4 day work week and the urgency myth

The folks over at 37signals (creators of the increasingly popular Basecamp in local circles) are revisiting the classic 5 day work week with their four-day work week experiment which is apparently working really well:

We haven’t found ourselves collectively wishing we had an extra work day a week. We haven’t found ourselves gasping for extra hours. Instead I feel like we’ve been more focused and working better together.

Could we have gotten more good work done if we worked those extra five Fridays? I seriously doubt it. Would we have been happier working five extra days over the last 30? I seriously doubt it. Is a four-day work week better for morale and productivity than a typical five-day work week? I seriously believe it.

A four day work week really appeals to me but I am not sure how feasible that would be for me. As it is I wind up working 6 days a week on average although there are blank spaces scattered throughout my day where I am not working with my head down, moving steadily through my task lists so perhaps that 6 day work week may really be a shorter, more focussed week?

There seems to be a constant sense of urgency in my office and clients often want work done really quickly. I often wonder if this urgency is justified and all of this work is that urgent or if clients are just accustomed to getting their work done as if it is the most important file on my desk and the only one at that. This is why I find Jason’s comments about urgency interesting:

One thing I’ve come to realize is that urgency is overrated. In fact, I’ve come to believe urgency is poisonous. Urgency may get things done a few days sooner, but what does it cost in morale? Few things burn morale like urgency. Urgency is acidic.

Emergency is the only urgency. Almost anything else can wait a few days. It’s OK. There are exceptions (a trade show, a conference), but those are rare.

On the other hand there is also a need to get work done quickly and get it off my desk because there is always more coming in. I guess that leaves me in a similar position – working 6 days a week to get my work done (or at least try to, there is always stuff I don’t quite get to).

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