Dogs in offices. Flexible work hours. Mental health days. It may be simplistic to say, but most workplace change stems from an employee wanting to improve their life and a leader brave enough to listen and implement. That’s the responsibility, and it’s a huge opportunity should you be open to listening.
For me, a Scottish business owner in Australia, I used to take great pleasure in my annual 30-hour transit back home. It was my time to clock off and think big. I didn’t work, I didn’t jump on my laptop, but I did end up roaming around in Europe, hunting for a notepad and pen when growth plans came to me.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 killed the romance of running a business. So I went for the alternative, I didn’t stop working… I worked harder.
My business partners and I worked 80-hour weeks for two years. We hired staff, took on projects bigger than we could’ve ever imagined, and I joined Harvard Business School. As an advocate of anti-burnout culture, you’ve got to wonder, what was I thinking? I was thinking – it’s not possible to burnout because we’re physically stagnant, unable to go anywhere but into the vortex of our own business plans.
As the world opened up, burnout never came, however the long-lasting feeling of exhaustion did. Computers reverted back to conversations, and Zoom calls became workshops, talks and whatever we could get our hands on. It was a new, tangible, post-covid world!
It was fun, challenging and refreshing at the start, but something negative has lingered – we’re working too much. Walking too little. Missing personal appointments and forgetting about haircuts.
Why is this? We’re no longer working 80-hour weeks. We have enough cash flow to calm down. But we’re frying our brains, because to put it frankly — for two years we prioritized not going insane.
Now, as things are back to a ‘new normal’, surely sanity is restored?
My co-founders and I started off by asking questions from the start. How could work be different? Not because we wanted to make a point, but because traditional work and even entrepreneurialism seemed both under and overwhelming at the same time. Our approach has been to respond to the needs of the people we’re servicing. To clarify, that’s not just clients or customers, it’s our staff and the wider community.
The 4-day-week pilot program, run by 4 Day Week Global, is no picnic for any business leader. It’s 100% of the pay for 80% of the time. in exchange you commit to delivering 100% output. On paper, you can argue it’s a bad financial move, especially if you run a service model. In reality, it’s hard to set up and involves an imperative amount of trust. Not for the micro-manager. Not for the toxic work environment.
It is strategically clever though, with 63% of businesses finding it easier to attract and retain talent.
For my business, we get paid to design solutions and solve problems. These two things are easier to do when the mind is fresh and your motivation’s pounding. It’s also effortless with an engaged, happy, healthy team who don’t want to work anywhere else; low turnover, high growth, and a unique culture built around the individual.
So why bother? Ultimately, we couldn’t even predict the unpredictability of the last five years. What it means to be happy has changed, and what it means to be unhappy has changed. The good news is we can build new workplace structures to allow for both.
A team’s productivity engine, made up of processes and shared workflow, is fundamental to a healthy business. For my team, custom software was a big part of the answer. Our everyday work is run on our own collaboration platform, Hassl. A custom-built space where projects can thrive and ideas challenged. It tracks everyone’s workload without being invasive. It lets clients and teams know when and how deadlines are met. It even tells the team when the office dog’s birthday is.
We currently sit at a point of no return – big established businesses have the unfortunate fear they could tank if they don’t pivot. In smaller teams, entrepreneurs have the power to affect work culture on a large scale. We’re the testing ground. We’re the ones that hear corporates say, “It’ll never work”, then get asked, “How did you do it?” That’s pretty powerful.
78% of employees with 4 day weeks are happier and less stressed. The Solution? Let’s all work less. Let’s create space to personally thrive whether it’s through doing, resting or reflecting. Let’s put family and friends first and go into work four days a week ready to give our all.
When you’ve got a workplace environment and culture set up that’s receptive to change and has a growth mindset, a change as big as this will bring up valuable feedback and questions. Before you set up your actual 4-day week plan, bring it forward to your team. Listen to their concerns and queries — it’ll help shape your final plan and give a better understanding of how you’re going to make this work.
If you’re tentative about shutting the business down for an extra day every week, try a roster system. Decide between your team, based on how big you are, if a two-day or three-day cycle works best instead of a one-day cycle.
Through the six-month trial run by 4 Day Week Global, we’re doing a bi-weekly content series on our blog to share our honest opinions and experiences through it all.
This one is probably the easiest to implement, but the hardest to follow through. Be open to receiving feedback every week; check on your employees, check on project productivity levels and follow up on your team’s receptiveness – these are all important indicators of how the 4-day-work week is going. If there are quick fixes, implement them. If there are larger ones, take your time. Ask for advice from experts who’ve been doing this for a while. Do your research and then try your solution out.
Together, our goal is to improve each week, tackle any problems, or as we like to call them, ‘pebbles in our shoe’, and eventually have a 4-day work week that works for us, our employees and our clients.
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