Four Day work week
Work is an essential part of life and it has been like that since the dawn of man. However, it seems like ‘work’ as we know it, has transitioned itself from a static structure to a more dynamic and flexible concept. People are changing jobs more frequently and the freelance community seems to be increasing in size more than ever. Employees want the freedom of choice and the employers demand high mobility. Looking from the perspective of an executive, a conundrum could be that it will be more difficult to find a strong workforce with loyal and efficient employees. Hiring new people is a time-consuming process, which is why many companies wish to keep good employees around. This is why some firms strive to give their staff benefits to keep them from switching over to competing companies.
I recently did my internship at a Danish company called IIH-Nordic. Not only are they a leading company in digital marketing, but they’ve also won multiple awards like “Best place to work” and “Healthiest place to work” (In Denmark of course). One way they’ve achieved this is through many benefits, one of them being a 4 day-work-week. The concept of working one day less a week seemed so fascinating to me, that I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic.
Is 30 working hours a week sufficient?
First of all, I wonder why we haven’t introduced ourselves to a 30-hour workweek sooner. One reason I find fitting to answer this question is that most of us experience that if we work longer we’ll get more done. This is a valid reason, yet it isn’t necessarily true - at least not in all instances.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe all businesses have to reschedule for a 30 day work week - but I think most businesses should (and eventually will) consider how they could make their employees work more efficiently. Especially businesses in the digital industry could benefit from this - I’ve seen it myself.
Working less isn’t effective (Or is it?).
People who would say that working less will reduce productivity, are arguably right. There’s no doubt that if you work less - you’re more likely to get less done. On the other hand, you could argue that you lose concentration the more you work. Which stand to take in this debate depends on the individual and the business… What I think you have to take into consideration is the fact, that there’s often a potential for improvement in all lines of work. Whether that would be increasing or reducing the workload is up to you and your business.
How do you work less… and get more done?
Before I go into detail about how you can have a successful business with fewer work hours, I would like to tell you about some of the perks that this transition is likely to result in. As I mentioned earlier, the concept of work seems to be more dynamic than static, meaning that the competition for good, loyal and efficient employees has gone up. The biggest benefit you can achieve from reducing work hours throughout the week is, that you will be more likely to win this competition - giving your company access to the most qualified employees. No matter how many benefits you provide your employees with, it most likely can’t compete with an additional day off every week. Time is so important to everybody, that it can seem more precious than money and employee benefits. Already the fact that you’re giving your employees more time off could potentially result in more loyalty and possibly increase the overall productivity. However, I believe that a 30-hour workweek needs more planning and effort to result in a fully competitive business. What measures you need to take in order to achieve this varies from firm to firm, but here are some of the approaches I learned from my internship in IIH-Nordic.
One of the biggest challenges of having your employees working less would be to make them work more efficiently. One way of achieving this comes through a time management technique developed by the Italian consulting guru Francesco Cirillo in the late ’80s.
The basic theory behind Pomodoro explains how employees can increase their productivity by setting up defined tasks and reducing distractions. Within intervals of 25 minutes employees focus on one predetermined task, and cannot be disturbed by co-workers.
In this blog post, I go into detail about the Pomodoro technique and how it’s been optimized for modern industries:
To reduce disturbances further, you can replace background noise with music. I want to express that some genres are more suitable for work situations than others. Focus@will is a company that provides a neuroscience-based subscription service that uses phase sequenced playlists of instrumental music designed to improve users’ productivity.
I would highly recommend that you check them out.
A business can be a complex entanglement of schedules, meetings, deadlines, etc. Having a strong management tool to organize and make plans for your company is crucial.
Calendar (Gsuite / Outlook).
Your business is most likely to have an email provider. Both GSuite and Outlook are subscription services that give you access to a calendar that can be shared across an entire company. What you choose should be based on your preferences, but personally I find G suite more appealing because you can get a company mail included in the price.
Task management is important. Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help companies organize, track, and manage their work. Asana is complicated and takes effort to learn - but as soon as you’re up and running with it, I think it’s worthwhile your time.
You can delegate tasks, create custom workflows, do scrums and so much more. The basic version is free, but comes with several limitations.
I could imagine that many companies take the social environment for granted. I didn’t think much of having good social relationships at a workplace until I was introduced to the concept of ‘lucky lunch’. Throughout the week you’ll be having lunch with a random co-worker and ideally, you would find a table in the canteen where the two of you can sit and have a one to one conversation.
Getting to know your colleagues like this is not only enjoyable - it’s also very practical. Starting as a new Intern at IIH-Nordic I found it rather convenient being ‘forced’ into conversations with someone you normally wouldn’t converse with - because you quickly established new relationships.
What’s the financial impact?
Only being an intern at IIH-Nordic, I have no genuine insights into their financial situation, so I would like to wind this article up with some additional reading material on the topic.
IIH serves as a shining example to the rest of the world that you can have an ambitious working life and enjoy great commercial success without necessarily sacrificing your freedom, health or family time.
CEO of IIH-Nordic Henrik Stenmann, has written books and several articles about how companies can improve their competitiveness and economics through a four day work week. One book I can recommend is: The secret of the four-day week: – how to make your business grow by working less.
In this book you will get concrete facts and unique insights from the four-day work week, interviews with employees and experts, plus a number of simple tips and tools that you can apply in your working life, present to your boss or implement in your own business.
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