How to Pitch a 4-Day Workweek to Your Boss
And how to make the most of that extra day
Maybe you’ve always been curious. Who wouldn’t be? Work four days a week instead of five and get an extra day to relax, pursue a side hustle, or do whatever the heck you want? I’ve been lucky enough to have had four-day workweeks in my most recent three jobs. It hasn’t always been seamless, but the schedule has allowed me to earn multiple income streams, maintain a good work-life balance, and feel more present and energized while at the office.
Of course, convincing your manager to let you work four days a week requires a solid strategy, especially if no one at your company has ever been granted the same perk. Here’s my best advice for making the pitch, establishing your new routine, and ultimately getting the most out of what could be your ideal work schedule.
Think about who else the change would affect
A four-day workweek might be amazing for you, but if you consider only your own needs when pitching it, you’ll probably fall short. Before making the case for a shortened week in my current role, I thought about each person this shift would affect. My goal was to have a plan for every issue that could arise and make sure no one would be negatively impacted.
For my boss, I brainstormed a list of positives that would come from me having an extra day off each week. For instance, I’d have the time to write a book, which could help bring attention to our company. I also made it a point to get some outsider perspectives. I asked a few of my mentors, who are leaders in their companies, how they would respond if one of their team members made the same request. What would they think? Would they be open to it? What might their hesitations be? Doing this made me feel confident that I wasn’t missing anything.
Make your pitch clear, detailed, and empathetic
If anyone else in the company is already working a four-day week or has flexible working arrangements, mention it so your proposal doesn’t sound foreign. If you had a similar schedule at a different company, talk about how it worked. Keep the conversation positive and focused on how your new schedule would help everybody achieve their goals. Make it clear that your performance won’t be affected and that your output will be even higher because you’ll have less time to waste. (You can point to this study that found a four-day workweek made employees in New Zealand 20% more productive.) Offer to do a trial run of the schedule for a couple months so your boss doesn’t have to commit to it right away.
Decide if you’re comfortable taking a pay cut
Now for a complicated part: talking about pay. Many four-day-a-week employees, like me, earn an adjusted salary to reflect the condensed work schedule. Usually, that’s a 20% decrease in pay. If you’re comfortable with this, explain that up front when making your pitch. However, there’s now a push for more companies to adopt the four-day workweek without cutting employees’ salaries, and depending on your company’s culture, you might consider making that proposal. Andrew Barnes, founder of a New Zealand firm that reduced its workweek from 40 hours to 32, told the New York Times, “A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity. If you deliver that in less time, why should I cut your pay?”
If you’re pitching a four-day workweek during the job interview process, know that asking for a flexible schedule will likely decrease the leverage you have in negotiating perks such as extra vacation days, higher bonuses, larger base salaries, or a different job title.
Make the transition as smooth as possible
Here are some ways to make your new schedule easy for everyone involved to work around.
Make your day off the same day every week
You’ll confuse the hell out of your colleagues if you choose a different day of the week, every week, to take off. A Thursday or Wednesday seems to work well for people, because it breaks up the week. You probably want to avoid Mondays, as most public holidays fall on Mondays and you get those days off anyway.
Block out your day off on your viewable calendar
Your entire company likely won’t know you work four days a week, and you don’t want to have to constantly explain, “Sorry, I don’t work that day,” whenever you get a meeting invite. Block out the entire day so that when your colleagues need to schedule something that involves you, they default to picking days when you’re at work.
If you get an offer to attend a meeting or function on your day off, make a counteroffer
Say something like, “Thanks for the invite — I’d love to attend. Is it possible to do a different day, though? Say, Monday?” This takes some of the mental load off the person who doesn’t have your same schedule.
Remember that your four-day workweek is a privilege
Don’t act smug and show off the days you work in your email signature or post Instagram photos of yourself sipping cocktails on the beach at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday.
Set boundaries and avoid the temptation to work
A friend of mind, a senior executive, decided to work four days because he wanted to volunteer one day a week at his child’s kindergarten, but he said he was always tempted to work on that day off. “I’ll just take this one phone call,” he would think. He advises setting boundaries with the people you engage with and letting them know how you want things to work. This doesn’t mean you won’t be reachable if emergencies arise, but it sets up the understanding that your day off is your own time. It also reduces your temptation to get involved with work on your day out of the office.
Make the most of your day off
Right now, I have Thursdays off. I spend four days at a regular nine-to-five and two full days writing. I take Sundays off. This schedule has allowed me to experiment with different ways of working so I can maximize my energy.
If you have kids, you might decide to use your day off to run errands so you can spend your weekends focusing on your children. If you’re trying to run a marathon, you might reserve that day for your most intense training. With the new schedule, you have greater freedom, so use it to your advantage.