Should Your Agency Implement a Four-Day Work Week?
Have you heard of the four-day week? Is it something you’ve ever considered for your agency? Many people feel it is a good way to find the work-life balance we all dream of, while others argue it’s not practical. Today’s guest decided to give it a try and now explains how he came to that decision and how it has worked out for his team.
Chris Free is the president and partner of Chromatic, a web development agency that has been in the business for 15 years. As a remote agency since its beginning, Chris and his team work to create a sense of camaraderie among employees. They wondered if a reduced work-week would make it even harder. He shares why and how he decided to implement the 4-day workweek and the result so far.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- Why they decided to try the four-day week.
- The process to implement this new work style.
- His team’s response and productivity results.
Sponsors and Resources
E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.
Do You Need a Break from Hustle Culture?
Chris always dreamed of owning his own business, although he never pictured it would be a digital agency. After graduating with a degree in interactive media, he figured he would work in video production. However, he quickly realized there were no such jobs he could find in Chicago, so he leaned on his programming skills. He ended up at a 10-person startup advertising.
His work at the agency helped him realize he had a ton of value to offer, so he joined two developer friends and started looking for clients. Just a couple of years later, they bought out the original founder and started adding more partners and employees. For him, the most challenging moment was when they started growing and he didn’t have time to work on what he loved. As an agency owner, he was in sales and dealing with management problems and felt trapped.
After years of growing his agency and working on sides of the business he didn’t really enjoy, he pondered the idea of the four-day week.
How to Start Slow With Flexible Time Off
Chris learned about the concept of the four-day week while reading about the downside of hustle culture. This book explains that you need to build a rest ethic as much as you build your work ethic. At the time, they needed a change so he and his partner agreed to test it out at the agency. They started by implementing a half day off every Friday. The results on the business side were not really impactful. However, on the human and cultural side, it was tremendously beneficial.
Their staff absolutely loved it, especially after the recent pandemic-related burnout that everyone lived. The result has been so successful that he sees no way back.
3 Common Concerns When Moving to a Shorter Workweek
- Financial Concerns. In the beginning, Chris was worried about torpedoing the business, which had never had any debt. He and his partner chose to start with half days off in the summer months, from from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Once the test was over they realized it had not had any material impact on their finances, so they continued through the rest of the year. When that test was successful, they decided to extended it to the entire day off. In terms of the benefits, their profitability isn’t up yet, but they expected it to be a longer play that pays for itself in terms of culture and retention.
- Clients Buy-In. How would clients feel about it? In the beginning this was a pressing concern for Chris. However, the response was surprisingly positive. Of course, there are still ways for them to contact the team in case of an emergency so clients don’t feel abandoned on Fridays.
- Company culture. Chris and partners were concerned about fostering camaraderie among the staff. They’ve been remote since day one, so building culture has always been a conscious effort for them. While agencies that have an in-person model create that camaraderie naturally, remote agencies work hard to manufacture it. They have continued doing this with team retreats and weekly calls where they don’t talk about work. Overall, the staff is very happy with the change to a 4-day work week.
How to Be Better Leader and Prioritize Self Care
For many years Chris has had a hard time with work-life balance. He realized prioritizing his own well-being would make him a better leader. Transitioning to a shorter workweek was the push he needed to really take that seriously.
It’s not uncommon for agency owners to get burnt out from long hours and oftentimes working on parts of the business you don’t necessarily enjoy. It might seem counterintuitive to take time off, however taking care of yourself is the key to success. Your future self will thank you.
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