Simon's Blog

Four day work weeks

February 22, 2022

For a while in a previous role I worked a 32 work week. I afforded it at the time and preferred to spend a bit more time at home with my newly minted family.

In this blog post I’ll talk a bit about four day weeks, what I managed to achieve, what the benefits are and how I replicated them despite switching back to a 40 hour work week in my current role.

The many four day work weeks

First of all, there are a good number of variants of a four day work week and few people clarify which they are referring to, especially in online conversations. They are:

  • 40 hour weeks in four days, AKA 4x10. This means longer work days, but shorter weeks.
  • 32 hour weeks in four days, AKA 4x8. This means an entire day is no longer dedicated to work. You could start your weekend early, start your week later or have a break somewhere in between.
  • 30 hour weeks in four days, AKA 4x7.5. This is similar to 4x8, with 30 minutes less each day.
  • 32 hour weeks in five days, AKA 5x6.4. This is the model I used, where you’re still working every day, however you leave earlier (or arrive later) than your colleagues.

Each have their pros and cons and are ultimately up to personal preference. While I still worked five days, my day was from 08:00 to 15:00 with a break of an hour. If I wanted I could have worked four 8 hour days, however I felt that working the entire week kept my momentum going for the whole week rather than having a hard stop half way. I do consider 4x10 to be a non-starter, since 8 hour days are already a stretch on the brain, let alone 10 hour days.

The benefits

For me, there were four main benefits:

  • My wife and I now started and ended at similar times, which meant she could drop me off on her way to work and pick me up on the way back. This reduced our fuel costs drastically and definitely reduced our carbon footprint.
  • For the times when I drove to work, driving back at 15:00 meant I would get home in 10-15 minutes. The same commute at 17:00 would easily take 40-50 minutes in Malta’s atrocious traffic. That was at least 30 minutes of time saved simply by shifting the time I left the office.
  • With a shorter day, I cut out a lot of the times I would let my mind wander and a good chunk of time wasting. I spent less time on reddit and more time focused on my tasks, because I knew it would simply be a few more hours before I would be home.
  • I ended the day with a fresher mind, capable of handling other intellectually stimulating tasks and side projects better.

The downsides

While I did mostly experience upsides, there were a few downsides. The one that comes to mind mostly is that people forget and get surprised that I end the day earlier. I think this created pockets of aminosity from my colleagues at times which I regret causing.

Another one was that I had an agreement with my employer that I could work up to 40 hours in a given week and I would submit a time-sheet before the end of the month in the case that I did. This worked out well for me as I could make up that last 20% of the salary cut I took to work 32 hours if I wanted to, however it essentially turned me into an hourly employee, which meant that no two payslips ever matched fully.

The amount of income tax I was meant to be paying kept varying and it made conversations with a bank (I was looking into taking a loan) annoying complicated.

How I replicated the gains without the 32 hours

I did mention that this was for a previous role. In fact in my current role at Hotjar, I work a full 40 hour work week.

I do miss the slightly extra free time that a 32 hour work week provided however I managed to replicate the gains I had by switching to a completely different paradigm: fully remote work.

Shaving 30 minutes off a 40 minute commute is awesome. Shaving 39.5 minutes off a 40 minute commute is even better. I now have no commute and am completely immune to traffic or parking issues (two very real issues in Malta!).

I am also around my wife more often since she was on maternity leave for the past two years. I sometimes take the opportunity to do some mindless chores while thinking about a difficult problem I’m trying to solve, saving more time for after the day is over. I also have the advantage that software is both my work and my hobby, so I get a good fill of enjoyment at work.

Would I go back to a 32 hour work week while fully remote? I could probably afford it, but in the meantime our combined focus has become more centered around paying off our debts and investing in our future rather than micro-optimising the amount of free time we have now. On the other hand, I could definitely see it working great for people for whom the job is just a job and their passions lie elsewhere.

Written by Simon who lives in Malta. You can find out more about me on the about page, or get in contact.