Dave: Hey everyone, Dave here from Philly Tech Entrepreneurs with another episode of our Philly Tech Connect podcast. Today I’m speaking with Julian Plotnik. Julian is a software developer looking to grow into a CTO role. He has a biotech spin-off company he’s going to be launching, but today we’re going to be speaking more about a 32-hour work week he has convinced his CEO to allow him to transition to. We’re going to be talking about the pros and cons of his experience because I really don’t know a lot of people that have done this. Julian, how are you doing today?

Julian: I’m good. Enjoying the last day of the week for me.

Dave: Yeah, awesome. Yeah, this is a well said. Great way to transition into the topic. The 32-hour work week is a really interesting concept. If I’m not mistaken, it’s recently gotten some highlights from Bernie Sanders proposing this on a national level, saying nationally we should sort of insist upon a 32-hour work week, which, you know, again, if I’m not mistaken, is different from like 4 10-hour days, right? That would be a 40-hour work week. We’re not just talking about doing the same amount Monday through Thursday, we’re literally just talking about getting rid of Friday. So tell me a little bit about where this idea came from and how you approached your CEO about making this transition.

Julian: Yeah, so early on in the pandemic, everyone was sort of adjusting to remote work and I started seeing some articles come up about the 4-day week being a thing that companies were trying to do. So I realized that that would work for the kind of workflow that I’ve had. I previously would use my PTO days to take Fridays off, most of the time. So I already knew that on weeks when I took a Friday off, I was just as productive as weeks where I worked 40 hours. So I was like, “Well, why not just make that my regular thing?” So I started talking to a lot of friends and family about the idea and they all basically told me, like, “Yeah, it sounds like a great idea. Go ahead and ask your boss, but fully expect them to say no, because who would say yes to that?” But I approached my CEO and since we’re trying to launch a startup, I explained to her that I thought it would help with recruiting people. And she agreed that when it was time to hire people, we should transition to a 4-day week. And then a year went by and I was doing lots of work on the startup side of things, but we weren’t in a position to hire yet. And I just re-approached the topic. I mean, we had a couple of conversations throughout the year where she’d send me articles that she saw about the idea. So after a year, after the first time I brought it up, I brought it up a second time and said, “You know, why don’t I run a trial, basically?” And she said yes. So I started working 32 hours back in July and it really helped with my productivity. I mean, it’s not just I’ve gotten the same amount done. I’ve been getting much more done. I’ve been more energetic. And I don’t know, my mental health has improved. So it’s just been a really great experience on the work end of things. Outside of work, I’ve talked to lots of friends and family about it and all of them agree that they could do the same thing, but none of them are in a position to get there. I mean, it’s if you’re working at a big company, you can’t just go ask your boss for it. And not a lot of people are running their own business. So a lot of people have said, “You know, I wish I could do that. You’re so lucky.” And so I just started thinking like, “Okay, what can I do to help other people get this?” And the more I thought about it, the more it felt like sort of a local version would make more sense than a top-down thing. I mean, you mentioned Bernie Sanders introduced a bill, which I like the idea of, but it’s hard to get people on board when you’re trying to like make a rule that everyone needs to follow. And it kind of feels like this is one of those areas where small businesses get more of an advantage than big businesses. And sort of being able to do it from the bottom up just has a lot of advantages for the whole idea, just helping with workers’ motivation and, you know, it lets you test out different ways to optimize organizations that can move quickly.

Dave: Yeah, you know, that’s these are all really great points and it’s interesting to hear about the progression that you had with talking with your boss. This wasn’t like at one day showed up, you said, “Hey, what do you think about this?” And out of the blue she was like, “Yes.” And then that was it. It sounded like you kind of planted the seed or had this conversation and then there was some dialogue over the course of maybe even like a year. You know, some articles back and forth, you looked for the right time. You had an angle that was interesting about the recruiting. I really like that because it doesn’t come across as like totally self-serving, you know, which is always a hard sort of pitch sometimes to make. But when you say, “Hey, this is going to give us an edge to get better talent,” now there’s something that’s in it for the company, right? Because there’s got to be something that they are getting in exchange for, you know, potentially eight hours less of your time. And that doesn’t necessarily coincide 100% with productivity, I understand that, but nevertheless, it is kind of eight hours less of your time. So, you know, have you… has your startup actually recruited or hired any new individuals on this schedule or is that still not happening yet?

Julian: No, so that hasn’t happened yet. But, basically, the spin-off or the startup is going to be a spin-off from a consulting firm that already has like 12 employees. So after my six-month trial period, I just sort of reap… the managers at my company to propose that the consulting firm could do this in addition to the startup doing it when we start hiring. So they agreed that it made sense for their workforce. And so like last month, we actually had the whole team, like the whole company just got in the conference room together and brainstormed like, “Okay, how could we make this work for our company’s workflow?” At first, I came up with like a million ideas before approaching it that I thought we would need to stagger people between Mondays off and Fridays off so that we could stay open five days a week and things like that. But once everyone was in a room, they basically said, “We really don’t get any calls on Friday and we collaborate a lot. So it’s more helpful to have everyone there on the same days.” So they haven’t started yet. The plan is to essentially phase out Fridays. So they’re going to start using Fridays trying to get all their work done Monday through Thursday, using Fridays to optimize what we’re doing in the company, you know, automate anything we can automate, document lots of things, just make sure everything’s running smoother and that we don’t get calls on Fridays. And assuming that works, they’ll just stop working Fridays.

Dave: Got it. So yeah, the idea is to get kind of everyone on the same page because if it’s, you know, if it’s just you and you’re like the one guy at the company who’s not there on Friday and sort of someone pings you, “Oh, Julian, yeah, he doesn’t… he doesn’t do the Friday thing,” that’s kind of… that would be kind of strange, right? Has that… has that ever happened as you… as you being the first one here when it’s like everybody’s, you know, busy at work and you’ve got like this out of office sign up on Slack or whatever?

Julian: Not really. So the first six months I was doing this, I actually didn’t tell anyone else in the company. So I did get some calls on Fridays that I needed to respond to, a few messages. But for the most part, it wasn’t really an issue. There were a couple of weeks where, you know, if I had a deadline coming up, I did just work, you know, 40 hours to get it done. I mean, our company already has that sort of culture that like if there’s a big deadline, people work overtime. Like it’s… we’re salaried, so like it’s… that’s just part of the job. But so far, I think there’s been like in the last eight months, there’s been three weeks that I needed to work more than, you know, about 40 hours. So it’s a pretty rare thing that I actually need to work extra. And since I did talk to the rest of my company about doing it, nobody’s reached out to me on Fridays to do any work.

Dave: Cool. I… I love that. 40 hours is now overtime basically when you’re doing a 32-hour work week, right?It is. It’s overtime. You know, what are Monday through Thursday like? And, you know, what do they used to be like and what are they like now? You know, you mentioned productivity, which, you know, and that you’ve sort of maintained or increased that level. But do you find Monday through Thursday like… what, you are just super busy, like without a break, don’t even have time for coffee or lunch or something like that? Like, what’s the experience like Monday through Thursday?

Julian: Uh, I wouldn’t say like busy in a crowded kind of way. It’s just I feel like Monday, I’m just ready to hit the ground running, you know, starting the week. I’m probably like I get more done on Monday, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming in any way. And the rest of the week feels pretty much the same as it did before, just maybe a slightly faster pace, which works for my workflow. Thursdays, um, honestly, a lot of Thursdays, I kind of wrap things up on the earlier side and then end up going to like networking events in the evening. I mean, I think there’s something with you guys this evening, a happy hour tonight.

Dave: That’s great. Yeah, maybe we’ll be able to meet there. Um, you know, so what you’re describing is a situation of productivity but not stress. It sounds like what, you know, you’ve mentioned your workflow, and I know you’re a developer. Um, I don’t want to get too deep into the details here if it’s not relevant, but what are some of the aspects of your workflow that make this suitable that maybe wouldn’t be, you know, appropriate for some other type of job? And that was one of the main criticisms, I think, with like sort of the Bernie Sanders national mandate was like, “Hey, maybe if you’re a developer or something, the 32-hour work week can make sense. But if you’re, you know, like sometimes businesses, they need to stay open Monday through Friday.” Like, it might not make sense for like a waiter or something like that. So, you know, what just tell me a little bit about your workflow and how that fits.

Julian: I mean, my workflow is a little bit… trying to launch a startup, you wear a lot of hats. So I have some weeks where I’m doing mostly, you know, software development, some weeks where I’m doing more business-facing networking kind of stuff, you know, just lots of meetings or things like that. We’re trying to launch a biotech startup, so a lot of reading research papers and things like that, which is not one of… I mean, that’s something that you can do in different amounts of time pretty easily. I also do some acoustic consulting work since we’re at an acoustic consulting firm. We’re using our product in-house as like a consulting tool for that. So I’ve done that some, like this week has been pretty busy doing consulting work. Which, honestly, this has been one of the busier weeks that I’ve had since starting the 32-hour week, but I haven’t been working overtime and I’ve wrapped up most of the stuff I needed to do already for the week. So the rest of today is just going to be sort of, you know, finishing that up and then I’ll be done for the week.

Dave: Nice. And you’re remote, right?

Julian: No, so we’re hybrid. So we have an office in Center City. The policy for the company has been to come into the office twice a week. So it was previously remote three days a week, now it’s in office two days a week and remote two days a week.

Dave: That’s awesome. Yeah, sometimes within the context of when this is mentioned, you know, people talk about commuting to work and how much extra time that adds and so it may be like a 32-hour work week where you were just working Monday through Thursday, you would kind of save time on the commute. Obviously, that can be achieved similarly with like hybrid models and different things that you mentioned. You know, with the extra time that you kind of have on on Friday, you know, how have you found that changes your weekend or doesn’t? Like, do you feel more comfortable maybe like taking a trip or something because you kind of got that extra day that certain things make sense that wouldn’t have otherwise? Or I don’t know, is any… have you noticed any difference in the way your free time has been structured?

Julian: Oh, definitely. I mean, I’ve definitely done more like trips that are just a long weekend trip because that’s every weekend now. In general, Fridays tend to be pretty quiet because nobody else is free. So I have used the sort of flexibility of it all to spend more time with, you know, friends and family who are really stressed all the time with their busy schedules. Previously, I might have been hesitant to make like multiple plans on a week again because it would feel overwhelming and I wouldn’t get any rest. But now that I know, you know, I have three days to figure it all out instead of two, I’m willing to sort of do a bit more and not worry that I’m overbooking myself.

Dave: That’s awesome. Yeah, sounds like you’re living the dream, man. Well, I appreciate you kind of giving us some insight about how this has kind of worked for you and what… and what the journey, I guess. I… I need to ask, has there been any downsides that are worth mentioning?

Julian: No, it’s been pretty great. I mean, it’s a three-day weekend. What’s there to complain about?

Dave: People always find something to complain about, but, well done for not, um, Julian. For people that want to get in touch with you, they want to learn more about what you’re working on, they want to talk more about the 32-hour work week, where can they find you?

Julian: Wish I had a better answer for that. Um, right now, uh, LinkedIn is probably the best way to find me for that kind of thing. Um, I’m hoping to try to set up maybe some better channels to try to help other people get four-day weeks because I think it’s just a good idea to help spread it. But this is all very new to me.

Dave: True. Awesome. Yeah. Uh, thanks so much for being on the show, Julian.

Julian: All right. Thanks.