With Memorial Day weekend starting in just a few hours, many Americans will be relishing in an extra day off to kick back and relax. The additional time off may have everyone wishing a three-day weekend was the norm. Well, for some companies, it is.
Treehouse, an online service that teaches web design, app design, and coding, has a year-round three-day weekend policy. CEO Ryan Carson began taking Fridays off soon after starting his first company to spend more time with his family and since the company’s inception has made it a policy that employees do the same.
He dismisses the idea that productivity is tied to the number of hours clocked at the end of the day, arguing a great deal of this time is misspent and unfocused. Instead of a 40-hour workweek, Treehouse’s 72 full-time employees work eight-hour days Monday thru Thursday.
While Carson himself was sceptical about the company’s ability to cram five days of week into four, he argues his company is now living proof that four-day workweeks are not only possible, but a critical component to success.
While Treehouse’s three-day weekends are year-round, other companies, such as Beholder, a creative content agency specializing in film and video production, web design, and development, three-day weekends are only offered during the summer months.
Beholder kicked off their three-day weekend summer schedule on May 23rd. Rather than four eight-hour days, however, Beholder adjusted their working hours from 9-5 to 8-6:30 Monday thru Thursday. Emilia Andrews, chief operating officer, says three-day weekends have not only boosted employee morale, but have improved productivity.
How can working less lead to getting more done?
High employee morale and energy is perhaps the biggest benefit of three-day weekends. Carson argues giving employees an extra day off causes them to return to work fresh and excited to get down to business.
"For some, the weekend is almost too long. They can’t wait to get back to work," he says. That enthusiasm translates into greater productivity, a greater sense of loyalty to the company, and a high-energy workplace.
Despite Treehouse’s inability to match salaries of major tech companies, Carson says the company’s three-day weekend policy has helped the company recruit and retain top talent, many of whom have chosen to stay at Treehouse even after receiving offers from prestigious companies such as Facebook. "Where else are they going to get to work a four-day week?" he says.
Cramming five days of work into four simply forces employees to use their time wisely. Andrews has noticed great improvements in efficiency since implementing the three-day weekend policy. "Meetings are incredibly focused," she says.
Less time is spent on water-cooler chat or discussions that should be left for happy hour and employees learn to prioritize tasks more effectively and to work together to ensure clients’ needs are still met. Beholder instituted an online project management system to improve communication with clients and the internal team assigned to the project and ensure deadlines are being met.
Thursday (the last day of the workweek for Treehouse and Beholder) comes fast, meaning employees have to prioritize their weekly tasks to make sure they can meet goals. Employees come into the office on Monday morning ready to get down to business and there’s certainly no slowing down in the afternoons like there might be in other companies where employees may feel they have more time to get tasks done and can push things off today’s agenda to do tomorrow.
"You get to Wednesday and go, ‘Oh my gosh, I only have one more day to get the work done for this week.’ There’s a kind of urgency that always seems to be in place," says Carson. This urgency forces the team to be more efficient when working to ensure clients’ needs are still met at the end of the week.
Since everyone loves their three-day weekends, all employees have a stake in ensuring work gets completed so they can continue to enjoy their extra day off. "It’s an overall team effort to make sure everyone is on top of their tasks and assignments so they can [all] enjoy the three-day weekend," says Andrews.
"The mindset went from ‘I’ll wait for X-person to give it to me’ to ‘Let me go and get the answer rather than wait for it to come to me.’"