How skipping one day helped my productivity

A while ago I decided to work 75% to focus more on the family life. To minimize the side effects and not miss any important communication, I decided to come to work every day but instead of 8h work 6h. So the idea was to work 2h less like this:

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But in reality adding the meetings, coffee breaks and other interrupts it looked more like this:

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And this was just the paid office hours. When I added the commute time, the total hours not at home (including the lunch break) became 8h:

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Like many other people my productivity goes up and down during the day based on my biological clock and habits: at certain hours during the day I have a better focus and get more done in less time. For me it’s these 3 green slots:

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So it didn’t matter how I sliced my 6h day I would still miss two of those productive slots during office hours (one solution would be to work 6:00–12:00 but then I would meet my colleagues only half of that time because at my work people show up around 9 o’clock).

Skipping the Fridays I get “3 day long weekends”:

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This is a great idea because for the days I am at the office I get to spend my productive hours. Now in 4 days I use 16 of those high performance hours and only loose 4h commuting.

The actual workload is now 80% (32h) instead of 75% (30h) but in return I have longer weekends which allows me to spend more time with the family and relax which makes me even more performant at work.

I don’t expect this post to be super popular because it’s very individual but I can use it to demonstrates the counterintuitive wins for working one day less.

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So yes, I work 5% more but this simple technique leads to at least 60% increase in productivity. But in my experience it’s even higher due to longer and more fulfilling weekends.

I should thank my manager and my company (Schibsted) for being so flexible. Experimenting with different schedules have never been a problem and as I previously described I can work from home any day I wish! 😃

This is not the first time I’m trying this schedule. In 2017 I’ve been taking one day off for almost half a year but the results were not very good because I didn’t execute it very well due to good will. Officially I took Fridays off, but in practice I was very flexible and worked on Friday if needed but skipped another day with less load.

This lead to immense confusion for my team and they were not happy about it because they didn’t know when to expect to work with me and when not. Besides it put higher pressure on my family life because there was no guarantee that the next Friday is a working one! So I learned the hard way:

  • Decide on a regular schedule that is easy to remember for everyone in your team (every Friday, no exception, even if it is a holiday)
  • Follow it rigidly. You may think you’re doing your team a service by working on a day you said you won’t but it just confuses everyone and misaligns expectations.

Bonus

After a while of trying this schedule I experienced some interesting bonus points:

  • Those “free” Fridays were an excellent time to run errants. Unlike many colleagues I don’t have to take some time off in the middle of the day to go to Doctor’s appointments or visit the bank! This is excellent because it gives me more uninterrupted productive hours at the office.
  • In Sweden we enjoy a generous parental leave (max 15 months for each parent, 18 months total). According to the current regulations, if I take Friday (or Monday) off I’m also entitled to report Saturday and Sunday as parental leave. Therefore I get 80% of my salary from my company (for working 80%) and get paid 3 days a week from the social welfare system. This minimizes the financial side-effects of having these long weekends! 😁

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Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer

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