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The four-day workweek offers many advantages to employers and employees, but reducing the work schedule without reducing productivity will require organizations to adopt new tools, processes and solutions.
According to a recent pilot conducted by 4 Day Workweek Global, the condensed schedule resulted in less burnout, higher job satisfaction and better mental and physical health. It’s also proven to offer significant recruiting advantages. Most of the pilot’s 30 participating companies have since made the change permanent.
However, many who fail to adequately prepare their teams before making the change face significant challenges. But there are ways to cut down on work time without cutting down on productivity. In fact, a 2022 study found that knowledge workers only spend a third of their time focussed on skilled work and 9% dedicated towards major strategic goals.
Switching to a four-day workweek while maintaining — or even increasing — productivity, therefore, requires first addressing the most significant time wasters. Fortunately, a range of tools and processes can enable employees to cut a full day’s worth of waste out of their weekly schedules.
1. Focus on outcomes, not effort
So much of our work culture equates “busyness” with “effectiveness,” but encouraging a culture that prizes “busyness” can reduce overall productivity. Rather than focus on how much time employees dedicated to a task, organizations should instead work with staff to set benchmarks related to specific outcomes on a realistic timeline and a mutually agreed upon measure of success.
That could include contributing their piece of a larger project before a certain deadline, drafting a budget in time for the next board meeting, or landing a certain number of sales per week. Whatever the task, it’s essential to focus on what’s accomplished, not how many hours it took.
2. Get more out of fewer (and shorter) meetings
Research has found that remote work has led to more and longer meetings, a trend that organizations will need to reverse to cut down on wasted time. Here are a few ways to reduce meeting time while keeping everyone in the loop.
- Always prepare and share an agenda in advance
- Limit meetings to 30 minutes or less
- Start meetings at odd times — such as 12:03 — and stick to those start and end times to reinforce a culture that values every minute
- Set the tone, context and expectations before the meeting begins, and share critical points after it ends, using asynchronous communication tools like email, Slack and Bubbles.
- When necessary, continue conversations over async alternatives to avoid extending meetings.
3. Use tech tools to measure and optimize work hours
Finding more hours in the day is only possible when those hours are tracked and measured. That’s why it’s important for organizations to adopt project, time and task management tools before adopting a four-day workweek. Combined, these tools can help leaders benchmark time-saving activities and measure their progress towards shared goals, such as cutting down on meeting times and frequency by 20% across the board.
4. Reduce distractions with async tools
When staff is engaging in their most productive “deep work,” the last thing you want is for them to be distracted by the dings and buzzes of endless notifications. In fact, research has shown that even small interrupts can lead to anxiety and frustration and that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back on track.
That is why organizations looking to get more productivity out of less work time need to be vigilant in their effort to reduce unnecessary distractions at all costs. One of the most effective ways to do so is by relying less on real-time communications and instead adopting more asynchronous strategies. Tools designed to facilitate asynchronous communications, like Bubbles, allow team members to collaborate effectively without requiring them to be “always-on” and without pulling them out of their deep work with endless notifications.
5. Encourage a culture of productivity and time management
To optimize their staff member’s time, organizational leaders need to acknowledge that the most disrupting distractions come from the top. While we might easily brush off a notification from a colleague, most will pull themselves away from the task at hand to respond to a message from leadership. Therefore, the strategies outlined above are only as effective as the leadership’s willingness to adopt them.
Some of the ways leaders can “walk the walk” include:
- Adopt asynchronous work styles
- Avoid treating every task as urgent, and prioritize appropriately
- Avoid sending text, slack and email messages to colleagues that might distract them from deep work
The four-day workweek offers many advantages to employers and employees, but those benefits can only be achieved when workers are empowered to cut down on wasted time. Fortunately, there’s a lot of room for improvement and a lot of new solutions designed to help employees maintain or even increase productivity while reducing overall work hours.