In 2022, Upstatement started experimenting with a 4-Day Work Week, and after measuring the results I’m happy to say that our 4DWW is here to stay.
The data checked all the boxes for us.
✅ Projects were healthy & high quality.
✅ Business outcomes stayed strong.
✅ Productivity remained high.
✅ Stress levels decreased.
✅ Employee happiness skyrocketed.
Beyond the numbers, this trial has given me perspective on what a 4-Day Work Week really means. The lessons I’ve learned have crystallized into a philosophy that describes why it works for us — and might change the way you think about it, too.
These lessons are different than I expected back when we started. The experiment began as a response to burnout but over the course of living with a 4DWW, I gained unexpected insight into our people, the nature of our work, and myself.
Here’s what I learned:
- It’s the humane thing to do
- It’s all about flexibility
- It focuses us at work & home
- It quiets the hive mind
Remote Teams Still Require Human Contact
Early in the pandemic, Upstatement made the difficult decision to give up our beautiful office and with it, the delight of spending every day together. Yes, we miss the office. But we gained clarity: Upstatement is a remote-first company. And remote-first work is different than in-person or hybrid in ways that surprised us.
Most notably, it was way more efficient. We already have an exceptionally accountable team that holds a high standard for itself. And when we became a remote company, people transferred all the time and energy they saved from commutes, coffee chats, and long lunches. Everything went into the work — which proved to be both hyper-productive and super exhausting.
An 8-hour day working from home is not equivalent to the same amount of time at the office. It’s worth more. It’s intense. It’s productive. We get more done. In fact, when people meet in person these days, they often comment, ”How did we ever work like this? I get so much less done.”
IRL work is filled with joyful inefficiency. Offices provide in-person community and meaningful human contact. We get so much energy from being in the presence of other people.
That’s why I think that a 4-Day Work Week is the humane way to run a remote-first company. If work no longer provides those essential human experiences, companies need to create space for people to get it elsewhere. And if work days feel more intense, we need more time to rest, recover, reflect, and return at our best.
Trust Over Time Tracking
As a studio, we’re in the midst of a move away from selling hours to selling outcomes, which means we’re not charging for time. We trust teams to make their own commitments and meet them.
People have given us good reason to do so. Feels a bit chicken-or-eggy, but I think it’s due to this high accountability culture where we all trust each other. Nobody is looking over anybody’s shoulder because we’re in it together. Put simply: People at Upstatement get shit done.
In a world like that, we don’t need people clocking in and clocking out every day. The walls between working and not-working have fallen further, another consequence of our fully remote reality. As the lines between work and home have gotten fuzzier, it has become even harder to know when we’re working.
Sometimes the biggest breakthroughs happen far from the “office.” When I’m working from home, my brilliant shower thought might as well have happened at my desk. It doesn’t show up in time tracking, but we all spend plenty of time outside of official hours thinking and talking about work.
It’s easy to lose balance. But 4DWW deletes desk time, giving us breathing room that benefits our personal lives and frees our subconscious for the kind of cross-dimensional thinking that is critical for knowledge work.
We embrace that ambiguity and simply say: Here’s more time; use it the way you want.
Do What’s Best For You
Does 4DWW mean you never work on a Friday? Does a traditional 5DWW mean that people never work on weekends? People work when they work. This model just gives people more autonomy to work when it works for them.
People often ask me, “Are you working on Fridays?” Sometimes, sure. Depends on the week. But NOT working Fridays isn’t the point. Doing what’s best for you is.
My role requires lots of meetings and being present for people during the workday, which makes it tough when I need to do deep work. It takes a long runway before I can really get on a roll and fall into flow state. With too many interruptions, it’s impossible. Which is why I love taking a couple quiet hours on a Friday morning to, say, work on this blog post. It feels glorious.
When that happens, it’s sometimes balanced by shorter days elsewhere in the week. But not always. The reality is that everyone’s productivity varies from day-to-day. We all have hard weeks and easy weeks. Life happens to all of us. There are sick kids. Elderly parents. Visiting families. Doctor’s appointments. Days you feel super productive. Times you feel stuck.
4DWW is just more honest about those realities. It gives us all more flexibility to shift in and out of work depending on the week and what’s going on inside and outside of the office.
Less Time Equals Greater Discipline
4DWW showed us there’s fat to trim. You might have heard of this thing called the Parkinson Principle, which is just a fancy way of saying that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Shrinking the amount of time available for work forced us to make decisions about what’s most valuable. We looked across a fresh landscape of four days and asked ourselves: What can I cut? What don’t I need to do?
Propelled by a newly remote culture and 4DWW, people took it upon themselves to audit our meetings and edit those that were unproductive. With the joyful inefficiency of water cooler conversations gone, teams started exploring more efficient, asynchronous ways of working. Everyone looked at their personal to do lists and tightened the aperture to the most important tasks.
It also creates more opportunities for deep work (see above), which is more valuable and more productive than an average working hour.
Less Time Equals Less Time
Our new time constraints forced us to focus. It also did something predictable and powerful: It caused us to work less.
Remember earlier when I shared that I sometimes work Fridays? Well, in the old world a little work sometimes spilled into nights and weekends. It’s not what we want. It shouldn’t be the norm. But even when it happens, it will still mean less overall work hours. And that’s the point.
If you routinely worked two extra hours during a 5-day week, you put in 42 hours. If you routinely work two extra hours during a 4-day week, you put in 34 hours — still a full day less.
Sure that feels obvious, but it’s also the outcome that draws the most skeptics. Because how can you work fewer hours and get the same amount of work done?
We do it following the 100:80:100 model: 100 percent of the salary over 80 percent of the time while maintaining 100 percent of the productivity. It’s easy to imagine that working four days a week means doing less work. But it doesn’t have to. For us (and other companies that have adopted 4DWW) less time has translated to greater focus and higher productivity.
Freedom from the Slack Stress
Cal Newport coined the term “Hyperactive Hive Mind” to describe the feeling of working in a remote office where the constant buzz of Slack ruins your attention with constant interruptions and emoji reactions.
Don’t get me wrong: We love Slack. Our culture lives there. But it can also be pretty exhausting on a day-to-day, hour-to-our basis. There’s so much activity. So many people and projects clamoring for our attention.
And that leads me to a simple but important lesson about 4DWW: To quiet your own mind, you need to quiet the Hyperactive Hive Mind. Sure, you could just quit Slack when you need to get something done. But how many of us actually do that?
Some people say the answer is No Meeting Fridays — but not me. I’ve seen those quickly lead to backsliding and cheating. It’s like, “We’re already at work. Why not meet?” And besides, Slack stays as loud and active as ever.
Removing a day from the week also quiets your mind outside of work. I’m usually buzzing a bit every evening in anticipation of my tomorrow: Am I fully prepared for every meeting? Have I ticked every box? Double-checked every detail? It’s nice to close my laptop on Thursday and know that I have some time and flexibility to tie up any loose ends without another 9am deadline looming.
That’s the benefit of putting the entire week on a diet. It automatically decreases the amount of time given to the Hyperactive Hive Mind (a 20 percent reduction, in fact). Most important, it creates a sense of calm.
A Powerful Permission
One last thing before we go.
I enjoy my job. I find it fulfilling. I like my co-workers. When work is happening, I want to be there. As such, it can be hard to grant myself days off outside of big vacations. I know I’m not alone in this.
For people like me, 4DWW provides something powerful: Permission not to work.
That grace gave me one of my best days of the entire experiment. I was in New York City for the week, both for work and to see some close friends visiting from abroad. With Friday automatically off, I was free to step in when their childcare fell through. We spent a memorable morning at the park running through sprinklers, chasing over the monkey bars, and bonding.
If work had been happening, there’s no way I would have felt available to take advantage of that moment. Or to do what I did next: Take the rest of the afternoon to bike from Brooklyn to midtown to meet two close friends who I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic.
Other Upstatementers spent their extra time camping, community organizing, building apps, gardening, hanging with their kids, walking dogs at a shelter, and doing nothing at all. We have all felt the impact: 4DWW brings more meaning and joy to both work and home. Maybe it can do the same for you, too.
Links & Citations
- Research Paper: 4DWW increases productivity
- Behind the Success of the Global 4DWW Trial
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: People Are Productive for Only 3 Hours Per Day
- What is Deep Work?
- What is the Hyperactive Hive Mind?
- Cal Newport: On Productivity & Remote Work
- Upstatement: Why We’re Trying a 4DWW
- Upstatement: How We’re Measuring Our 4DWW Trial
- National Geographic: The science of why you have great ideas in the shower
- Why you should be working asynchronously