How To Convince Your Boss To Let You Try A Four-Day Work Week

A lot has been said about the productivity benefits of the four-day work week. That's all well and good, but convincing your boss to let you change your schedule is tough. Here's one way to convince your boss to let you try the four-day week.

Title image remixed from Steve

The only way you'll know if you can transition to a four-day week or any type of flexible work schedule is if you ask. Some bosses and jobs are more open to such arrangements, but whatever their attitude, the approach is the same.

Step 1: Assess Your Own Schedule

The first thing you need to do is look at your current work schedule and see if it's even possible to work a four-day week. When you're doing this, think a little differently about how you go about your day, what you do, and if it's possible to move things around to fit into four days.

Keep in mind that you have a lot of different options here. You can, for instance, suggest a four-day work week every two weeks or change your days off each week. You can also work four 10-hour days or go for the 32-hour week and work four eight-hour days. Another common arrangement is one rostered day off each fortnight.

Play around with your schedule until you feel you have a plan that might work for both you and your employer. If you go for the 10-hour days, Productivity 501 suggests you also consider coming in earlier in the day. Keep in mind that staying productive for 10 hours a day might be harder than you think.

Ask yourself why you want to do a four-day week. Is it because you want the work-life balance that an extra day off can give you? Is it because you're always taking work home with you four days a week anyway? Is your commute killing you? Your reasons are part of the case you build for your boss, so make sure they're solid. Photo by Eliazar Parra Cardenas.

Step 2: Form Your Plan and Build Your Case

Having developed a potential schedule, you need to formulate an actual plan and provide your boss with a case for your argument.

There is evidence you can use to boost your case. The US state of Utah experimented with the four-day week, and the data suggests that workers were happier, even though the days were longer. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, 37Signals CEO Jason Fried suggests that the 32-hour work week has boosted productivity. 37Signals' model gives workers a four-day work week for six months out of the year, and then returns to the five-day week for the other six months. NPR argues that you're more likely to get things done when you're happier with your work schedule.

Start focusing on the specifics of your plan: How will your schedule work? Can people still get in touch with you on your day off? Are you willing to call into a meeting that is scheduled on your day off? Think of every tiny detail and prepare answers for any potential questions from your boss.

If your new schedule has an effect on other employees, make sure you talk with them and see if they're interested in converting to a four-day work week too.

Remember that your new schedule could be considered an office perk. If raises aren't an option, pitching your new schedule as a perk is a possible alternative. I used to work for a company that implemented a salary freeze. I used that freeze to pitch for a 32-hour week with retained benefits. The company obliged and I was a lot happier afterwards.

Step 3: Present Your Plan to the Boss

So you've created a dummy schedule that puts you in a four-day work week, talked with your coworkers, and compiled a list of the productivity benefits associated with your new schedule. Now it's time to chat with your boss. If you work in a formal environment, schedule a meeting. Otherwise, pop by for a chat at an appropriate time. You can present your case in the same way you would convince your boss to let you work remotely.

According to CNN, it's a good idea to present your case as a business proposal. This means you pitch the idea, present your productivity evidence, and then dive into the details.

Keep in mind your boss might have alternative solutions as well, so keep the conversation as open as possible. If your boss is uncertain about the idea, you can always suggest a trial period of a month to see how it works out. Photo by Phil Sexton.

If Your Plan Fails, Brainstorm Alternative Solutions

If the four-day work week isn't an option your boss is willing to consider, all is not lost. You have other options that can at least change how you spend your time at the office. If you're stuck in the office, try out the 20 per cent time idea. This basically means that each day at work you allocate some time to work on a non-work project. This might be 10 minutes a day or one day a week — the point is that you break up your work time with something productive but not related to your current projects.

Another option is to convince your boss to let you work remotely. You don't have to telecommute every day, but one day a week might be enough to recharge and get things done.

Had your own experience with a non-conventional schedule? Tell us about it in the comments.


Comments

    Hmmm good luck getting that idea past FWA.
    Doesn't matter how many days a week you work, as soon as you go over the magic number of hours, overtime kicks in. Highly unlikely that any management would approve this idea.

      Ollie, I work for a union that deals extensively with FWA, and what you've written there is complete nonsense.

    Staying at home on a Friday just means looking after a toddler all day. It's just easier to go to work!

    I wrote a blues song about my work-life balance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNHTFLTdAIg

    When I was in the US Navy, I was always on an unconventional schedules (even whilst on shore). My favourite was "messman's hours": two twelve-hour day shifts, 24hrs off, two twelve-hour night shifts, and then four days off. I also did a four-tens/three-off schedule for a while.

    Right now, I'm working on convincing my boss to let me have two days from home. 95% of my job is remote work (systems administration, I try not to enter the server room if it can be avoided), so it shouldn't matter if I'm at my desk in the city or at my desk at home.

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