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Why Seattle Startups Are Embracing 4-Day Workweek Experiments

Operations & Management

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Long before the pandemic, forward-thinking entrepreneurs were developing entirely new approaches to work. This includes remote-only companies, the 4-day workweek, and more.

This is actually something we are seeing around the world, that we at Chop Dawg are excited to be a part of!

Let’s take a look.

Tech Companies That Are Changing The World of Work

Some examples of innovations in workplace structure and culture involve San Francisco startups, which want to replace bosses with blockchain.

There is also GitLab, a remote tech company with a founder who is proud of letting employees in more than 60 countries manage themselves almost entirely.

According to GitLab founder Sid Sijbrandij:

“We measure the results people achieve and don’t measure how long you work to achieve them. Managers are not allowed to talk about your hours, unless they suspect you’re working too long and then that’s a concern, but we don’t monitor how long people work.”

At Chop Dawg, we too are an entirely remote company, and always have been. Remember, we have been around about 10 years, a long time before working from home was usual!

Then, in Seattle, we are seeing different kinds of innovation when it comes to working in tech. Uplevel is the latest of the Seattle-area startups to test out the 4-day work week.

More About Uplevel

Uplevel is a 27-person spinout of Madrona Venture Labs. The company was actually founded by an organizational psychologist and tech executives who shared prior experience at Microsoft.

They create software tools that enable engineering teams to better measure how developers use their time and how they can avoid the dreaded burnout.

Interestingly, Uplevel is now taking a page from its own playbook and its own products to innovate from within. They are planning to test out the 4-day workweek structure to enhance the well-being and productivity of their staff.

Uplevel actually abandoned their in-person office and went fully remote due to the pandemic. They have found managing their teams and looking out for their wellbeing a difficult challenge in the midst of the pandemic.

Uplevel CEO and co-founder Joe Levy told GeekWire:

“The thing that I kept being really nervous about is the mental health aspect of burnout and just working Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting all day long. It’s one thing to say, ‘I got my stuff done.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘I did it and I’m not physically burnt out doing it.’”

Their Road To The 4-Day Workweek

In response to global turmoil, Uplevel began to think about how they could take better care of their employees’ mental health during this stressful time. They embraced virtual happy hours and social gatherings, as well as giving employees more time off.

This included making an allowance for mental health days and a full week off in the Summer and around Thanksgiving. Starting January first, all employees will also have Fridays off.

Founders came to this decision after examining research around a 4-day workweek and surveying employees.

America’s Approach To Work Isn’t Working

It is no secret that America has one of the intense approaches to work in the world. Salaried employees in most other nations get much more time off than we do for all sorts of reasons.

For example, French employees are entitled to nearly a month of leave a year. The same goes for workers in Peru, Brazil, and a number of other countries. Workers in South Africa are legally entitled to 21 days off.

Countries all over the world, including Estonia, Japan, Turkey, Costa Rica, and Canada, offer either maternity leave, or both maternity leave and paternity leave. The US offers neither. It actually ranks last amongst dozens of countries.

Via Pew Reasearch

On top of this, studies show that many Americans don’t even take the little bit of paid vacation time we get. A survey of more than 2000 full-time American workers revealed that 54% of people feel guilty about using their paid time off. Before the pandemic, less than half of Americans were using all of their vacation days.

Taking A Vacation, For Science

It may seem counterintuitive, but 30 years of scientific research support the idea that working less is actually better for everyone, including companies.

According to Insider:

As early as 1975, studies concluded that the four-day workweek made employees more efficient. According to a paper released by the International Labour Organization in 2018, “working excessively long hours on a regular basis has been shown to reduce hourly productivity due to greater fatigue, and those workers with long hours and/or heavy workloads report decreasing job satisfaction and motivation.”

Another study gave cognitive tests to a group of people working 40 hours a week and another group working 55 hours a week. The people who worked more actually performed much worse.

This adds up. Data shows that the hospital industrial complex is literally killing people by forcing doctors to work long hours. People who are not well-rested cannot perform as well, by no fault of their own.

Why continue on in this way if it decreases productivity for companies and makes their employees unhappy? In some areas of work, decreased productivity means that customers might not survive.

Back To Uplevel and Their 4-Day Workweek

Via Uplevel

Most employees at Uplevel are excited about this change, but some have expressed concerns. They wonder if having one less day in the working week will cause the others to be more jam-packed and stressful.

Some wonder if the extra day off will be worth having four days which are much more intense. However, most are eager to embrace the experiment.

According to Lauren Franklin, Uplevel’s director of customer success:

“It’s exciting to be a part of a company that is challenging the way we work and I can’t wait to share back the results with people who have been so curious to try it.”

Final Thoughts on the 4-Day Workweek

In the past few years, other companies have embraced a 4-day work week entirely or experimented with it with great success. This includes global corporations like Microsoft and Shakeshack.

Another Seattle Startup, Volt, which makes a fitness training platform, shifted to a 4-day workweek in 2020. CEO and co-founder Dan Guiliani had this to say about his self-described “human-centric” company:

“The best part is the impact we’re able to have on the well-being of our employees, while still pushing toward our goals as a company and as a team.”

What do you think of the 4-day workweek? Comment below.

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