What a 4 day week would mean to a Software Developer.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I orginally posted this response in a number of comments for my friend and collegue Andy Baker who shared a post from the Guardian about a number of British companies trialing a 4 day week.

Picture this — Franktically typing away, on a train ride back from Bristol. A flaky GWR internet connection and a barrage of comment submit errors emanating from LinkedIn.

Some personal time I have aptly named “TrainDev”.

I digress.

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Personally, a four day work week or a 3 day weekend makes sense.

As Parkingson’s law describes:

“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

In my opinion, applies directly to software development. Due to the reduced time, there would be an increased requirement to focus on high-quality development practices which aid in retaining a consistent speed in the output of features and releases.

Furthermore, by breaking into the habit of encapsulating such practices into a repeatable process, there would be secondary benefits such as decreased tiredness, increased focus and a higher rate of internal feedback.

I’m a strong believer of converting tasks into repeatable driven bite size elements.

A couple of questions for business:

  • As a company, do we want to invest in our staff to enable them to be at least 20% more effective?
  • Will we attract higher quality talent if we publicly introduce a four-day work week, what if remote working was an option for those who wanted it?

This issue is reminiscent of internal train schemes summarised by this famous quote.

“What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t and they stay?”

Lets talk numbers; as a Software Developer in London there are a large range of jobs starting from £60k. Lets put to one side that we can incorrectly imagine that such developers are the best in the country, there is a need to recruit highly effective world class talent.

If a company outside of London can’t compete on the salary, they could compete in time and hours.

The logic:

What if we offer 80% plus all FTE benefits after all they would only work 4 days a week.

That 60k would become 48k or a post-tax monthly income of 3,600 or 3,000 respectively. This is a definite attainable goal for many companies outside of London. Especially when in prevenue start-up land there is no

That extra £600 a month can be easily gobbled up in the additional rent requirements when compared to other beautiful areas all over the country.

Bear in mind the value that such a company could offer would be:

  • Reduced or non-existent commute.
  • Higher individual wealth due to reduced cost.
  • Reduced mental strain.
  • Spend more time with your family.

Although this is completely unproven, the individual could be more effective due to these “soft” benefits. A company could receive value beyond what a contributor working 5 days a week delivered. If this is proven, this kind of salary package would change the dynamic from time to cost savings value driven.

There is famous Wall Street Journal article from 2010 which claims that any income over $75k doesn’t have a substantial effect on a persons quality of life.

Although I am positive that this figure has changed over the last 9 years it proves a point and moves the question to the individual. Is it worth the rat race of London life to make potentially 10k — 20k extra a year, if I can reach a base elite salary of £80–100k?

This is the disconnect, this is the choice. There will be a enevitable question; what will the personal sacrifices be, if I choose this path?

Welcome to the world of dimishing returns.

Some of the best developers I have ever known optimise for life, for family.

This fundamentally requires a mindset switch which focuses on the value the individual contributor has proved to deliver vs the amount of time they are sitting at the desk.

I believe that this would provide a more balanced relationship for Business and Employers and they will have to think in terms in value. By extension this skillset would help in the freelance world where a contractor would be paid on the value that is delivered rather then the time spent in creation, which is has been known to be abused.

It all comes down to trust.

From my personal perspective, when I start to have a family of my own I will be negiotating for these kind of deals. After all I’m just a guy that has worked all of his career remotely delivering value who just wants a quiet life, and it gives me comfort to I know I will always be there if I am needed.

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Finally, if you have reached the bottom and hopefully enjoyed this article, feel free to reach out and message me. The truth is I have been writing personal content over the last couple of years focusing around the topics of staying sane as a remote developer, productivity and generally being kind and conscientious. I would love to compile and share my thoughts with others.