HR Strategy

What one company learned after trialing a four-day workweek

Bjorn Reynolds, founder and CEO of workforce management company Safeguard Global, shares the outcomes of his company’s recent four-day workweek trial.
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4 min read

Still trying to convince the C-suite that a four-day workweek is the way to go? Maybe this will do the trick…

A four-day workweek may boost employees’ productivity, as well as their physical and mental health, according to the World Economic Forum. Countries around the world have been increasingly embracing the concept, with Germany and South Africa, among others, embarking on four-day workweek trials in recent years.

This is what inspired Bjorn Reynolds, founder and CEO of workforce management company Safeguard Global, to pilot a four-day workweek. In 2022, amid the Great Resignation, Reynolds said he was looking for a way to “appeal to the modern workforce” and its shifting expectations of employers. The Texas-based company was already remote, so he considered what else he could do to retain his 2,000 global employees.

He recalled hearing experts discuss the benefits of a four-day workweek and decided to try it with a group of about 20 engineers based in 26 countries, and a chief product officer based in Scotland. From January to July 2023, these employees had every Friday off.

Reynolds shared with HR Brew the results of the trial and the lessons he learned.

The results. Reynolds chose to pilot the program with individual contributors and an executive so he could compare how a shortened workweek might impact two different types of employees. In the end, the outcomes were similar, he said.

At the start, the engineers loved it. “[They] were super happy to be on it. It’s a great work-life balance, enabled them to have three-day [weekends],” he said. “It never really cluttered their workspace, so they were all able to work asynchronously, so the Friday really was a Friday off.”

But over time, he said, their managers noticed work seeping into Fridays and had to ensure that the engineers were actually taking time off. With that extra oversight, the engineers were able to better manage their work, and Reynolds said they reported being happier when they were working.

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Tia Millar, one of Safeguard’s chief product officers, had a similar experience. While Reynolds said he encouraged her to take Friday off (“whenever I came online and I’d see her, I’d tell her, ‘Get off,’” he said), Millar ended up working at least a partial workday.

“You have to be super disciplined, as the individual, to go, ‘I’m not logging on on the Friday,” he said. “But, at that [exec] level, it’s more, you just have to let everyone in your sphere know, ‘I’m not checking anything on a Friday. So, if you need to contact me, here are the hours.’”

After the trial ended, Safeguard kept the 20 engineers on the four-day workweek schedule and invited others within the engineering department to join. Millar has also continued with an abbreviated workweek, though she typically works at least a couple of hours on Friday.

The lessons. Reynolds said the four-day workweek has its benefits, but the results vary depending on the industry and job function. For Safeguard’s customer-facing sales and support roles, he said a four-day workweek isn’t feasible, because the company’s customers need service five days a week.

But for most other departments, four-day workweeks are an option—though, as a rule, Reynolds said entire teams have to work the same schedule. So, if a manager has two direct reports, all three employees have to either work four or five days a week. That way, it’s easier to enforce the day off.

“My advice to any organization is it’s incumbent on the leadership and on HR to make sure that the day off truly remains a day off,” he said. “If you’re doing this, or any change, you have to rigorously defend that decision and enforce that decision because otherwise, everybody might remember it for a month, but then suddenly somebody is texting you on a Friday because, hey, they’re just used to doing it.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.