A year ago, Brian Hahn transitioned his company to a four-day workweek. Now, working five days in a row seems unthinkable.
“I think if we go back to five days, we’re going to have, like, riots,” said Hahn, who co-founded Nomad Goods a decade ago. “I would personally be, like, ‘Fuck no, I don’t want to work Fridays.’”
Nomad, an iPhone case-maker in Santa Barbara, transitioned to a four-day workweek at the beginning of 2021. Before that, the 39-person company gave its employees every other Friday off in a yearlong pilot of the 9/80 work schedule (nine workdays, 80 hours of work).
Today, Nomad has broken from the 40-hour workweek altogether, and instead expects its employees to work four nine-hour days each week. The four-day schedule hasn’t hurt Nomad’s business, Hahn said. Upper management initially worried about a loss of productivity, but Hahn hasn’t seen that.
“On Sunday, after that three-day weekend, people generally had this sense of boredom,” Hahn said. “Instead of having the Sunday scaries, it’s like, I’m legit ready to go back to work and, like, crank.”
Of course, the four-day workweek wouldn’t work everywhere, and there have been mixed results even at companies where it’s been deemed a success. 40% of Bolt employees reportedly felt more stressed out after piloting the four-day week, yet 94% of employees and 91% of managers still supported the company’s move to make the schedule permanent. And while companies like Panasonic, Kickstarter and Eidos-Montréal now offer the four-day workweek, it’s far from the norm. (Mark Zuckerberg is one CEO who hasn’t backed the four-day workweek: He told Meta employees in a Thursday all-hands meeting that he didn’t think transitioning to a four-day workweek would be productive.)
But companies similar to Nomad might find it surprisingly doable. Here are a few clues that the four-day workweek might be worth trying at your company.
Your business is ‘in front of the desk’
Not surprisingly, companies that provide professional services will find it more challenging to limit their hours. As a background operator with no storefront, Nomad has not had this problem.
“If you’re behind the desk, you’re offering the service. You’ve got to cater to the needs of the other people,” Hahn said. “If you’re in front of the desk, that means you’re paying the lawyer, you’re paying the accountant, you’re paying the designers. You get to do whatever the heck you want.”
Some customer service reps at Nomad still work Fridays, but Hahn said they’ll take a half-day on Thursday to “space that out.” And there are weeks when Nomad employees will need to take an external meeting on Friday, like with another brand or partner, but Hahn said those are “exceedingly rare.”
Brian Hahn, co-founder and COO of Nomad Goods.Photo: Nomad Goods
You want to compensate for lower pay
Along with offering remote work and being based in beachy Santa Barbara, having a four-day workweek is one of the biggest perks that Nomad promotes to job candidates.
One thing that isn’t: a huge paycheck.
“Honestly, we can’t pay super high rates. We’re a widget consumer good company. We’re not Twitter,” Hahn said. “We do need to effectively compete in a way that we can, so we offer a reasonable, nice, work-life balanced lifestyle.”
It’s unclear how much more interest the four-day workweek has drummed up among job candidates at Nomad because the company wasn’t actively hiring before implementing the new schedule. But Hahn's currently interviewing for a marketer position, and all three candidates he’s spoken with have shown interest in the four-day workweek.
“People are definitely noticing it and very keen on it,” Hahn said.
Although Hahn said the four-day workweek had been “a strong retainer,” Nomad has lost a couple of employees who were willing to give up a four-day workweek for a bigger salary.
“They very clearly had to make a hard decision,” Hahn said. “For some people, more money at another company is just worth it.”
You have a plan to enforce the no-Friday rule
Initially, some Nomad employees fell into what Hahn termed the “unlimited PTO complex, where everyone doesn’t take any vacation at all.”
“It was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just get to that on Friday,’” Hahn said. “I think getting people to do that and setting the culture is super critical, and if upper management is saying one thing but acting differently, it’s going to set off a chain of bad culture.”
Hahn would hold the line by telling employees that he wasn’t going to work on Friday and they shouldn’t either.
“Go to the beach,” Hahn said. “Literally, I’m not going to do shit. I don’t expect you to do shit. If there’s an emergency, or it’s Q4 holiday chaos, yeah — we can do a little Friday stuff.”
But otherwise, don’t work on Friday, Hahn said.
Your newer employees will still be learning
Nomad still encourages earlier-career employees to use the extra time for professional development. Having Fridays off creates an opportunity for younger workers to build skills — Hahn gave Microsoft Excel as an example.
It’s not required, Hahn said, but he tells employees that “if you want to get a raise in life, these are good skills to have.”
“It’s a personal growth thing,” Hahn said. “That’s what some of the hungrier Nomads are doing, is trying to do that learning on Fridays. Not doing work for Nomad.”