Does a 4-Day Work Week Improve Productivity?
It’s in the headlines everywhere, you can feel its hushed whispers following you across town, everyone and their mothers are discussing it...
The four-day work week.
But can it really be that good? Surely, there has to be a reason why we’re all working five days in a week.
It turns out, there’s plenty we can improve about our work schedules.
And even if you’re an entrepreneur who finds their work spilling into the weekends, we’ve got a few helpful tips up our sleeve.
Let’s take a look!
Is a Four-Day Work Week Better for Productivity?
According to Microsoft - yes, a 4-day work week boosts productivity by 40%.
The folks at the technological giant recently ran an experiment in their Japanese subsidiary. The office closed every Friday in August 2019, and when they compared their results to August 2018, they saw a productivity spike.
What’s even more interesting are the methods offices developed to deal with the lack of a day. They reduced meeting time and focused on using asynchronous communication channels (for example, Slack and IMs).
While the productivity benefits were amazing, Microsoft’s costs were also reduced because of that one day: they printed 58.7% less pages, and their electricity usage was reduced by 23%.
The employees were paid for their time off. However, it became pretty clear that they couldbe paid for that day. After all, the overhead costs were diminished.
Realistically, employees only spend around 3 hours being productive at work. So when the workweek is shifted to four days, employees are able to concentrate more on the work they have to complete.
After all, they have less time, and according to Parkinson’s Law, we’ll complete the work we’ve been given in the time we’ve been given:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
So if you have two days to perform a task, it’ll take two days to complete it.
However, if you only have one day, you’ll have to get it done within that time frame.
Finally, we should take a look at what workers say about the four-day work week:
According to research conducted by the Workforce Institute, 78% of full-time workers stated that they could do their job if in less than 7 hours each day - if they were uninterrupted, with 45% stating that their job would take less than 5 hours every day without distractions.
Some even stated that they would be willing to take pay cuts in exchange for one more day off work.
Again, not a shocker.
As a species, we all work too much. The majority of workers are either constantly or sometimes burned out. Long gone are the days when you could come to work and punch your card, content to know that you’ve still got plenty of time left to relax.
The new generations (Millennials and Gen Z’ers) are looking for greater work-life balance. They want benefits that aren’t just bonuses, but days off and better health care.
So even if you don’t want a 4-day work week yourself, it pays to take it into consideration. After all, you’ll be able to attract and retain more talent.
The times have changed, and so must we.
Here’s what you can do:
How Can Entrepreneurs Implement 4-Day Work Weeks?
That’s the question, isn’t it?
When you’re an entrepreneur and/or the owner of a business, it often seems like there isn’t enough time.
This is where good time management helps.
Time isn’t the problem; the problem is how you spend it. Often, we’re so busy that we forget to stop and rethink our priorities.
Try using practices such as:
Plan out your day the day before, and re-set your priorities. You can also make weekly and monthly plans. When you want to make longer plans, focus on the main priorities only.
Things constantly change, so it’s smart to stay flexible.
What’s important, and what’s urgent?
Your top priorities should be tasks that are both important and urgent, then urgent, and after that important. If something is not important or urgent, add it to the backlog.
And speaking of backlogs...
Create a backlog
Add all the assorted tasks to a list. A pile, if you wish.
Your backlog should be comprised of tasks that are neither urgent nor important, and you can complete them when you have extra time.
A backlog will stop you from looking at your to-do list and groaning in frustration, and you’ll feel much better when you tick off the tasks easily.
Work in spurts and eliminate distractions
Every time you get distracted, it can take up to 20 minutes to regain that focus.
So if you can’t avoid distractions for a long time (for example, you work from home), focus on working in 20-minute spurts.
Multitasking is a silent productivity killer; it can reduce it by 40%.
While it can seem like you’re getting a lot done if you’re on the phone and typing out emails while also keeping an eye on the kids, you won’t really complete all three tasks with the attention they require.
Try time-blocking instead.
You don’t have to get everything done yourself, even if it seems like it.
If you don’t have employees you can delegate duties to, consider hiring a virtual assistant.
It’s an affordable choice that will free up a lot of your time, and allow you to focus on the most important tasks - the ones only youcan get done.
Work smart, not hard
While we historically have a complicated relationship with work, where we consider it to be the goal in itself, what matters are the results.
You may often find yourself performing tasks in a way that is expected, linearly.
However, it takes some out-of-the-box thinking to truly experience the productivity benefits.
For example, you don’t have to plan and keep track of your projects manually - you can use Breeze.
The golden rule is: automate everything you can.
You don’t have to do everything by hand to make it work. Instead, free up your schedule by delegating to tools and people.
Get some rest
Rest is necessary for productivity; it allows our brains and bodies to recharge so we can keep focusing on what matters.
Don’t cut back on your me-time, and be careful to eliminate any distractions there, as well.
Put your phone on silent, and carve out some time to be alone with your thoughts or take up hobbies that help you recharge.
If you want to implement a four-day work week, it’s crucial to plan well and plan ahead.
All the research has found that the main productivity key with 4-day work weeks is prioritizing. When we have less time to complete our tasks, we tend to identify those that matter the most, bringing us the results we need without all the extra work.
The practices we’ve outlined will help you understand what the most important tasks are for you.
And if you’re truly committed to working only 4 days a week, you’ll subconsciously refocus and strategize, even about your to-do lists.
4-Day Work Weeks for Teams: Yes or No?
When you’re handling everything yourself, you know what you can expect. Heck, if needs be, you’ll work that fifth day to get things done.
However, when you’re managing a team, you can implement a 4-day work week by creating processes and streamlining work.
Tech fuels productivity
When you’re managing a team, your technology will fuel your productivity. Four-day work weeks aren’t impossible if you’re using the tools you need.
- Project and task management - Breeze is a lightweight project management software that adapts well to small businesses, agencies, and other teams that don’t want to spend weeks getting used to their tools. In addition to basic task and project management features, it also offers amazing collaboration and data analytics features.
- Share files -Google Drive hosts all your files in one place, so you can easily access and share them with other relevant parties.
- Instant messaging -Slack - Staying in touch and sharing knowledge is crucial to productivity. On average, workers spend 2.5 hours every day looking for information they need to do their jobs. If you use an app like Slack, your team will maximize their effectiveness.
- Customer support - There’s nothing like Intercom to streamline customer support. Make all of your channels work for you, and understand what your customers are struggling with the most so you can not only reduce your work week, but increase your customer satisfaction rates.
- CRM and Sales - If you sell products or services at a greater scale, and need to keep track of all the people you communicate with, HubSpot is a great solution. Their platform aggregates all the necessary features so you can stay in touch with your leads and prospects, and nurture those relationships to maximize your revenue.
- Social media - Schedule posts and engage your prospects with Buffer.
- Everything else: Zapier. Seriously, you can integrate and automate everything with Zapier. From streamlining your marketing to ensuring you’re keeping track of time-off for HR, Zapier’s got you.
All of these tools are easy to use, so it’ll be simple to onboard the rest of your team. And then, it’s time for the party to begin. Remember: now it starts Thursdaynight, not Friday. ;)
Not every team is suited to a four-day work week.
However, the majority of smaller, leaner teams can benefit greatly from implementing an alternative schedule.
It’s best to get started by easinginto the four-day work week.
You can reduce the Friday work hours by one hour each week until you’ve finally come to a full stop.
This will help your team get used to the new schedule, as well as plan their time.
You’ll also need to organize yourselves differently.
Instead of simply tacking tasks to a to-do list at the end of the day, you’ll have to create weekly and daily schedules, as well as identify areas that need improvement.
Perhaps your meetings tend to spill over into productive time.
Your team may not have a structured process for handing off tasks, and they instead rely on you as the manager to guide them.
Whatever the case, it’s important to carefully examine your current organizational pain points that could affect the 4-day work week.
This way, you’ll ensure that your team is ready for the transition.
Sometimes it’s impossible for everyone to have a 4-day work week.
For example, if you have customer support teams, your customers expect someone to be available Monday to Friday.
You can work around that by allowing some employees to take their day off on Monday, with others taking it on Friday.
Yes or No to the 4-Day Work Week?
Your answer depends solely on you, your business, and your team.
However, if you’re running an agile business where you often find yourself wrapping up unimportant tasks and loose ends come Friday, a shorter work week is worth looking into.
In any case, you can always experiment with alternative schedules to offer some of that extra flexibility to your team members.
Just make sure you don’t cheat and work from home on your day off. ;)