a digital illustration of a Black femme person works on their laptop while sitting on the ground, leaning against the left side of image. Another Black femme dances with her arms raised on the right side of the image. Between them in the background is a digital abstract illustration of a clock

The last few years have sparked a widespread and long-overdue reimagining of work and its place in our lives. As we’ve lived through unprecedented times of crisis and stress, we’ve also witnessed our collective ability to not only adapt to new ways of living and working, but to reexamine outdated and often oppressive notions of productivity, worship of work, and our value as human beings beyond what we contribute to capitalism. During this time, as journalists, we’ve continued to focus on covering injustice along with the creative and sustained organizing work of communities who are fighting injustice. Nevertheless, this period has also been an opportunity to reexamine news coverage as both a critical function of democracy and as a job undertaken by human beings who need and deserve rest and renewal for our well-being and to do our work effectively. As corrosive as the 24-hour news cycle has been to our collective attention spans and the quality of news in our country, it’s been just as damaging to the journalists living and reporting on the day-to-day churn of news, much of it complex, difficult, and sometimes even traumatizing. At Prism, we couldn’t imagine a better time for our newsroom to explore different ways of showing up in this moment. 

As Prism reported earlier this year, the push for a four-day workweek has gained momentum in the U.S. and around the world. Inspired by the reported benefits to staff well-being, retention, stress levels, and diversity, Prism decided to pilot a 32-hour, four-day workweek for our full-time staff this summer. For 12 weeks, our staff kept a regular work schedule of Monday through Thursday, and during the course of those weeks, we continued to produce impactful, timely, narrative-shifting coverage of major events, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the impact of the climate crisis on agricultural workers, the Biden administration’s mishandling of COVID-19, the speech suppression and anti-LGBTQ+ laws roiling school systems across the country, and more. During the pilot, we adapted workflows to allow for rapid-response coverage of news that broke late in the week, followed by alternative times for our team to step away from work. In accordance with our ethics, we also ensured that editors remained reachable to swiftly address any necessary corrections or other urgent matters that arose on Fridays. 

Nevertheless, with Fridays cleared of meetings and any other work-related obligations, the rewards for our entire team have been nothing short of transformative. In a survey Prism staff completed at the conclusion of the four-day workweek pilot, team members reported improved work-life balance, mental health, and productivity. Staff have reported saving money on child care, finding additional time to attend medical appointments, starting therapy, working on creative projects, returning to hobbies, and spending more time with family. The additional time away from work also had a positive impact on the work itself: several staff members reported increased focus and productivity, and in a widely echoed sentiment, one wrote, “It also allowed me time for myself, to relax, and unwind after a grueling and relentless news cycle. We work so hard at Prism and tell stories that are very draining; having that extra day really makes a difference.” While the shortened workweek did pose a few challenges—including smoothing out cross-team collaboration for stories published later in the week, coordinating meeting schedules with external partners, and occasionally feeling the need to work late—all staff felt the benefits far outweighed any concerns, which could be adapted to over time. 

Meanwhile, the work-related outcomes of the pilot speak for themselves. Even as we shifted into a four-day workweek, during the pilot, we hit our editorial production goals, publishing an average of eight stories per week. We also met and exceeded our audience growth goals, with traffic to Prism’s website exceeding projected targets (nearly doubling them in June, thanks to our coverage of the Dobbs decision), and our social media channels continued their upward trajectory, with our Twitter and Instagram growing 20% and nearly 7%, respectively, compared with Q2 of 2022. In addition, we’ve launched and nurtured exciting new editorial partnerships (to be announced in the coming weeks) and have continued to make steady progress toward our fundraising goals for the year. 

Ultimately, 100% of the staff recommended that we implement a four-day workweek going forward. Given the resounding success of the pilot, we’re thrilled to announce that the leadership team has elected to adopt a four-day workweek for Prism. As a newsroom, we’ve always been deeply invested in the idea that there’s a better way to produce news coverage—a way that not only respects our communities and sources as whole human beings, but does the same for our reporters, editors, and other team members. Because Prism has never been an outlet that rushes to post lightning-fast hot takes in the moments after news breaks, nor one that quickly and credulously parrots press releases from elected officials or police, it has long been part of our organizational culture to produce journalism more slowly and intentionally. 

Since our founding, we’ve focused on publishing thought-provoking, nuanced stories that add crucial context, deepen readers’ understandings of major news events, and shift narratives by refocusing the conversation on the communities most impacted by injustice. That approach has given us the luxury of setting a more sustainable pace in the newsroom, and that’s a privilege we hold very dear. So, by shifting to a four-day workweek, Prism is continuing to evolve further in pursuit of living out our values. In doing so, we hope to inspire other newsrooms to reexamine the ways our industry works and consider making a change. Collectively, we can reshape the media landscape not only for audiences, but for journalists—especially journalists of color—who are in search of balance as we perform the critical work of reporting the stories that move our country closer to justice. 

Ashton is an accomplished writer and editor—and recovering lawyer—whose work focuses on the intersection of race, culture, and law. Her writing has been published by The Washington Post, Slate magazine,...