 4DWW we need to make thoughtful changes to how we work—fewer meetings, clearer prioritization, improved async communication, just to name a few. Supporting our team in adopting these ways of working is a huge priority during this pilot.

We’re embracing trust and good faith

Adopting a 4DWW means trusting the team to put in their best effort to overcome the challenges that may arise from this. We’re proud to say we have complete confidence in this. We’ve collectively nurtured a culture of trust resulting in a team that truly cares for each other. Not to mention the amazing, collaborative and passionate work being put in even during tough times like the pandemic. We’ve achieved a lot and we have no reason to believe that we can’t make a 4DWW work.

Moving forward

We’ll share the results of our pilot and dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of how we implemented the 4DWW in future articles, so keep an eye out for that. 👀

In the meantime, if you want to know more, reach out to Rita, the brains behind this initiative. She’s happy to have that brain picked! Just keep in mind, she’s off on Fridays. 😉

Want every Friday off too? Sign up for our job alert to stay in the loop about future open jobs at Homerun.

About the author
With a passion for DE&I and a drive to dismantle hustle culture, Lydia creates content on hiring topics like inclusive job descriptions and Homerun’s four-day workweek. In her free time, you’ll find her cycling around Amsterdam (where she’s based), camping, cuddling cats and eating tacos.

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