December 22, 2018

Working a four day week

Reading time: 3 minutes

What changed when I made the leap to an eight day fortnight.

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple 'woman cartwheeling' emoji, in front of a light blue circle

It was about a year ago that I realised I was ready for a new job. At the time, I had been with my organisation for nearly two and a half years, trying out three different roles in that time. It was a great place to work, but I had itchy feet. I was ready not only for a new role, but a new city. I was in a privileged position, in that I really enjoyed my role and team, and wasn’t in a hurry to leave. I spent some quality time thinking about what kind of experience I wanted next, what kind of culture I wanted to be in. A role came along that ticked all the boxes, but I was surprised to find out that it was an 0.8 full time equivalent – four days a week, at a pro rata salary. How would that affect my lifestyle? I took a leap and accepted the role. Twelve months later, here are some findings on my new four-day lifestyle.

A four-day working week means a three-day weekend, every weekend. We’ve all wished for more time at some point in our lives, and it does come in handy. I can get my chores out of the way early, spend more time on personal projects – like this blog! – or yes, watch Netflix all day. What became immediately obvious is that three days is a real break from work. It’s long enough to forget about the office. And that means I show up on Monday ready for it. Damnit, sometimes even excited, for work.

The flip side is that my four days at work are more intense. I don’t work long hours, I’m not trying trying to squish five days into four. But the fat has been trimmed. I arrive early, I’m efficient, coffee breaks with colleagues are a rare event. So is office chatter. Works calls and chats are constant, personal discussions are rare.

Reducing your hours, generally, means reducing your income. This is a deal breaker for some, and fair enough. We need money. My advice is to sit down and do some calculations:

  1. Start with your current salary, reduce it by 10% — That’s your equivalent for a nine-day fortnight.
  2. Reduce it by 20% for an eight-day.
  3. Check which tax bracket each of them fall into, and then work out your net income.
  4. Finally, consider this: an extra day off means an extra day to prepare for the week. Whether we like to admit it or not, the more we work the more we are more inclined to outsource the rest of our lives. You can make your reduced dollars go further if you have time to go grocery shopping, cook food, and clean your own house.

If this sounds like a lifestyle that will work for you, there’s a few ways to get the ball rolling. I was extremely lucky, I walked into a company where four days is the norm. While this is unusual, flexible working hours are not. Check out your contract with your current employer, look at what they are saying in their job ads. If they are talking the talk, organise a coffee date with your boss and feel out whether they will walk the walk. If your current employer won’t budge, keep it in mind as something to negotiate in your next role.

Whoever you are discussing it with, be confident, and stick to your guns. If they are on the fence, try suggesting:

  • A trial period. This is a good way for both of you to test it out, and gives you the option to move back into a full-time load if you find reduced finances don’t work for you
  • A nine-day fortnight. This might be more palatable to your employer as a starting point

A four day week isn’t for everyone.But the traditional office mentality, of eyeballing your colleagues five days a week, is gradually relaxing. Maybe regular days where you work from home are within your grasp instead.

There’s no harm in asking, and your employer might just surprise you. Good luck!

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Lilith Palmer

Cat mumma, coffee lover, digital producer (in that order). See what else I've written here.

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