Halftone Digital: Our Switch to a 4 Day Work Week

We caught up with Halftone Digital to hear about their switch to a shorter working week. How they did it, how it's going and what's in store for the future!

Halftone Digital: Our Switch to a 4 Day Work Week

In 2022, Halftone Digital, a Design agency based in Minneapolis, decided to switch to a 4 day work week.

A 4 day week with 10 hour shifts you ask? No! A 20% drop in salary? Also no! Halftone dropped the hours of all its employees to 32hrs per week, without effecting salaries.

We caught up with founder Mike Arney to see how it's going 👇

1. Your 4 day week, how does it work?

For our 4 day week, we take every Friday off. Not compressed hours or reduced salaries. Just four normal work days.

Every now and then we have some client demands that necessitate taking a meeting or doing a bit of work on Friday, but that is definitely the exception, not the rule. If this happens, we encourage staff to take the time back. For example, if you have to take a 1 hour client meeting on a Friday, give yourself an hour back the next week Mon-Thurs.

Halftone hours

2. How have things changed since you switched to a 4 day work week?

We definitely have less meetings. In the past we did a standup 3 times a week which typically went an hour or more. Now we meet 2 times per week (Monday and Wednesday).

We definitely have less meetings.

Prior to our new standups, we all take a brief automated survey which asks:

  1. How busy are you the next two days (1-10). Elaborate = optional
  2. Do you need help the next 2 days? (Yes, No) - elaborate if yes
  3. How are you feeling today (emoji response 😊) (optional)
  4. Anything happening this week we should know about? e.g. Out of office, appointments, conferences, workshops, etc? (optional)

The form only takes a minute to fill out and it saves us SO MUCH time. We use Polly to post the polls on Slack an hour before standup.

3. What made you switch to a 4 day work week?

We have a stable client base which allows for flexibility (as opposed to constant new business hustle, new client onboarding, dealing with high-maintenance clients). Our existing clients were also receptive and positive about the idea of us switching to a 4-day week. Most of them asked if we were hiring.

Everybody wants to have more free time - don’t you? I think we are all more happy in general - lowering stress makes everything better. But that said, we believe in being busy. The optimal stress level/busy-ness number in our experience is 6-7 on a scale of 1-10.

Another reason was employee recruitment and retention - We can’t match the salary a designer would get from a big agency or Fortune 500, but we can beat them on culture and true work/life balance.

4. What are the top 5 tools your company couldn't live without?

  1. Slack
  2. Figma
  3. Harvest
  4. Gusto
  5. Loom

5. What has the feedback been from employees since switching to a 4 day week?

As you’d expect! 😊

The feedback for our 4 day work week has been very positive. The work-life balance of our staff has improved dramatically - I don't see us returning to a 5 day work week any time soon!

6. What is the company's focus for 2023?

For 2023, our goals are:

  1. Increasing diversity
  2. More collaboration
  3. Getting to know each other better (We’re all going to Mexico together for a week-long retreat!)
  4. Happy clients, organic (unprompted) new-business recommendations. (AKA continued great work and communication)
  5. One new, large corporate client
  6. Hire 1-2 new designers

7. If you had to describe your company's culture in 3 words, what would it be?

  1. Positive
  2. Engaging
  3. Empathetic

8. Are salaries tied to location? If so, how does it work?

We don't tie salaries to where people live. Instead, our staff are compensated based on their seniority and performance goals.

9. What do you do to encourage professional development at your company?

We are constantly learning and (re)evaluating. For example, every 6 months we have a self-evaluation review.

10. How is the company structured?

We have a pretty darn flat corporate structure. As the founder I typically direct and make large decisions and assignments for the other 7 designers. Day-to-day folks are ~90% self-managed.

11. What is the interview process like?

  1. Screener
  2. Zoom call with leadership
  3. Team Zoom call with the larger group.

12. What are the values your company lives by?

The values we live by are:

  • Trans & Non-binary acceptance and courtesy
  • Social justice & inclusion:
  • Open & honest communication:
  • Holding ourselves & others accountable for high-integrity work:
  • High employee quality of life:
  • Collaboration

13. Have you see any drawbacks to working a 4 day work week?

None so far, it's been 6 months. We've continue monitor things going forward, but we don't expect any changes.

14. Do you do any off-sites / retreats?

Yes! We’re all going to Mexico together for a week-long retreat in Feb

15. What employee benefits do you offer?

  • Unlimited paid time off: Employees can take as many vacation, sick and mental-health days as you need, as long as you are meeting your performance goals. It is expected that you take a minimum of XX days off every year!
  • Healthcare & 401k (3% contribution)
  • Short-term, Long-term disability and Life Insurance
  • Dental/Vision insurance
  • Professional Development Fund e.g. conference tickets, education materials etc
  • Home Equipment Fund ($500)
  • Oh and did we mention we have a 4 day work week?

Our take

It's never easy making the switch to a 4 day work week. It can feel daunting... Will output decrease? How will we handle customer requests on Fridays? etc

But as we know, output rarely drops as producitiy increases to make up for the lost time. And the other benefits speak for themselves: better wellbeing, recruitment, retention, lower carbon footprint - we could go on.

So for us, it's just another day, and another company having success with a 4 day week. Fantastic to see! Congrats to Mike and the Halftone team for making the switch - you're ahead of the curve 👏

If you're interested in working at Halftone, check out their open jobs.