What It’s Like Working a Four Day Work Week at Buffer
Before I joined Buffer in 2022 as a content writer, I had my fair share of work experience: jobs and internships during both undergrad and graduate school. I worked a full time, 40-hour a week, position at a nonprofit when I was 22, and as a TV/movie journalist at a popular publication. But it wasn’t until I made the move to Buffer that I was introduced to what has felt to me like a radical concept: the four day workweek.
When I first viewed the content writer opening on Buffer’s Journey page – I did a double take. Out of all the jobs I’ve applied for (and trust me, there have been a lot) it was the first time I had ever seen a company advertise a shorter work week on their benefits page. And to clarify, at Buffer, we take Fridays off but are still paid our full salary.
Buffer has been a fully remote company since its inception in 2010, which is earlier than many made the switch. We then moved to a shorter work week in 2020.The move didn’t come as a surprise for many who were already familiar with Buffer’s culture and our CEO Joel Gascoigne’s vision for the company, including iOS engineer Jordan Morgan who has been a Bufferoo (our term for Buffer teammate) since 2015.
“It’s something that didn’t surprise me, but in a good way,” said Jordan. “Because Joel is so bold with how he runs the company. And that’s why I like working here… he’s always on the lookout for us.”
Most experts agree on the benefits of the four day work week, not only for employees, but for the company as a whole. I’ll detail what my experience with a shorter work week has been like along with sharing how some of my teammates spend their Fridays off.
Why move to a four day work week in the first place?
The decision to shift to a shorter week in 2020 stemmed from a desire to provide more flexibility and support to Buffer employees during a difficult time. Not only were the early months of the pandemic particularly challenging for many on a personal level, but it also complicated the work-life balance for individuals worldwide. A survey done in late 2020 found that 70 percent of workers started working during weekends while 45 percent worked more hours than before the pandemic as the lockdown measures blurred boundaries between the office and home.
Initially, the four day work week was just a trial run at Buffer, but after several months and an internal survey, it became a permanent fixture in 2021. The survey results showed that our team still felt productive, like they had more autonomy, and they reported feeling happier, too. As someone who has just wrapped up four months at Buffer, I too can attest to all of these benefits.
What it’s been like working only four days a week
I will say, it did take me a few weeks to adjust to the schedule change at first. It was strange when Thursday rolled around and people would say “have a great weekend” in Slack. I kept forgetting that meetings couldn’t be scheduled on Fridays and end of week deadlines needed to be met by Thursday. There was even a bit of anxiety on my part as I wondered if the work was really doable in just four days.
But gradually, I became confident that this schedule was actually realistic. I’ve been able to fit in all my projects, attend all meetings, and I even have time for weekly donut calls (our optional weekly pair calls with another Buffer teammate). Mentally, knowing that I only had four working days to finish my tasks seemed to boost my productivity as well.
Heather You, a core engineer at Buffer, said her team has also adapted to the shorter weeks by having good time management and being intentional with all of their communication.
“We really learn to use our time wisely and efficiently so that no one is expected to work longer days or on their day off,” she said. “We try to keep our [meetings] to a minimum and work together asynchronously when we can.”
This kind of flexibility is rare to find – at least in my experience. Currently in the U.S., droves of people are quitting jobs where they’re undervalued and underpaid, yet overworked. I am so grateful that my experience in Buffer has been the opposite of that. In fact, this has been my first job where I wasn’t expected to constantly check in with my manager. In a time when some companies surveil their workers and tie employee worth to output, this kind of freedom is quite liberating. Not only do I feel like my work and opinion is valued at Buffer, but so is my time.
How do we spend Friday’s off?
The great thing about having Fridays off is that each one is different. Some Fridays I sleep in until 11 am. Other times, I schedule any important errands or appointments. I’ve also treated it as a travel day for shorter trips so I can maximize my vacation time. There have also been a couple of Fridays where I’ve used the day for overflow work to ensure a smooth start for the next week.
I’m not alone in doing so as it’s actually common to use Fridays as an extra day to catch up when needed. I’ve found that having an option for an overflow day has been so beneficial. It provides more flexibility in my schedule because if something comes up during my work week, I know I can spend a couple hours on Friday to get back on track.
I’ve been curious how my teammates spend their Fridays as well, so I spoke with five of them to learn more. Here’s what they had to say.
Spending time with family
Jordan is an IOS engineer based in Missouri and has been with Buffer for over six years.
Once the schools opened back up in person, I was so excited because I got to take [my kids] to school in the morning [on Fridays]. And it’s a little slice of life that I’ve never done before because my wife stays at home and takes care of all that. So I kind of got to be a stay at home dad for a day. And it’s so beneficial because I can give my wife a break from some of those duties because being a stay at home parent is super hard and busy, and we have three kids.
My son is so excited on Fridays. He loves it, because he knows I’m gonna take him [to school] and I’ll be in the car. So he always wakes up with a skip in his step on Friday mornings. And then my younger two will get to experience that later, too.
On spending Fridays with his wife
We walk a trail on Friday mornings, and just catch up, you know, just take a breather from the week. And then we go to Target literally every single Friday. I just get to do all those fun, silly little things that you might take for granted, like taking your kids to school, going to the gym, and then grocery shopping at Target.
Getting errands done
Heather is a core engineer based in New York and has been with Buffer for one year.
Having a four day work week since joining Buffer has been absolutely amazing. I’m happier and enjoy my work more than ever. The general atmosphere and attitudes of my colleagues are just so supportive and positive, and there is a lot of trust. I found that at Buffer, I have a lot more heads down time than I’ve ever had in previous roles where I’ve worked five days.
The four day workweek also provides a lot of flexibility. A surprise for me is that I’ve found myself getting caught up with most of my annual health check ups since it’s a lot easier to schedule an appointment on a weekday rather than on a weekend.
A lot of the chores that I had set up to be done over a weekend can now be spread over three days, which actually gives me time to rest and reflect. Fridays feel like bonus days for me, where I have a chance to catch up on any work related or personal tasks that I couldn’t get to over the week.
I’ve also been able to use this time to sit down and take a course on a new language I’d been wanting to learn more about, relax and read a book, or go out and find a new hobby, and then I’m recharged and ready to take on a new week.
An overflow day
Ismail is a product designer based in Morocco and has been with Buffer for nine months.
The four day workweekhas a positive impact on my work-life balance and well-being. Having a shorter week has helped me focus on my work and I am also able to rest and restore over the longer weekends. This also allows me to spend good quality time with friends and family.
I did have some doubt at the beginning, but I learned that I was able to be more productive than what I thought. Prioritizing my tasks helped me stay focused and I was honestly surprised to be able to get all of my work done.
I spend my Friday intentionally – it is usually an opportunity to make doctors and other appointments without taking time away from my job.
For me, having a four days work week doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything work related on Fridays. Sometimes, I use the day to prepare for the next week and to also catch up with the general news that I missed during the weekdays. It really helps to better kick off the next week.
Traveling the world
Octa is a senior customer advocate and has been with Buffer for over 8 years. He doesn’t have a home base as he’s currently traveling the world full time.
I definitely would say that the four day workweek has been life changing – perhaps the most amazing thing that has happened since I joined Buffer. It has finally brought that work life balance that all of us are always searching for.
Having that extra day of the week allows your schedule to free up to try new things. So in my case, the reason why it’s been super amazing is because it kind of feels like I’m having a mini long weekend, you know, like a vacation, every week in whichever place I am at. It’s helped me to feel more productive and happier. There’s not enough words to define how incredible it’s been.
On his unique schedule working Fridays through Monday
Because I’m always traveling it really doesn’t matter – Monday to Sunday – it’s all the same. It’s slightly better to have my rest days in the middle of the week, because in terms of attractions and highlights of whichever place I am at, they tend to be less crowded on weekdays. So for example, if I fly, it’s always cheaper to fly on weekdays than on the weekends.
On his love for traveling
I’ve been traveling now full time for eight years. When I first started, I thought I would do it for four years. But then it kept getting better and better. I mean, to me, it’s a lifestyle. I’m super grateful that the Buffer team has always been super supportive of this.
I just love the world.Every place I go, every person I meet, it’s like a new story.
Fridays become “Free-days”
Julia is a senior customer advocate based in Los Angeles and has been with Buffer for over six years.
I can’t imagine going back to not working a 4-day workweek. Since we started experimenting with it over 2 years ago I’ve used the time off in so many different ways – which is the awesome thing about it.
I have been on schedules with taking Mondays off and Fridays off, and am currently on the Fridays-off schedule (since our Advocacy team has staggered days so we can maintain global coverage). I have found my groove by using it as a ‘free’ day, not just an extension of the weekend. It sets me up for a weekend that is actually restful – not overtaken by errands and “to-do’s”. I love that there is a free day, if I need it, upon which I can rely to catch up on work. I feel less rushed with our mindset of getting the right things done over cramming the same amount of stuff into a shorter week.
Like my coworkers, the four day work week has also made such a positive impact on my overall well being. Not only do I feel like my performance and output at work has improved, but I also have more time to live my life and do the things that make me happiest.
We love to share our experiences around the four day workweek with others. Send us any questions you may have on the topic on Twitter!