4DWW Challenge: Why a Shorter Workweek is Inevitable

This is part of our series on IWT’s 4-Day Workweek Challenge, where we take you behind the scenes to show what it’s like for us as we test out a compressed work schedule. What you’re about to read is written by Tony Ho Tran, a professional journalist for The Daily Beast and a former copywriter for IWT. Join us as we dive deep on the highs and lows of the challenge.

For the past summer, you’ve been following our 4DWW Challenge, where we’ve given you a behind-the-scenes look at our own little experiment of a compressed workweek.

So far, you guys seem to really LOVE it. Our inbox has been filled with amazing responses to our 4DWW Challenge:

“I love this. I worked a 4-day workweek back in 2004-2005 and was more loyal, committed, and engaged the four days I was there.” –Erin M.

“Bold move and will yield good results, leading the way for others to follow.” –Henry

“Just wanted to say this is an awesome concept, and it’s really got the wheels in my head turning! Perhaps more importantly, I’m now thinking beyond the conventions of this ‘5-day work week’ that (as a freelancer), I’ve actually created for myself – because heck, I don’t have a boss forcing me to ‘go to the office’ every weekday, yet I do. :p” –Kevin L.

We’re reading every single response. We promise!

Today, I want to highlight IWT reader Margaret. In an email, we asked what you’ve learned about the 4DWW so far. Here’s how Margaret responded:

“After close to 37 years with the same company, work that would take me a week or more to complete in my early decades with the company started to only take me one to possibly two days to complete. Experience made it so I got better and better at what I did, and I was able to manage more and more work, at higher levels, as I got older…

“At sixty-two, I think I could easily accomplish what used to take five days to complete in three days, working smarter, with greater confidence, and with excellent results. Possibly day four could be spent assisting colleagues or working on new projects. It’s an exciting world.”

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That’s incredible. It’s also a fantastic example of a tried-and-true business ethos that we’ve learned to embrace here at IWT over the years: What got you here won’t get you there.

What got you here won’t get you there

Sure, there was probably a time when a 5-day workweek just made more sense for our business — especially in the early days when the team was much smaller, the workload was higher, and we were in a period of much more rapid growth. 

Also, more broadly, #hustleculture was much more prevalent throughout the American workplace — for better and worse. Employing something like a 4DWW back then would have seemed downright comical in the vast majority of workplaces. Ours was no exception.

But then, one big thing happened that forced the entire world to completely reassess their relationship with their workplace: the pandemic. 

In 2020, the entire world saw their entire day-to-day lives become upended like a proverbial snow globe as many of us stayed home, didn’t see loved ones, and dealt with loss. We’re only now just finding out where the pieces of our lives are settling into place — and some things look very different. 

Work is no exception. 

In the face of a crisis like COVID-19 — on top of the modern day dangers of *gestures vaguely all around* — it’s absolutely no surprise that we’ve been asking ourselves questions like:

  • Am I actually doing what I want to be doing?
  • Could I be spending my time better?
  • Is this really the job for me?
  • What kind of job do I actually want?

(BTW, if you’re still asking yourself those questions now, don’t worry: We have plenty of resources to help you find a career you’ll love.)

Over the past few years, IWT has also seen itself evolve and transform with new employees, a top-to-bottom rebrand, a new podcast, a book update, new courses, thousands of new students, and a Netflix TV showjust to name a few things. It finally got to the point where we realized two things:

  • We want to truly live our values. If we’re going to teach our students and readers to live their Rich Life, then we should absolutely put our money where our mouth is and do the same for us. 
  • If not now, when? Like the rest of the world, we were finally ready to truly work on our own terms — even if it meant a radical change. 

It isn’t just us either. In fact, workweek experiments are probably a lot more popular than you think. 

The future of the workweek

A recent June 2023 survey conducted by ResumeBuilder.com of roughly 600 U.S. business leaders found that 20% of businesses were already employing a 4DWW.

Not only that, but 41% of businesses said that they planned to eventually use a 4DWW model in the future — with half of those respondents saying it would happen by the end of 2023. 

What’s this mean? Companies are trying to find new ways to make employees happier and more productive. This is the future for a large swath of the American workforce — and we say that’s GREAT. 

If this means that workers will be able to get their own businesses and workplaces to employ Rich Life practices, then we think it’s amazing that compressed workweeks are blowing up in popularity. 

But we should also note that the 4DWW also works particularly well for IWT because we’ve developed a culture that attracts top talent, supportive coworkers, and all-around amazing people. 

It’s like what our reader Margaret said: Experience made her better at what she does — so she can manage her workload in a fraction of the time it used to take her. Likewise, we were already suited for something like the 4DWW because this is the type of culture we have built for nearly 15 years

“There’s no silver bullet,” IWT president Gretchen Leslie says. “It’s not an arcane skill. It’s all the things that make you great at working. The 4DWW is just a crucible for really refining those skills — because even if we stopped the 4-day workweek tomorrow, we would all be better for what we’ve learned from doing it because it makes us so mindful and thoughtful about how we work.”

As more businesses begin to consider alternatives to the 40-hour, 5-day workweek, you might find yourself in that position soon. When you do, it might be easy to be scared or nervous about it — which is fair. Change is nearly always scary. 

But keep in mind: What got you here won’t get you there. Sometimes you have to shake the snow globe just to see the pieces fall into the right place. 

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