Making four days a week work

Four days a week is a common job pattern but it can be hard to make it work. Whilst a worker’s contract may state four days, they can often find themselves pressured to work more, leading to feelings of guilt and uncertainty.

In this blog post, I’ll share good practice on how to maintain a four-day workweek while dispelling the guilt and misconceptions that can sometimes accompany it.


You have made a choice to forgo salary to work four days a week. Your company have agreed to this arrangement – they save salary and you get more time not at work. Contractually, you have no reason to feel guilty. 

In terms of equality, you have no reason to feel guilty – your colleagues are being paid more to work more. You are being paid less to work less. This is fair.


You need to work out where the guilt is coming from – Is it your boss? Your work colleagues? The culture? Or you? 


If your boss is making you feel guilty, then that’s just inherently unfair. They may need reminding of the four-day arrangement and that you are working as hard as is feasible and fair. Remind them also of the reasons you requested a four-day week: better work-life balance, family time, whatever it might be. You absolutely don’t have to justify it, but it may help if you do remind them.  


If your colleagues are making you feel guilty, then perceived fairness is likely to be the sticking point. People like to see that the amount they’re getting for the effort they’re putting in is the same as you. Find ways to remind them, subtly if you think best, that you are paid less and are justified in working less as a result.


If it’s a bums-on-seats culture, or everyone typically works more than their contracted number of days to cover their workload, the reality is that sticking to your four-day week without raised eyebrows or comments may be tricky. You can still do it though. I am about to say something very punchy, though: if you want a career in an industry that thrives on presenteeism and overwork, you are extremely unlikely to change the culture single-handedly into one that is more chilled about a four-day workweek. Legally, you’re fine sticking to your guns. But will they find reason after reason not to promote you? Yes. Guilt has no place here though: either stick to the four-day week and be OK with the consequences or switch industries. 


Finally, is it just you, feeling guilty because that is your default? I urge you to stop feeling guilty right now. A day off feeling guilty and lurking on the fringes of your email account is NOT a day off. If you can’t be off, you may as well be paid five days a week, or explore other options like a four-in-five contract, where you do shorter hours on some days to get the work-life balance you’re looking for without feeling guilty on a Friday. Or, shifting your day off to a Friday when everyone is slacking anyway. 

Guilt is only valuable when it prompts us to change our behaviour. If you don’t want to change – and why should you? – then learn these reasons not to feel guilty. When the guilt creeps in, remind yourself why you shouldn’t be feeling guilty and move straight on. You owe it to yourself!

Three resources to help:

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