Op-ed: Adopting a four-day work week is an easier, more radical move than you think

BOLD LIP Studio four-day work week
The BOLD LIP Studio team, from left: creative director and partner Taralyn Carver, RGD; Maggie Buxton Simpson, senior copywriter; Kate Voltan, client experience director; Toto Ho, art director; and, Joanne Gallop, partner and creative director. Photo supplied.

Three years ago, amid lockdowns and job market chaos, Taralyn Carver and I launched a branding and marketing studio, initially dubbed jane doe. A year later, as our team and portfolio expanded, we shed our lowercase identity crisis and embraced the name that reflected our ambitions: BOLD LIP. 

The move to rebrand a year into a new business is undeniably pretty bold, maybe even impractical. Our boldest move to date, however, has been the move to a four-day work week. When I tell people about it (which is often), they can’t believe we do our jobs in 20 per cent fewer hours. “Clients must be furious! You must be working late! The transition must have been brutal!” Thankfully, they’re not, we’re not and it wasn’t. 

Looking back, our overall ethos set us up for success. Work/life balance has been a priority since day one, so we work with experienced clients who are respectful of boundaries and accountable for their timelines. On our side, we hire for integrity and independence so that we can maintain excellent work in a high-trust, low-touch environment. 

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About a year into operations, we implemented “no-meeting Fridays.” Important priorities and conversations shifted to earlier in the week, setting the stage for lighter Fridays and a more self-led, relaxed end to the week. Witnessing how refreshing this change was, we started seriously talking about moving to four days. The schedule we had always dreamed of, and weren’t sure was possible, seemed to be organically unfolding in front of us. 

Implementation was surprisingly simple, a matter of adjusting timelines and giving our clients a heads-up. The first weeks had us burning the midnight oil while we wrapped up a hefty campaign for Canadian Blood Services, but if we had waited for the “perfect” time, we’d still be talking about it. Within a month all was running smoothly, with our clients and our team embracing the new schedule. 

Why does it work for us? 

Interdependent processes and asynchronous work: Systematizing the delivery of work and feedback means we don’t have to all be at our desks waiting for “go!” 

Collaborative team effort: Our team’s feedback guided the transition, fostering buy-in from the start and incentivizing the hard work that made the change seamless.

More efficient meetings: We’re more discerning now about why we meet and who needs to be there, documented agendas and outcomes, and keep meetings to the morning to leave afternoons disruption-free. 

Present, accountable staff: Our team is full of hard workers with a high degree of emotional intelligence and ownership of their work. We’re healthier and more present than before. When we’re on, we’re on fire. 

The four-day work week feels exactly as good as you think it does, and not because we’re spending it working on our next great novel, painting still lifes, or getting absolutely shredded at the gym. Sometimes Fridays are aspirational, but sometimes it’s time spent flat on your back watching Netflix, or getting to that load of laundry that’s been haunting you all week. For people with kids, it’s the “me time” you miss out on when you’re ferrying your offspring to their various events all weekend. It feels like a cheat code, like finding 20 bucks in your coat pocket every week. As luxurious as Fridays off are, it bears reminding that a flexible work schedule is so much more than just a perk.  

It’s accessibility. It empowers people to succeed despite issues beyond their control like mental health, learning differences, and chronic pain. It challenges the ableist notion that the best employees are the ones who can drop everything and work 24/7. 

It’s equity. Flexibility isn’t a privilege that’s equally afforded. Women (especially women of colour, especially mothers) are more likely to take on domestic labour that enables the flexibility of men, forgoing opportunities of our own. Flexible workplaces level the playing field, improving the diversity of our workplaces and the quality of our work. Win-win.  

It’s innovation. Letting go of the 40-hour work week was a paradigm shift for me. I’m more alert to opportunities for a more human, agile and more creative environment. If the five-day week isn’t working, what other unquestioned norms are waiting to be torn down and reimagined?

If you’re skeptical, I get it. Concerns about our profitability and reputation crossed my mind, too. Yet, as we grow steadily with no plans of stopping, I hope our story encourages you to iterate and evolve. Even if the four-day work week doesn’t work for you (though research suggests it might), we owe it to ourselves and our employees to question the status quo and find opportunities to transform “normal” for the better. The timing is never perfect to bet on yourself and your team, but I hope you do it anyway.

Joanne Gallop is a partner and creative director at BOLD LIP Studio. 

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