Have you ever dreamed of a four-day work week? You are not the only one.
Several countries have tested a shortened work week with mixed, but mostly positive, results (including Iceland, Spain, Sweden, and Germany). Individual companies have also tried reducing their work week (Microsoft Japan, Kickstarter, Unilever and Shake Shack). And, most recently, the Ontario Liberals proposed a four day work week pilot project if they are elected in June 2022.
What about Law Firms?
We know what you are thinking: a four-day work week might be possible in a “regular” business setting, but how can it work in law firms where lawyers often work up to six or seven days a week?
Well, we did a little research and found a few law firms making the four-day work week work for them:
Leena R. Yousefi, the founder of the family law firm YLaw in British Columbia documented her firm’s approach to implementing a successful shortened work week on her firm’s blog.
The four-day work week started in early 2021. Everyone’s pay remained the same, but employees were working only four instead of five days. Through trial and error, they landed on Wednesday as the day off as taking three days off in a row resulted in more emails, work to catch up on, and stress for the firm members. Also, the firm does not close their office completely on Wednesdays; at least one staff member monitors emails and phone calls and then they take their day off on another day.
Ms. Yousefi made it clear that the shortened work week was not mandatory. If a lawyer wants to work a full week, they can. What the lawyers and staff appreciate is having the autonomy to choose not to work on Wednesdays, without any pressure.
The four-day work week also benefited the firm as a business. After a three-month trial period, Ms. Yousefi reported that profits were up 30%. And, through an anonymous survey, everyone voted to keep the four-day work week and advised that they were “happier” than working 5 days. (You can read more about YLaw’s four day work week on their blog.)
THE ROSS FIRM:
When The Ross Firm, located in Ontario, first implemented a four-day work week, they kept the number of hours worked per week the same, but reduced the days worked. In other words, they started with 10-hour days worked over four days instead of five. The staff found it to be stressful compressing those hours into four days. The firm then decided to reduce the workload to eight hour days over four days. But the firm kept the pay the same, offering 100% salary for 80% of the time worked.
Like YLaw, profitability and growth were not negatively impacted. One month into the four-day work week the firm was exceeding revenue targets. The firm members were also happier and more efficient. (You can learn more about The Ross Firm’s four day work week in this OBA Podcast episode featuring Quinn Ross).
Florida lawyer Walter Benenati decided to shorten his firm’s work week to four days in 2019. His approach, however, was to keep the same number of hours worked per week, meaning the firm’s lawyers and staff members work 10 hour days over four days. The firm also chose Fridays as their day off with lawyers rotating to cover client consultations and to field incoming files.
Once again, like YLaw and The Ross Firm, Mr. Benenati noticed positive results, seeing an increase in both morale and productivity.
A FOUR-DAY WORK WEEK REALITY? MAYBE
What are your thoughts on a four-day work week for lawyers?
Are you thinking of implementing it at your law firm?
Do you need occasional freelance lawyer assistance to help you cover your day off? Let us know. We are here to help!
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.