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Unhustle Podcast

The five hour work day with Stephan Aarstol

Milena Regos

In a world obsessed with busyness and chasing success at all costs, we end up burnt out, stressed out, and lonely. At Unhustle, my vision is to shift this paradigm. It’s about finding the sweet spot between doing and real living, embracing a lifestyle that balances life enjoyment with purposeful achievement. This is the future I’m creating with Unhustle—a sustainable, prosperous future for ourselves, our families, communities, teams, companies, and the planet.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Tower Paddleboards isn’t losing here, it’s winning. We can actually reduce our hours, increase our output, and we can grow our company even faster as a result.” – Stephan Aarstol

Meet Stephan

Traveling around the world, Stephan Aarstol witnessed first hand how Australians live and think. When his identity was no longer associated with work he found other ways to connect with people IRL (in real life). This was his aha moment to embrace “work to live” instead of “live to work” mentality. Fast forward a few years, Stephan founded one of the first paddleboard companies in San Diego, Tower Paddleboards


An Entrepreneur Effort to Scale


Like almost every entrepreneur, Stephan had big dreams for his startup. He didn’t want to be simply a paddleboard company he wanted to scale his business and make it a multi-million dollar company with only five people on his team.


He went to Shark Tank and presented his opportunity in what to this day is known as the worst ever Shark Tank pitch. But when Stephan started talking about his digital marketing background, one of the sharks, Mark Cuban started to pay attention. He invested $150 million dollars in the company and became Stephan’s business partner. This investment to this day is considered the most successful investment ever. 


But even with Mark on his side, Stephan was still seeking ways to grow the business in a unique way. 


“I studied all big brands and I realized that if we are to become a big brand we needed to live our brand values. We are a lifestyle brand but we were working in a startup environment. I decided to do an experiment and put everyone on an 8am – 1pm work day. I’ll give everyone their lives back but in return I wanted them to give me everything they had while they were at work. I wanted to work with amazing people, with high performers”.  


The Crazy Idea of Working Less is Born


So Stephan’s company adopted a 5 hour workday in the hopes to get big. Instead of working longer hours, they cut their hours. In addition to having thousands of people apply for jobs, Stephan’s company achieved a few more things. 


But before we get to the results, let’s see what motivated Stephan. 


The average American works 47 hours a week, not 40. And almost half of the country works 50 hours or more. Yet, studies show that on average, we are productive only about 3 hours a day. The rest of the day is busy with busywork – meetings, emails, and communication roadblocks. But it will be crazy to start working 5 hours a day. Or is it? 


The 8 Hour Work Week Concept


“The 8 hour workweek is a ridiculous concept for the work we do today” – says Stephan. “If you want to work less but be more productive, you need to work fewer hours but every day”. When you apply this concept to the whole company, everyone wins. “You are managing energy, creative juices and the idea of using an 8 hour work week for knowledge workers it’s simply insane… Working 5 hour work day offers a lifestyle that is better than most people’s vacations”.


Can We Work 5 Days a Week at 5 Hours and Get More Done?


This isn’t going to work for everyone. If you have a job and need to be there, then this won’t work. If you are just starting in your career you probably need to work longer before you can work smarter.


But if you are an entrepreneur, solopreneur, Upreneur, freelancer or working from home professional, then this new way of living I’m proposing can change your life. 


Work Less and Earn More


Following the five hour workday experiment, Tower Paddleboards revenues were up 40%. They were named top five SUP brands in the world. They were included in the INC 5000 list for fastest-growing companies. They generated $9 million in revenues with 10 person tea. Jeff Bezos included the company in an annual letter to stockholders. Harvard published a case study on the company. Robb Report named one of his products, the #1 best SUP worldwide. People magazine featured Tower as one of Shark Tank’s most successful products ever. 


Stephan’s company became a worldwide phenomenon. The company was named fastest-growing private company in San Diego just a year prior to the shift but now they seemed limitless. 


After two years of doing the experiment, Stephan said “Our revenues were up 50%, our increased productivity stayed the same. Everybody collectively figured out how to do their job faster and nothing really bad happened”. 


Employees were getting paid the same, working less and expected to be twice as productive as the average person. Numerous articles featured the experiment. Stephan says his employees are happier, healthier and more productive. 


Following five years since the start of the experiment, Stephan’s company is still on the five hour work day during the height of the season. In the offseason they move back to a more traditional 8 hour week mainly because his employees want to have a little bit more time to socialize at work. 


The 5 hour work week book received press in over 20 countries, 10 million people worldwide have heard of the experiment. 


“You are doing great, do whatever you need to do”  – says Mark Cuban, an investor in the company, although he’s not a big fan of the short work week. 


Can everyone go to a five hour work week? 


The simple answer is No. If your job is emergency services, police work, or you simply work for someone who doesn’t believe in the power of working fewer hours to increase productivity, then, you can’t try it. But if you work for yourself or your boss is open to it, then maybe Stephan’s strategy will work. 

“There’s no reason that virtually any company that employees a large chunk of knowledge workers can’t cut its hours by 30% and still succeed” – says Stephan. 


Key Takeaways


To make Stephan’s model work: 

  • Focus on the 80/20 rule 

  • Eliminate the always-on, always-available attitude. Your customers will understand

  • Measure output not hours 

  • Realize that happier, healthier employees are more productive which will explore more in our Unwind section

  • Use technology to boost efficiency 

  • Minimize meetings

  • The 8 hour work week is an outdated model. It’s time to shift our mindset.


Are There Any Negative Effects?

Listen to the podcast to find out. 


To follow and connect with Stephan:

Tower Paddleboards.



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