How your organisation can move to a 4-day working week – and still get all the work done

How your organisation can move to a 4-day working week – and still get all the work done

Wondering how you can move to a 4-day working week and still get all the work done? Digital productivity could be your solution.

It sounds too good to be true but that’s exactly what the 4 day week UK pilot programme found! The largest ever industry pilot of its kind, it ran from June to December 2022 and covered around 2900 employees at 61 businesses and non-profits, drawn from a wide range of retail, services and manufacturing sectors. Employers could choose any 4-day working pattern that resulted in a meaningful reduction in hours, as long as they maintained pay at 100%. At the end of the trial, 56 of the 61 participating organisations are going to keep their four-day week, described by Autonomy as a “resounding success” and a win-win for both businesses and their people. Benefits to employees included reduced stress, improved health and a better work-life balance, while employers saw an increase in revenue and rates of staff retention and fewer sick days taken by staff.
As more and more organisations look to move to a 4- or 4.5-day working week, the same question keeps being asked – how can all the work get done in fewer hours? If the goal is 100% of pay for 80% of the time, how can a commitment to maintain 100% productivity be achieved? Harnessing digital productivity is key to the solution.

In a digital world with so many distractions, digital productivity and focus is key

Microsoft’s Hybrid Work Trends Report shows that digital work is here to stay. Since the pandemic began, the number of meetings per person has grown, up 153% from March 2020 to February 2022. We are drowning in chat messages and working more out of hours.

As technology automates more of what we do, the future of work will require us to rely more on our higher level cognitive skills. There’s a huge challenge here – it’s actually harder to achieve this than ever before in our digital world with so many distractions! Emails consume an increasing proportion of our time, with interaction workers receiving an average of 120 every day and devoting 2.6 hours per day to managing them. We are distracted by our phones even when we aren’t looking at them. The erosion of our productivity leaves us feeling behind on our targets and we end up working outside of the 9-5 to try and find that focus.

This multi-tasking due to distractions is inefficient – it’s time to turn down distractions and dial up our focus. Not only will it make a real difference to your people’s ability to perform, but it will also improve work-life balance and help them to enjoy work.

What are other organisations doing in this area?

More and more organisations are taking intentional steps to improve meeting efficiency, reduce unnecessary meetings altogether, and in turn increase productivity. For example:

  • To reduce unnecessary meetings, Dropbox only uses meetings for 3D’s (decisions, debates and discussions), then moves other interactions to asynchronous communication. You could trial this as a framework to decide whether what you are doing needs to be a meeting at all. 
  • Microsoft uses intentional guidance and a framework to structure expectations at the start of meeting so they run more effectively.
  • The ‘right to disconnect’, where employees are either restricted or encouraged not to access emails outside of working of hours, is increasingly common since Volkswagen made it a company-wide policy in 2012. It even has legislative protection in some countries.

What change can I make in my organisation?

Wholesale culture change is of course complicated and benefits from specialist support, but there are steps you can take now to get ready to moving to a shorter working week:

  1. Managers need to start with simple conversations with their teams to understand how their individual digital habits, and the digital culture of the team, is impacting their day and their performance.
  2. Uncovering the issues is the first step to making time-saving changes. Ask:
    • Do you feel a pressure to be checking and responding to email out of hours?
    • Are the number of emails, video calls or instant messages overwhelming you or preventing focused work?
    • How easy do you find it to create healthy boundaries between work and home?
  3. Craft and communicate clear expectations.

It’s important everyone is aligned with the importance of healthy digital working and managers communicate clear expectations of their teams. Extra hours give diminishing returns on performance and in fact can hinder productivity. Aim to work better and smarter, not longer and harder. By challenging the myth that being busy is the same as being productive and educating on the value of downtime, you can foster a more productive working culture for everyone in your organisation.

Explore digital wellbeing and performance training.

Digital wellbeing and performance training has become a key part of an organisation’s wellbeing strategy. With quality training you can raise awareness of the key wellbeing and performance issues of the digital age, enable a forum for team discussion and provide tools and strategies for healthy change. 

At Live More Offline, we work with organisations to enable their successful move to a 4 or 4.5 day working week through smarter digital ways of working in our Digital Productivity training courses.

Work with us

To find out more about how we have worked with other organisations in the space and how we can help you make your 4 day week plans a success, simply get in touch with us