Saturday, January 14, 2012

4 Is The New 5


Back in 2000, when Ofer, Miron and I worked at MobiMate (AKA WorldMate these days) we stumbled upon an article that made us laugh, stating that by 2011, eleven years into the far-far future, people would work only 4 days a week.

That was my personal wishful thinking, a dream that made it worth the while to wait a decade or so...

Well, 2011 came and went by, and guess what? We are still working 5 days a week. (A bigger surprise is that Ofer, Miron and I are working together once again! This time at AT&T, but still doing amazing mobile apps together... I guess you can change the settings but why change a winning team? :-) )

Then, today, I got a link to the following article -
The Case for a Four-Day Work Week

It's the first sign of a (somewhat slim) chance that this could actually happen!
Yippee! :-)

Yet, reading it thoroughly, I am willing to bet it won't take another 11 years till we actually work 4 days a week.

There are two main reasons why I think this will happen soon(er):
  1. It's so damn hard to hire good employees these days, and then to keep them at your company for more than 18 months, that at some point someone (most probably a fresh startup with an edge of coolness) would make this shift in order to lure the best talents out there, and then, eventually, all others would have to align to it.
    Just like company cars, company phones (and now tablets), lots of vacation days and other perks that come natural to high-tech employees these days were once "bizarre" and "unheard-of".
  2. It simply make sense.
    I truly believe that folks working 4 days a week will be more productive in those 4 days.
    There was another survey I read many years ago, pointing to the fact that employees (at least in the UK where this survey was conducted, but also in the US) are actually hard at work for a small fraction of their day. The rest is "garbage time", including "important tasks" such as browsing the Web and running personal errands.
    So, if companies would manage to define and publish it wisely, I believe people will not work less, or be less productive, but the other way around! (Not to mention the direct saving to a company that doesn't have to pay all the extras that it take just to have us sitting in the office for 5 days... It's even good for the planet!)

After reading this article, I came across couple of other, even more ground-breaking ideas, both promoted by a small start-up called  Red Frog:
1. Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days - Now this is a revolutionary approach, and just by reading it (i.e. dreaming to actually implementing this...) it sounds so fresh and with such high potential, both for employees and for the company. Of course, it takes a lot of guts to be the first one to allow this (and a great HR skills to catch those that will match this kind of company profile)

2. Let Your Employees Pick Their Titles - This reminds me that when I saw Rovio's Angry Birds Product Manager Julien Fourgeaud, he presented himself as "Bad Piggy Bank Manager & Magician". Another small idea, with what I think is a big concept behind it. Flexibility, uniqueness, innovative & fun-to-come-to-work kind of concept. Are we seeing a small change in this direction out there?

Generally speaking, Red Frog looks like a great place to work at, and I'm already open for suggestions just by these two innovative endeavors (Well, moving to Chicago isn't an option, so not really... :-) ). Not surprisingly, they won the "Top Work Places - 2011" award, and "2011 Winner - Chicago Innovation Awards". Something in their young and unique DNA seems to be in the right place.

Another positive sign is due to another "crazy" prediction we read back in 2000, saying that by 2006, Microsoft would lead the PDA market, pushing Palm OS to the side... That also made us laugh like hell! Well, these days, who remembers what PDA or Palm OS is?... Times do change. I hope our working environment will do too.

What do you think? Would you become more productive or it's just a wishful thinking that would never take off?


I sure hope 4 working days would allow me to post a new blog more than once a year... :-) And yes, I know what they say about excuses... :-)

- Posted from my iPhone


  1. First of all, Ofer, Miron and yourself are indeed a winning team, as I got to work with both Ofer and Miron at Worldmate too and now with the three of you at AT&T :-)
    Ok, like Product Managers do, let's start with definitions: What is a vacation? According to your employer, it is the time you declare as physically away from work. However, since nowadays, we are hooked to our workplace through various technological instruments we are inclined to check emails and answer phone calls or even attend Web conferences during vacation time.
    On the other hand, while at work, you are connected to "life" via the same technological instruments. You accept calls from your wife and call the insurance company when you need to or browse to your bank account.
    So as the barriers between "work time" and "vacation time" become more and more vague today's "vacation" concept becomes obsolete.
    With that, I believe that the idea of vacation is super important to preserve, as one needs to have the legitimacy to "switch off" the "work world" and focus on the things that one works for :-)

  2. Well, mate, one of the things I liked at AT&T, and it took me a while to get used to it, is the "forced vacation" on August (and now maybe also on April??).
    I don't like being told when to go to vacation, as it takes part of the fun in planning a vacation (some sort of childish issue I guess... :) ).
    Yet, since having that long weekend with you guys in the north couple of years ago - I truly appreciate that "vacation de facto " thingy!
    So, where are you guys during this year's shutdown? :)

    1. We'll be home, nursing the new baby :P
      BTW, since that vacation two years ago, Naama solemnly believes that you folks actually live up there... Perhaps next summer then?

  3. One of the reasons I decided to join AT&T was the good ol' days in MobiMate I had with you and Ofer (and for a short time with you too Erez, don't be offended :)).

    You forgot to mention one important factor that may drive your dream into reality. Unemployment. In some western European countries, unemployment is reaching a frightening 30% of the general population in the working age (well, probably less in high tech, but still). There are talks of reducing the work week into 4 days (but keeping corporate working 5 days a week) so that more people could enter the employment cycle. That’s all about the economy, dummy, and it will make your dream come true, unless…

    Unless it will bounce against the opposing forces of the universe. Let me tell you a little story. One of my previous bosses (let’s just say that his founder was very fond of Kabala) was a strong believer in hard work. His idea of hard work was working late hours, 24 hours a day if possible. I failed to convince him that it will not drive productivity up, but will surely drive quality down (have you tried to debug a regex in 4 am?). While the meek succumbed to his whims, I insisted in working a reasonable 10-11 hours a day, and lo and behold – my productivity was the highest in this team. So for this guy, a working week of “only” 4 days will be a disaster.

    Another dark force will be the corporate themselves. The whole consumer economy is based on the thin balance between work and free time. In our free time we need to consume our earnings from our work time. If we work less (and possibly earn less) we will consume less, but will have more free time to spend. The consuming society is not good at spending quality time, and this can yield sociological difficulties that may be worse. Only societies like the Indian culture (well, they actually doesn’t work even when they are at work, so let’s rule them out) which balance the person daily life, will appreciate such gift.

    Well, that’s all on that. I’m not sure I will see it in my life, but I’m younger than Kurzweil, so maybe I will be around for the singularity.


  4. Thanks for the long and educated comment, Miron! :)
    Well, as you said, time will tell, but generally speaking, even though I see your point – I don’t think salaries are going to drop drastically, if at all, and maybe on the other hand they will raise the age of retirement, which will balance this “economic equation” from the other end, so we will still consume “as much as we should”…
    Let’s stick around in the same company and see what day (or year) brings! :)