• Mick Mahady is a software engineer at Buffer, which began testing a four-day work week in May 2020.
  • He said having Friday off each week prevents burnout and helps him be more productive.
  • Here’s what his job is like, as told to Insider’s Avery Hartmans.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Mick Mahady, a software engineer from Ireland who’s been working a four-day week since his company, Buffer, began running a pilot program in May 2020. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

It’s the energy levels for me.

It’s coming in on a Monday and feeling like, “Wow, that was a great three-day rest.”

I just don’t feel as tired. I don’t feel as close to burnout. I don’t feel like I need another day.

I was initially surprised that we had taken the plunge of a four-day workweek — amazed that we did it, but also surprised. I’m a software engineer, and it was a busy period at that time. We had a product launch coming up, and the pandemic had just become wider-spread and chaotic. Outside of work, there was a lot going on, but also inside of work, there was a lot going on.

I was definitely nervous because we did have these big goals and projects, and I just didn’t understand how we were still going to achieve that working a day less every week.

But all the communication coming from the leadership team emphasized that if we end up at the end of this year maybe taking a bit of a loss, but people are feeling better for it or got through it a little bit healthier, that’s a win for us.

Moving to a four-day work week was a lot of trial-and-error 

When we originally started the four-day work week, I was taking Wednesday off — so I’d work Monday, Tuesday, take Wednesday off, and then I’d have Thursday, Friday.

That felt jarring — a lot of other people would be working Wednesday, so things would still be happening when I’d get back on Thursday. I’d be catching up on what happened on Wednesday rather than just getting in the zone and working. 

Once we switched to Friday off company-wide, things were a little bit easier. Knowing everyone else was off and decisions weren’t going to be made or people weren’t going to be seeking my input on things made it very easy to just switch off. I’d come back on a Monday morning feeling like I’d taken a week off, but I hadn’t actually missed anything because everybody else was off.

I don’t feel like I’m trying to get five days worth of work done in four days

We’re very good at making sure that people are taking their four-day work week. I’d have colleagues making sure that nobody was checking


Slack

and nobody was commanding codes that day. And your managers would be checking in to make sure that you were taking that time off.

Friday is framed as an overflow day. If you feel you were distracted during the week or didn’t get enough done, or you wanted to catch up on some things, no one’s going to say you can’t work that day. But there’s going to be no meetings or wider company communications. I haven’t worked on Friday since we’ve come back from the New Year — I think the last Friday I worked was maybe in September. I see Friday as a day off, but I also see it as a safety net.

And I don’t find myself working later. I thought I would — that was my initial sort of fear, was I going to be working later on the weekends, in the evenings, to make up for that missing day? But now I’m very strict about logging off at 6 p.m.

I miss having more time to chat with coworkers

We probably have fewer meetings now than we had a five-day work week, even if you discount the fact that it’s one less day. If those four days are still filled with meetings, it’s going to be hard to get work done.

But before the four-day work week, I would’ve had some more casual, impromptu chats with teammates — we also just had more regular, company-wide meetings. The cadence of those has decreased since the four-day work week. I’m definitely still around people and meeting people regularly enough, but I’d say that bubble is probably a lot smaller.

That’s probably one of the things I miss more about the five-day work week: being able to intentionally make that time to connect with more people and not feel like it was going to impact productivity. 

It would be challenging to go back to a five-day work week

I’ve come to really love that extra day. If I was ever to leave Buffer to go elsewhere, it would have to take something really, really special about that company to make me want to work five days. It would be very difficult to switch — not impossible, but it would be difficult.

Burnout feelings used to kick in where you’re overworked, you’re not taking enough breaks, you’re not taking that self-care, but also, you feel like, “I just have to put another hour in here just to get on top of this.” Particularly as an engineer, you find you hit challenges and you’re bogged down figuring out, “why isn’t this working?” Or, “why can’t I find this bug?” Or, “why can’t I fix this?”

It’s not that that doesn’t still happen, but you find those answers come quicker because you’re more rested, you’re not overworked, your brain’s operating better, and you’re happier. People do their best work when they’re happy.

Do you work a four-day week and want to share your story? Email Avery Hartmans at [email protected]

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