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When I first read Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek a decade ago, it planted a bug in my brain to always look for ways to balance productivity with sustainable life rhythms. I didn’t know if living like that was even possible, but I was intrigued. As a former pastor turned entrepreneur who values both healthy work culture and optimal performance, I was fascinated by the notion of shorter workweeks from the get-go. The statistics around 4-day workweeks were compelling.
Related: The Case for a 4-Day Work Week
But as the founder of a brand consultancy with limited cash reserves, I knew I couldn’t immediately offer everyone a 4-day workweek and expect cash flow to stay healthy in the short term. I quickly classified the 4-day workweek as something only big corporations could afford to do. With their exorbitant bottom lines, surely they could take the risk, “But not a sub-$1m revenue company like ours!” I’d mutter to myself, alone in my shed-office. Fortunately, I stayed haunted by the idea for long enough to press through my cynicism and find something intriguing to try.
I want to share a concept we implemented at our brand consultancy a few years ago that continues to reap rewards for everyone involved — we call it “Quiet Fridays.”
Imagine this: a bustling office (or burbling Slack channels) from Monday through Thursday, with teams collaborating, innovating and driving the company forward. You’re proud of the pace and productivity. They’re meeting with clients, pitching new ideas, selling future work… And then comes Friday — and all of a sudden — crickets. Slack is a ghost town. You check your calendar, and it’s wide open. Everything has slowed down by design. Fridays are set aside for uninterrupted deep work, reflection and rejuvenation. This is the essence of our Quiet Fridays.
We simply decided to stop scheduling client-facing meetings on Fridays to create a margin for ourselves. What a novel idea!
And the remarkable thing was — clients didn’t mind. They’re typically inspired by it. They respect the intentionality we have around creating (and protecting) margins. If they’ve trusted us to rework their brand strategies or articulate some new expression of their company, they want us to have uninterrupted time to dedicate to it. It’s for everyone’s benefit.
What does “quiet” mean for you?
You might be saying to yourself, “Cool. Glad that worked for you, but there’s no way I could implement this at my ______ company.” Which is precisely why I’m writing this article. This concept is implementable across the board. All you have to do is define what “quiet” means for you.
With our brand consultancy, one of the most important things we do is meet with our clients. It’s essential to our success. Clients hire us to spend time with them. Apart from that, we’re out of business. But meeting with clients can be draining, especially if you’re giving them your best attention. It’s exhausting to sell ideas and inspire other leaders to dream of their brands in fresh ways. That is why I knew “quiet” meant no client-facing meetings. When I first shared the idea with my team on a Zoom call, I could see little pixelated tears of joy forming in the corners of their eyes.
One of the companies I’ve invested in is a cannabis farm in Maine. We breed, cultivate, and package products to distribute around the state. Those employees don’t meet with clients or sit around all day at desks talking on Slack. So, what does “quiet” mean for them? How can we implement Quiet Fridays for them? Ask them!
Maybe we plan Friday’s goals earlier in the week, and people can enjoy a self-guided day — productive yet paced a bit slower. Maybe Fridays become a time to focus on genetic hunting or rainy day projects that always seem to be pushed off to another day.
Our employees at the brand consultancy will sometimes use the time to work on internal marketing ideas — either content or updating our website. (Guess when I’m writing this article? A Friday morning.) And if people find themselves with very little to do, they quietly take the rest of the day off. They’ve clearly earned it if they’ve tackled everything on their lists.
If you’re in the startup world, there’s a good chance you have other stakeholders watching what you’re doing (or breathing down your neck), and if you proposed a 4-day workweek, your investors would lose their marbles. Quiet Fridays are a great way to invest in your internal culture without being too disruptive of others’ expectations of you. It’s a subtle enough tweak that hopefully doesn’t require anyone’s approval other than yours.
So, if you find yourself in a leadership position or leading a team within a larger company, I dare you to exercise that bit of autonomy and consider Quiet Fridays for your team. If you’re already scheduled for the next month or so, pick a Friday next month and ask everyone to begin guarding that day. Put a recurring event on the calendar called Quiet Friday and invite your whole team to it. Try it. Test it. Tweak it. And see what Quiet Fridays might add to the efficacy and joy of those around you.