Four day workweeks don’t work for successful startups (Opinion)
Before you cancel me, hear me out. Someone once said running a startup is like eating glass and then enjoying the taste of your own blood. A bit intense, I know, but I’ve always resonated with that sentiment. Oftentimes, especially running a growing company, it feels like 80% of the work is done by 20% of the team. It’s the 20% that are obsessed, that like the taste of their own blood, that create real change. To those who aren’t running a company, I ask you: what would happen tomorrow if you just weren’t there? Would everything break? Would customers notice? Would the company notice? Are you part of the 80%?
It’s not popular to say but whether you’re in Ops, Engineering, Marketing, Support, you name it, your function is to deliver value to either new or existing customers, and by extension, the company. There’s a sense of urgency to create something extraordinary but the real challenge that most startups face is that their product market fit isn’t ever quite right and as a result the cost to acquire a customer is astronomically high. In the last few years we’ve seen many companies pay £10 to acquire a customer that might be worth 10p over their lifetime. This isn’t satire or a joke, we all lived in this world over the last 4 years. It’s because of this monumental challenge I don’t really see an argument for spending more time at home or less time working that makes any sense. We are quite literally against the clock.
If you can’t help get customers in and coming back and be a positive force to solve that challenge, the business is totally f***ed, for lack of a better word. No more time to debate the 4 day work week because there won’t be a company.
This is actually the magic of working for a small aspirational business, you get to come in bright eyed, and help create something entirely new; something that didn’t previously exist. If you and your co-workers solve the problem you get to put your names on the wall and say WE DID THAT. And if it doesn’t work, you can say, “well I really gave it my full effort and learned XYZ from the experience.”
If you want a sweet lifestyle, there is a huge range of jobs that will give you some money for tuning into a zoom call at 10 am and moving a few chrome tabs around and then going for brunch with your friends. There is a reason, however, why there have been redundancies across the board in Tech - even Goliath realises this isn’t sustainable. This isn’t how truly great things are made and unfortunately as startups we don’t have the luxury of time.
Humans are exceptional at solving problems when we are together, we’ve been doing it for literally 1000s of years. Why mess with that now? If you look back through the majority of startup success stories, absolutely 0 start with “we all focused on work-life balance, flexible work environment, and then had 3 days a week to socialise”. The reality might sound a bit bleak when you say it outright but that IS the deal. While I’m a huge advocate for giving the people what they want and a strong focus on output over input, being a disrupter requires sacrifice.
So I leave you with a final question, do you want to be part of the 80% or do you want to create something truly great?
This opinion doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Campfire. Disagree with anything you see here? Tell us and we’d love to share your response!