Two years later: what the 4-day week really achieved

Guest contribution by | 13.11.2023

Since January 2022, we at openpack, a digital start-up from the packaging industry, have been working with the 4-day week. Where did the idea come from, what expectations were associated with it, how was it implemented, what were the initial experiences and what’s next for the 4-day week?

The start of the 4-day week

At the beginning of December 2021, our Managing Director Dr Stefan Uebelacker gave us an early Christmas present: he had been working on the idea of a new working time model for a long time and the time was ripe for the introduction of a 4-day week from January 2022.

The necessary preparations were made in a very short space of time. We discussed numerous questions in the team, to which there were often still no answers, partly because it was difficult to exchange ideas with like-minded people from other companies. As a result, we agreed on the following points:

  • 4-day week with full pay compensation.
  • Reduction of the working week from 40 hours to 32 hours.
  • Friday is free for everyone.

By taking Fridays off, we wanted to ensure that communication and exchange within the team continued to function and minimise the possible consequences of our reduced “availability” for customers and partners.

We also agreed that we would continuously scrutinise our entire working day: where can we reduce our workload and increase our productivity?

Our three expectations of the 4-day week

Of course, a major change such as the introduction of the 4-day week is not implemented without a certain amount of expectation. We were hoping for positive changes in several areas as a result of the changeover:


Our Managing Director welcomed us with the thesis 5 – 1 = 6 during the first open round of questions about the 4-day week. Studies show that an increase in productivity is definitely possible when switching to a 4-day week.

Work-life balance for employees

Regulated working hours are a rarity, especially in a young start-up. The variety of topics for employees is very high, new tasks and changes at short notice are the order of the day. This quickly leads to a high level of mental stress for the employees concerned and has a negative impact on their work-life balance. The 4-day week brings the 3-day leisure time and we hoped for a positive effect on the work-life balance.

Employee recruitment and retention

Attracting new employees and retaining existing ones is an important success factor for a start-up. The 4-day week should increase our “attractiveness and visibility”, even if the actual effect is difficult to measure and compare.

The first few months of use

The changeover to the 4-day week was associated with great uncertainty in the team. There was no test phase with a small team. The entire workforce received new employment contracts and many questions were looking for answers:

  • What are we generally facing here?
  • How are we going to manage the same amount of work in just 4 days?
  • Can I work on Friday if I can’t manage my work?
  • What do I do with my extra day off?
  • How do we measure our work and the success of the 4-day week?

Interestingly, many employees were envious of the 4-day week from friends or family members, while they themselves were initially sceptical due to the unanswered questions.

In a meeting with the entire team and many individual discussions, our Managing Director tried to allay the employees’ fears and allow them to look to the future with confidence. He explained his motives and expectations in detail. Regular feedback meetings were arranged in order to successfully master the first few months together and to be able to react quickly to potential problems.

In a workshop, employees were trained in the use of time and self-management methods, such as the ABC analysis or the Eisenhower principle. In addition, all team meetings were discussed in terms of necessity, duration and number of participants. In retrospect, the consistent tightening of appointments was a key success factor for the application of the 4-day week.

Despite all the optimisations and changes in the team, one question remained unanswered:

  • How do we communicate with our customers and partners?

Should we proactively approach our customers and partners and inform them that we would no longer be available on Fridays, or should we inform them individually and according to the situation? We decided in favour of the second alternative, as we wanted to wait for possible feedback.

Interim conclusion after one year

After one year, it was time to take stock. We had collected situational employee feedback and actively monitored customer and partner reactions in order to be able to communicate and provide information if necessary. Interestingly, there was never any reason to intervene at short notice.

Our interim conclusion:

Measurable figures on the team’s output

Figures that can be directly compared are always the most valuable for an evaluation. However, due to the rapid implementation of the 4-day week, we were unable to compile a comprehensive set of figures that would have allowed us to make a complete before-and-after comparison. Instead, we used two available key figures: Our OKR planning, which had already been introduced before the 4-day week, allowed us to

compare target achievement for the functional side (how many key results were planned and successfully implemented) and
for the technical side, the number of story points realised (in relation to an OKR cycle).

Both key figures remained at the same level in the first year of the 4-day week – which clearly showed us that at least the same amount of work was being done. We were not able to achieve 5 -1 = 6, but 5 – 1 = 5 was still a great success for us.

Changes in everyday working life

With the start of the 4-day week, it was clear that our working day would change. The streamlining of appointments was the most obvious change at the beginning, but even after a year it became clear that we were able to permanently reduce the number and scope of appointments without giving employees the feeling that they were missing out on anything.

It also became apparent that employees needed more focus in their own workflow, which in contrast to the 5-day week led to a higher level of stress and strain. All employees unanimously confirmed that the work-free Friday led to significantly better recovery at the weekend and more than compensated for the additional stress level during the week.

Employee satisfaction and motivation

We had the effects on the team analysed as part of two final theses written by two external students. Stress levels, satisfaction, motivation etc. were surveyed and analysed using surveys, in-depth interviews and focus group interviews.

The following topics were particularly emphasised by the employees:

  • Greater motivation to work from Monday to Thursday.
  • More relaxation thanks to work-free Fridays.
  • Work-free Fridays are preferred to an individual 32-hour week.
  • The work-life balance has improved significantly.

External impact

With the introduction of the 4-day week, we had to pay attention to changes in our public image at various points:

The decision not to proactively inform customers and partners meant that we tried to keep Fridays free of appointments with the help of “creative” appointment coordination. This worked well for the most part and only in a few exceptional cases did colleagues have to attend appointments on Fridays. We had no complaints from customers or partners that we were unavailable on Fridays, which may have been due to the fact that our start-up initially had a smaller customer base.

After a few months with the 4-day week, we had “casual” conversations with our best customers and partners about the 4-day week. Here, too, we only received positive feedback and a lot of praise for daring to tackle such a “sensitive” topic.

We were able to significantly increase our media presence by introducing the 4-day week. The local press in particular increasingly reported on openpack and the new working time model. Colleagues also had the opportunity to present the topic and thus indirectly our start-up at conferences or barcamps. Over time, many colleagues were also approached privately about their work-free Fridays, or they were able to explain how well the model really worked in practice. All in all, the 4-day week attracted more attention, which was also very helpful for our recruiting.

Two years of the 4-day week: from experiment to routine

When does something become routine? When we started the 4-day week, I asked myself what our routine would look like after a while in the new working time model.

  • When will the 4-day week start to feel “normal”?
  • Will we fall back into a rhythm that we are familiar with from the 5-day week or will we be able to maintain what we have got used to and changed?
  • How do new employees behave, especially if they have no previous experience with the working time model?
  • How will acceptance change as the company continues to grow?

These questions are not easy to answer, but I would like to try:

What does routine mean? According to Wikipedia, it is “an action that becomes a habit through repeated repetition”¹. I can only confirm this with regard to Fridays off work. While it was a privilege to have Friday off for the first few months, it is now an integral part of the weekly schedule. Employees use the day off for sports and training, childcare or household chores, for example. All in all, this leads to more restful and relaxed weekends and a significantly improved work-life balance.

The changes to the working day have also proved to be very effective and have become part of a new normality. The faster pace is now normal for us and no longer leads to the stress we experienced at the start of the 4-day week. This also answers the question of the rhythm – we have been able to maintain it and thus develop a successful working model for our company.

We have also successfully integrated new employees in recent months – the team is responsible for passing on what they have learnt from the 4-day week and successfully integrating the new colleagues into the team’s workflow. And this works very well, regardless of whether the new colleagues already have experience with the 4-day week.

I can’t yet say whether we will be able to maintain the 4-day week for the entire team in the future or whether we may need to make adjustments to ensure better availability, for example. There are a lot of unknowns in a start-up and framework conditions sometimes change very quickly. In the second year of the 4-day week, we definitely haven’t had to change anything yet. We will continue to monitor it in the third year and make adjustments if necessary, but one thing is clear: “There will be no going back to the 5-day week!”



Are you about to decide to adjust your working time model? Then talk to Matthias Dineiger on LinkedIn. He will be happy to inspire you to take the plunge into a 4-day week. Take the plunge, it doesn’t hurt and with a motivated team at your side, it will be a success.

[1] Wikipedia: Routine

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Matthias Dineiger
Matthias Dineiger

Matthias Dineiger works at openpack as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). He has been professionally involved in e-commerce for more than 15 years. In various positions, he has been responsible for setting up and developing online shops and marketplaces and has enjoyed sharing his expertise with colleagues and his network.

Usability, project management and agile working methods are key areas that have always accompanied him in recent years. Accompanying teams and employees as they immerse themselves in the agile world and its working methods is a matter close to his heart. Successfully mastering agile transformations constantly drives him to familiarise himself with new topics and methods and to take on new challenges.