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We made a 4-day workweek standard in 2020. Here’s why we’re sticking with it

The cofounders of Primary maintain that taking every Friday off doesn’t mean that any of them are thinking or achieving less. Their goal is for everyone to work smarter and more productively. 

We made a 4-day workweek standard in 2020. Here’s why we’re sticking with it

At Primary we like to ask why. We embrace opportunities to challenge the status quo when it doesn’t make sense to us. 

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In February of 2020, right before the pandemic, we happened to listen to an After Hours podcast where they covered and debated the notion of a four-day workweek. One of the hosts, Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon, was in favor of it, based on her belief that “as we progress as a civilization, we should be marching in the direction of affording people more leisure.” She challenged, “I would say, defend why you have a 5-day work week.”

So we brought Moon’s challenge to our leadership team, and we realized we couldn’t defend Primary’s five-day workweek.

A few weeks later, the pandemic hit.

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Like many others, we closed our office in early March, and quickly noticed that although working from home seemed to be very productive, everyone (ourselves included) was coming back on Monday just as drained and stressed as they were at the end of the prior week. The two-day weekend wasn’t enough.

Inspired by our conversations about the four-day workweek, we decided as a leadership team to run an experiment. We started in April with two Fridays off, which then turned into “Fridays off in May.” Making it a “two-way door” took a lot of pressure off. We weren’t committing to anything forever, and so instead of worrying about all the reasons a four-day week might not work, we just tried it, knowing we could go back if we needed to. 

We never did. 

In mid-May, we extended our Fridays-off schedule through Labor Day, then through the end of the year, and finally that December, we extended Fridays-off indefinitely. We had exceeded our goals for the year: revenue was up and we had turned a huge corner towards profitability. We could tell the team was feeling better, less stressed and more engaged on Thursday (now known as “Friday, Jr.” or “Thriday”), and more rested and invigorated on Monday. 

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We were also, and continue to be, honest that it’s a two-way door. We told the team, “We’re going to keep an eye on how we’re performing as a company, and don’t want to rule out future changes if we feel this schedule is no longer serving all of us and Primary the way we’d like it to.” We continue to have very ambitious goals, and trust our team to be able to deliver on them. To us, Fridays-off doesn’t mean that any of us are thinking or achieving less. Our goal is for everyone to work smarter and more productively. 

Based on a recent anonymous employee survey, our team views the four-day workweek as an overwhelming positive. They rated the policy at a 9.7/10 in terms of how helpful it has been for them and gave it a 96 net promoter score (NPS, measuring the likelihood they would recommend it to other companies). Feedback consistently included words like freedom, flexibility, and balance. One team member shared, “It’s so game changing to my mental health. Having free hours during daylight is so beneficial for my stress, hobbies, grocery shopping, general self care, and projects. Friday is my bonus day to do whatever I want and not feel bad about it.” Another said, “I am happier, working out more, and feel like I have control over my life again.”

Examples of how people use the time are as diverse as the team. With the extra time, some are able to not only enjoy hobbies, but take them a step further, like baking something really elaborate, or getting certified to teach yoga and meditation. Errands are much easier on a Friday than the weekend: “Going to Trader Joe’s at whatever hour I want is unparalleled,” said another. And parents not only enjoy more time with kids, including volunteering in schools, but they also have unexpected time for self-care that can otherwise be very hard to prioritize.

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The survey also surfaced that people do sometimes work on Fridays, and it can vary by role and person. But in almost every instance, team members expressed how greatly they value the flexibility to work at their own pace, on what they choose, without expectation or interruption, and with the ability to prioritize personal commitments. “Sometimes it’s an overflow day for lower priority projects or ongoing things, but…that feels like my choice so I’m never unhappy to do work on Fridays.” Another said, “To me, the most important factor is the freedom to not work. I still do work, but knowing I don’t have to makes me happy. It’s better for mental health, extra time to recharge and space to think.”

What about the rest of the week? As one employee shared, “I think the only down-side is that meetings get packed into four days rather than five, but I would still rather have a completely meeting-free day vs a few extra hours free Monday through Thursday otherwise.” As a leadership team, we set standard meeting hours for Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., so that everyone could count on getting some fresh air and eating lunch, and to avoid a tendency to push meetings into later hours. We want to encourage people to have shorter meetings and to prioritize which meetings are really necessary.  

And what about the business? Productivity is admittedly hard to measure. Would we have grown even more if we had a five-day workweek? Maybe. But when you are already setting and achieving aggressive goals while hearing from your team that something you have done for them has been “life-changing,” that doesn’t seem to us like the right question to be asking.

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Closing in on two years now of a four-day workweek we continue to feel that this is the right approach for Primary, and would strongly advocate for any company considering it to just try. If you trust your team and care about their well-being, we suspect you may never look back. 


Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell are the cofounders and coCEOs of children’s clothing brand Primary.


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