Why DFF is trialling the four-day week

Why DFF is trialling the four-day week

By Mauricio Lazala and Joel Hide, 31st January 2023

The Digital Freedom Fund Team posing for a photo

Beginning 1 February, we at the Digital Freedom Fund will begin a six-month, externally-monitored trial of a reduction in the working hours of all full-time staff to 32 hours over four days per week while maintaining salaries at the same level. This is no sudden move. We have had a long-standing “Summer Hours” policy, which allowed staff to clock off early on Fridays during the warmer months.

Following a number of conversations with the team over the course of the last year, in particular at our team retreat in summer, we took the decision to permanently reduce the number of contracted hours for full-time staff from 40 to 36, making Friday afternoons free. This trial will take us one step further, effectively giving staff a three-day weekend. We believe that this is the right decision for several reasons.

Improvement in staff satisfaction and well-being


Our primary motivation is to improve staff satisfaction and well-being. When we moved from five to four-and-a-half days per week, staff reported a better work-life balance and improved mental health. There were no negative impacts on our external delivery. Moving to a four-day week is the logical next step and joins a growing movement of organisations doing the same. We hope that staff will take their new full day off per week in the way that fits best with their life: to focus on things that bring them joy, to rest, to volunteer, or to enable them to perform caring or reproductive labour.

Challenging dominant work patterns


A four-day week is also a small step towards challenging dominant work patterns which benefit some groups while ignoring the needs of others, and this shift is therefore in line with our internal decolonising work. The structures of racist and patriarchal capitalism mean that (unpaid) care work falls disproportionately on women, femmes and people of colour. We hope that reducing work hours will enable our staff with caring responsibilities to find a better balance between their paid labour and unpaid caring responsibilities.

Improvement in productivity


Finally, evidence from trials of the four-day week shows that organisations that implemented this 20% reduction in working hours were able to maintain or even improve their productivity compared to before the trial. The trial in which we are participating, along with a broad range of other companies and NGOs from across Europe, is run by 4-Day Week Global and will be monitored by academics from Boston College and Cambridge University. The evidence gathered over the course of this trial, including regular staff surveys, will inform our decision of whether to continue with the four-day week after the trial ends at the end of July 2023.

In the meantime, we are excited to test this new way of working together. It is our sincere hope and belief that the change will not have any negative impact on our outputs, and neither on our grantees, partners and colleagues across the digital rights community. One thing to note is that during the trial, DFF will be closed on Fridays, so do please bear this in mind when getting in touch with us. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on the trial’s progress and outcomes. In the meantime, we welcome any feedback or further questions you may have by writing to this email: info@digitalfreedomfund.org.

This article was co-authored by Mauricio Lazala and Joel Hide, Racial and Social Justice Support at the Digital Freedom Fund.