In 2015 online training platform Administrate grew from 13 employees to 30. John Peebles, its chief executive officer, who was 35 at the time, met with investors on a hot summer afternoon. He didn’t feel well but continued with his presentation. “I started to sweat and got very hot, and it felt like I’d pinched a nerve in my neck,” Peebles says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is bad. I hope no one notices.’” He completed the presentation, schmoozed briefly, and walked home to his apartment building. Then everything went to black. “I just fell down in the stairwell. I thought, ‘Well, I’m dying. But at least I’ve got key-person insurance, so the company will get an insurance payout.’” This is not ideal deathbed fodder.
Peebles survived, gaining firsthand understanding of depletion so severe that the body breaks down. That knowledge has since shaped the culture and policies of Edinburgh-based Administrate, among the largest tech companies with a long-standing four-day workweek, which it adopted in 2015. “It’s pretty intense to work here during those 32 hours,” Peebles says. “But then you’re done.”