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How I killed Mondays—and why I don’t regret it

August 15, 2022, 9:47 AM UTC
Person leans back in an office chair and daydreams.
Before the five-day workweek was popularized in the 1920s, we thought we needed to work six days a week.
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Two years ago, in the middle of the pandemic, I killed Mondays. It was one of those seemingly snap decisions that had been brewing in the background for months.

Like many founders during the pandemic, I had been working with my team to build our company amid strained and draining times. We were maxed out. The lines between home and work had long been overrun. Even prior to the pandemic, work had seeped into our personal lives, resulting in a brain that always had to be processing, stressing, and planning, even on a Sunday night.

To be clear, work seeping into our personal life is not a bug. It’s a choice. The commitment you must make to your craft is what drives meaningful work and strong relationships. However, like professional athletes, we need a recovery phase. Agnostic to your profession, creating space within your routine is paramount to success.

I wrote my team the next day to tell them that we were moving to a four-day workweek. At the time, I thought it would be temporary, a summertime reprieve during a global crisis. I figured we could take the hit to productivity for the sake of our team’s sanity.

Then something fascinating happened. The company grew. Not only did moving to a four-day workweek not degrade our productivity, but the months following the shift were among the most productive in our history. A year after moving to a four-day workweek, we had grown annual recurring revenue by nearly 100%.

It’s about focus, not just time

Let’s talk about how we live our lives for a moment. Or rather, the ways in which we fail to. The times when every fiber of us wants to be fully in the moment, taking in what our kids are saying or watching that show we’ve looked forward to all week, but our thoughts are pulled off to work.

And it goes both ways. Home needs not met during the short weekend must be squeezed into the crevices of the workweek. How many of us have quietly booked personal appointments during meetings, grocery shopped online, or emailed family about errands? We are multitasking all the time, and it’s hurting our productivity and health.

According to research by the University of London, people who multitasked while performing cognitive tasks had a temporary IQ score drop equivalent to staying up all night with insomnia. Over time, all that multitasking leads to burnout. The constant juggling of tasks pulls at our attention and energy until we’re left feeling exhausted, both mentally and physically. For all our technological innovation, we can’t add another second to the time we have in a week to live our lives—but we can structure it better.

Work tends to fill the confines you give it. Before the five-day workweek was popularized by Henry Ford in the 1920s, we had a six-day workweek. And you’d better believe when companies had that they mistakenly thought all six days were essential. Today, as it was then, it is worth asking the question: Can we give time back to employees to recover, reset, and recharge if we get smarter about how our working hours are used? We found the answer is yes.

It requires a shift in the way you operate

You cannot make such a significant change without adjusting the way you operate as a business. In the first year, we culled about a third of our standing meetings. Standing meetings aren’t inherently bad, but they are a big source of time loss in a five-day week.

When we shifted to a four-day week we moved a lot of those standing meetings to asynchronous communications: emails, videos, Slack conversations, and written updates. Each week I send the entire company a CEO letter to break down how we’re doing, where my focus is, and where I’m asking the team to focus. We then use Lattice for weekly updates from team members at the end of the week to close the loop.

When we do have meetings, we try to make them either issue-based or educational. Meetings are the perfect format for discussion, group analysis, questioning, and learning. Those meetings are the right investment of our time.

What we got back was invaluable

Tuesday through Friday we work like lions—focused, fast, and decisive. It’s not flawless, but more weeks than not we make real progress. Mondays have become highly productive in a different way. Our team spends their days back in the way that suits them best: getting out in nature, spending time with family, reading, or even running those errands that would otherwise stress them out during the workweek.

For me, Mondays give me the space without meetings to think about the company’s future. I get outside. I take my daughter to swim class, and I get to be fully there, watching her grow and learn in her own way. It’s a life-changing transformation.

Since shifting to a four-day week, the company has seen retention, employee NPS, and recruitment grow while meeting our business goals. It may be less quantifiable, but I’ve also received heartfelt notes from team members and even some of their partners filled with examples about the ways in which having this time back has enriched their lives. The combination of those stories and the results we’re seeing as a team gives me all I need to know to keep this practice going.

Work is changing. Yet many companies are still operating the way their predecessors did 50 years ago. The four-day workweek isn’t for everyone, and it does have its tradeoffs. But as burnout becomes a common condition, it’s worth starting with something as simple and impactful as giving employees time back.

Mike Melillo is the CEO of the Wanderlust Group.

The opinions expressed in commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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