It's more attainable than you think
The summer is drawing to a close, and if you’ve enjoyed summer Fridays for the past several weeks, you’re probably thinking with some regret about returning to the same old grind.
But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if you could have a permanent four-day workweek?
It’s not necessarily a pipe dream. More companies than ever are offering workers flexibility when it comes to their hours. A study published last year in the journal Community, Work & Family found that about 40% of 545 employers studied let workers choose alternative options for when or where they get their work done, making it the most common type of flexible work arrangement today.
Before you indulge in your Friday freedom fantasies, however, there are some steps you must take to prepare the ground and assure your boss and colleagues that you’re not taking three-day weekends at their expense.
Look for a flex-time mentor. “[Start] by looking around at your colleagues and seeing if anyone else in the company has a flexible or alternative schedule arrangement,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs and founder of Remote.co. If someone does, ask if you can join them on a coffee break (lattes on you, of course) and pick their brain about how they asked for the alternative arrangements and what they’ve done to make it work.
Assess your workflow. “A successful four-day workweek means getting all one’s job responsibilities completed in those four longer days,” says Dayna Fellows, president of WorkLife Performance Inc. Evaluate the type of projects you do to see if your responsibilities can be done in four long days instead of five typical ones. For instance, if you have tasks that have to be completed every single day, or work with a team that meets daily, your job might not be a great fit, Fellows says.
Strike while the iron is hot. “It’s best to go in when you’re on a high performance note rather than a low one, so identify a time that might be ideal,” Fell suggests. Do your due diligence so you’re ready to ask your boss for that meeting to discuss an alternative arrangement right after you’ve just had a stellar month or quarter.
Lay the groundwork by pointing out all the great things you’ve done recently, says Kelly Mattice, vice president at The Execu|Search Group. “You are much more likely to have your request approved if you have a proven track record of going above and beyond and… are responsible enough to manage your workload in four days,” she says.
Make it about them. “Your supervisor wants to hear how the new schedule will enhance your performance at the company and result in a positive outcome for the rest of the organization,” Mattice says. Come prepared with specific examples of ways that an alternative schedule will make you more focused and productive during the hours you are there. For instance, maybe taking one super-long day would be beneficial for working with colleagues or clients in a distant time zone.
Tackle this big objection. One oft-stated management concern is that “if they let one person have a four-day schedule, it opens the door for all employees wanting it, leaving the office empty one day,” Fell says. This is a legit concern, but your response should be to point out that your colleagues all have different personal lives and obligations, so the likelihood that everyone would want the same flex hours are slim. Since an alternative schedule is also a privilege, not a right, you could suggest to your boss that the perk be reserved for people who achieve a certain measurable level of performance. (Then make sure you hit those numbers.)
Be visible. One potential pitfall to a four-day workweek is that, if you’re not physically there, your co-workers might think you’re not pulling your weight. If you’re not in the office every day, Fellows says, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting in your face time when you are there. “Participate well in meetings [and] take the lead on initiatives,” she says. Be highly available and responsive during the days and hours you are on duty.”
“For example, coming in early, staying late when you can, and taking smaller breaks for lunch and other personal tasks will help prove… your commitment,” Mattice says.
Read next: 3 Strategies for Managing Your Team Remotely