Yo, We are a 4-Day Week Company!

I’ve been staring at this blank document for the better part of an hour trying to explain the decision to become a 4-day week employer. Every time I start writing something about how the creative industries are full of precarious labour and terrible life-work balance, I feel my internal critics roll their eyes.

Speaking of critics, when I’ve told some folks that I was thinking of making Cooked Illustrations, a small startup company of two employees, into a 4-day a week employer, I was told “well, aren’t you being lazy”? As if I hadn’t considered that. Isn’t cutting off a whole day of labour essentially cutting me off that magic extra bit of productivity that would bring in future clients? Well, we all know that answer is fraught with distracting questions of specificity: are we managing our time properly, is our marketing funnel done right, etc etc etc and holy shit am I tired of hearing that sort of conversation. It stinks of hustle. And hustle is not healthy.

There it is. Took me a while to get those words out.

It isn’t healthy to work like I have. Me, personally. To my employees and associates and collaborators, I make a point of telling them not to do work on our projects outside of work hours. Ignore my messages on the weekends; emails are fairy tales after 5pm. But what do I say to myself? Oh, yeah, do a 12-hour day and then find yourself unable to sleep because your brain is in full-on anxiety mode and then the next day you feel like absolute dirt. Perfect choice there, creative director, founder of a company, person. Very responsible. Reminds me of a phrase coined by games journalist James Stephanie Stirling: “Crunch time is a failure of management, not a triumph of the workforce.” Any time the production illustrator part of me has to work long, hard hours is because the creative director part of me royally fucked up.

My best work, and indeed the best work we as a company have created, can only happen when we have clarity of mission, clarity of purpose, and clarity of tasks. And, really, why are we doing all of this working in the industry thing I say, gesturing broadly, if not because we want to make the world a better place. Cooked Illustrations’ mission is to improve learning outcomes and help people understand the world in a fun and engaging way. To make the world a kinder, better place.

Last thing we want is to bring in that hustle culture toxicity that makes so many creative workers feel like they are being chased by a slasher monster in the woods. Or like that picture of the busker playing twenty instruments, each instrument labelled with one of the hundred different tasks and jobs freelancers have to engage with just to get by.

Cooked Illustrations has a clarity of mission: to create a space where all workers feel respected, taken care of, able to relax and recharge, and where their time is absolutely respected. This, of course, is an ongoing conversation. But we believe - and the evidence supports this - that becoming a 4-day week employer is not even a “people before profits” conversation. For we know that there is no such dichotomy.

So, yeah.

We are now a certified 4-day week employer and all that.

Ian Cooke Tapia,

Creative Director and Founder,

Cooked Illustrations

March 2022