The case of a 4-day work week

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the contributors are theirs.

Digital marketing agencies have navigated the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic with commensurate ease. We are a remote friendly part of the industry and haven’t had all the same ship steering issues that our older colleagues have had to contend with. Even by bringing staff back to “business as usual”, many of us were able to shift focus in order to retain our teams for the future.

Planned or not, people quickly found out during the pandemic if they liked the work they found themselves doing. We saw it play out in the Great Resignation, with workers willing to make huge sacrifices for a better work-life balance and more flexible hours to care for family members or boost their mental health. Offers of pay raises, unlimited PTO and comprehensive health care benefits were no match for people who were burnt out or about to quietly quit.

So what’s one method that successful digital marketing agencies practice to keep employees engaged and recruit new talent? They offered them a shorter work week.

Related: Is the 4-day workweek better? The evidence points to yes.

What is a four-day work week?

The 40-hour work week, with its 8-hour days, sometimes extended lunch breaks and coffee breaks, is outdated. Historically, it was a way to protect workers and increase the overall productivity of certain industries. This is the very thing that has structured today’s office, not without some effects being lost in translation since working in a digital marketing agency differs significantly from tasks performed on an assembly line.

Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the UK have all successfully experimented with the four-day working week. While former corporate guards may view a compressed workweek with a skeptical eye, data shows that a schedule with four days on and three days off only increases employee well-being, family balance and productivity. Long weekends may seem lavish, but extra sleep, quality time with loved ones, and the ability to move more slowly really benefits our bodies and minds.

Related: Why I’m Switching to a Four-Day Work Week This Summer

Remote work further proved something we creatives have known all along: as long as deadlines are met, when, how and where to work really doesn’t matter. Remote work weeks have seen a slight increase in productivity and have even seen workers start their days earlier or end them later. We all started to understand how the absence of an unfriendly daily commute and fewer distractions in office life made employees more satisfied. Nobody really wants to attend another subcommittee meeting or interrupt their workday for required staff celebrations when they’re on a deadline.

Ways to implement a four-day work week

Driving a four-day work week may look different for businesses. They can start slow and experiment with a week of compressed hours per month. All staff could take the same day off, or a rotational employee choice schedule could be set up if a branch needs to be open for a typical work week. Workplace management software and task automation tools will help the process run more smoothly, no matter which route the business takes. Companies can make skills-building resources available, including time and task management, prioritization and organization, and verbal and written communication.

A four-day work week leads to happier workers, narrows the gender gap, and returns on investment are better than expected. However, this shouldn’t come at the expense of cramming in what might seem like a shorter amount of time at first. Jamming into extra meetings or tasks defeats the purpose of a new schedule of increasing motivation and morale, deep work, granting more autonomy and allowing talent to shine.

Why is the four-day work week suitable for digital marketing agencies?

Two extra hours in a workday isn’t wasted for digital marketers, especially if it means there’s the potential for distraction-free time to do the in-depth work that’s so often asked of us. Minus the essential meeting, product launch, or important client event, days off can be maneuvered around a schedule with ample notice.

Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, runs six-month pilot programs for four-day weeks. Business leaders he’s worked with have described company transitions to a compressed week as “the cheapest and most effective process improvement strategy.”

A flexible work schedule is not only an advantage over competitors, but has become an expectation. It’s even easier to experiment with an office on a hybrid schedule with team members already working a number of days in and out of the office.

Digital marketing agencies can lead

Remote work has benefited the world, and it’s here to stay. When it comes to spreading the word about the efficiency and wellness benefits of the four-day work week, digital marketing agencies can lead the way in other industries. Why not try this “ahead of its time” concept? Our teams will be happier and more productive, so let’s support them and simultaneously eliminate the culture of burnout.

Related: 10 mistakes people make when starting a digital marketing agency