Rest in Peace, Fridays: New Data & the Rise of a 4-Day Workweek.

Can we get the 4-day workweek already? New perspectives and data is showing that we may be closer than before. Here's how.
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.
September 28, 2023
min read

In my recent conversation with Stanford Professor and Work-From-Home Researcher Nick Bloom, “Friday” came up 22 times.  

That’s no surprise to many hybrid and remote workers because the fate of Fridays is in question.

In our interview, Nick noted that “Fridays are gone,” reflecting on a recent conversation with Steven Roth, the head of Vornado, a vast American real estate company, who said that Fridays are dead based on usage data from their office buildings. 

People avoiding the office on Friday is resulting in a new idea about the workweek.

“You’re looking at a three-phase week. Monday through Thursday, when people are typically at work; Friday, when they're working but are home; and Saturday and Sunday. Apparently, restaurants’ biggest night is now Thursday night. People work from home on Friday, but they also tend to start a little later.” – Stanford Professor and Work-from-Home researcher Nick Bloom. 

Recent Scoop data supports this vision. 

Companies that set specific days as part of their hybrid remote work strategy, a type of hybrid work schedule called “Fixed Days,” rarely require people to come in on Fridays. Even Monday is significantly more popular as a work-from-the-office day. 

What’s next for Friday?

WSJ contributor and author of one of our favorite remote work books “Remote, Inc.” Alexandra Samuel, wrote: "It's hard to know exactly how to spend Fridays in this new world of hybrid and remote work. So few people go into the office, but it's not a day off for most people, either.” 

In What Should We Do About Fridays?, Alexandra writes about three potential solutions for Fridays:

  1. Go back to Fridays as a regular office day.
  2. Embrace the four-day week, and make Friday part of the weekend
  3. Reserve Fridays for focused work & flexibility: It's a work day where we don't take calls or meetings.
Covid turned the work world upside down, and Fridays lost their Friday-ness. There was nothing special about a casual dress code once we were living full-time in sweats, and nothing exciting about leaving work a little early to get home, because many of us were already there. By the time offices reopened, there was no way to bring back the Friday magic—or even any way to know what Fridays were supposed to be anymore. We may have returned to the office, but an awful lot of workers are still home on Fridays. – Alexandra Samuel, Wall Street Journal

On the topic of Focus Fridays, Brian Elliott, the founder of Future Forum and former Slack Executive, noted that the Focus Fridays initiative Slack deployed where no meetings except customer meetings and candidate interviews were allowed was rated a moderate or significant benefit by 85% of employees

Always looking for ways to align work and life better, I switched to Focus Fridays earlier this year and have loved it since. A meeting-free Friday means time to get real work done and find more closure before the weekend starts. 

This is in stark contrast with how I used to stumble into the weekend, with a long day full of meetings, my head spinning from all the work that was left undone, robbing me of the chance actually to enjoy the weekend and instead, thinking about what a mess Monday would be. 

Could the 4-Day Work Week Become a Reality?

Why work from anywhere on Friday if you can take the day off?

The four-day workweek was in the news again as US Senator Bernie Sanders “encouraged serious discussion on pursuing a four-day workweek” during a strike against car makers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis.

Timely then, that our latest research, “What Hybrid and Remote Employees Really Want,” shows the broad interest of US-based hybrid and remote employees in a four-day workweek. 

33% of survey respondents said a shorter workweek would improve their current remote policy, only behind more flexibility in which hours to work.

As reported by The Hill, a study last year of 33 companies globally that tested the four-day workweek resulted in all of them keeping the policy. In June, a survey found that more than half of U.S. employers were open to a four-day workweek

The advent of AI makes an even more compelling case for a shorter workweek, letting the machines do the structured and repeatable work that we otherwise would have done on our (Focus) Fridays.

Iwo Szapar, Co-founder & Head of Remote at the Remote-first.Institute shared that the growing popularity of a 4-day workweek is only the tip of the iceberg, as AI could lead us to a 3-day workweek or less.

“The growing popularity of a 4-day workweek is merely the tip of the iceberg, and the integration of AI technologies could very well propel us toward a 3-day workweek—or even less. As AI takes over routine tasks, the emphasis shifts toward strategic, meaningful work, potentially condensing the effective workweek even further." – Iwo Szapar, Co-founder & Head of Remote, Remote-first.Institute

Moving towards a 3-day weekend

Practically, I don’t see much in the way of embracing a 3-day weekend soon (unless you work at Goldman Sachs, of course.) Here’s how I would look at it based on how I’ve optimized over the past year:

  1. First, it’s a matter of sorting through our work. Make a cost-benefit analysis of everything that you do. Apply the Eisenhower matrix if helpful. Throw away the work that doesn’t pass muster.  
  2. In particular, find time savings by cutting down on unnecessary meetings and unproductive time-wasters like chatting and emailing
  3. Decide what AI can do for you. Get over the three barriers to AI adoption: being unaware of how AI could benefit us, a lack of AI in major tools, and work that remains too analog to be impacted. Then, offload, offload, offload. 
  4. Is human effort required? It still doesn’t mean your brain needs to be involved. What can be outsourced, and what can be delegated
  5. Then, it’s about arranging schedules. Why have the remaining work and meetings scattered across five days if you can squeeze them into four? Tools like Clockwise can be very helpful in dynamically adjusting your schedule as you go, always optimizing for chunks of time to get work done (see Flow, Deep Work.)
  6. Finally, don’t accept Friday intrusions, even from yourself. It’s Parkinson’s Law: the amount of work will expand to the time you have. DON’T count Friday as a working day. 

Doing this will create more space for what matters in life—family, friends, and relationships. The world in which we lived to work should be firmly in the past. 

Let’s be mindful of our limited time and arrange work to be fulfilling, uplifting, social, and educational without it taking over our precious lives. (Spoken like a true 40-year-old?)

– Daan

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A weekly column and podcast on the remote, hybrid, and AI-driven future of work. By FlexOS founder Daan van Rossum.