Nicola Mendelsohn and the Four-Day Week
Nicola Mendelsohn has a new job. This British mother of four is about to become Facebook’s Vice-President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But that’s not the big news. Rumor has it, she’ll also be a rare tech exec who only works four days a week.
In the past, Mendelsohn has insisted on the 4-day week so that she can balance her family and work and so far it hasn’t been an issue. Her current position is as executive chairman of creative agency Karmarama where half of her staff takes advantage of the option to work flexible hours or work from home.
This is the complete opposite of Yahoo’s new chief Marissa Mayer whose first move was to shut down Yahoo’s generous work from home policy. She had to duck a lot of flack after that announcement, but it’s her feeling that people who work together share ideas and get more done. To that, I say this.
With Mendelsohn, it’s not just about working from home, it’s about actually taking three days off a week to deal with family and unwind. That’s a foreign concept to almost everyone in the tech industry, all start-up employees and most small business owners. But if the head of Facebook Europe can do it, we can all do it, right? And without anyone calling us on it like we’re lazy or uninterested in doing business?
Even though it’s been widely discussed in the media, Facebook has neither confirmed nor denied Mendelsohn’s work schedule. Frankly, it’s none of our business when she conducts business but it would be a huge win for every working mom and dad who was ever denied a day off to go to their child’s school play or take a family vacation.
Next question: if Mendelsohn only works 4-days a week, does that mean Facebook’s international office will be close on Fridays? If she’s off, shouldn’t everyone else be off, too? Why should the admins and programmers show up to work while the boss is home enjoying her family?
The irony is that the tech industry, the very people who work 24/7 and have been known to sleep in their offices, are the ones who developed the tools that allow us to easily work from home. Given that, you’d think they’d be the first industry to encourage telecommuting and shorter work weeks. We built tools to help people get their work done faster, so why is it still taking 40 plus hours to get things done?
What do you think? Can you run a company on a 4-day week?