four-day workweek

Four-day workweek – We’re doing it!

The most valuable thing you have is time. 

Spending most of your time working can be extremely disheartening, especially when there are other things you’d rather invest your time in. 

The reality that you’ll have to work from eight to five, five days a week until retirement is a bitter pill to swallow. It often leaves people feeling extremely demotivated, strapped for time, and frustrated.

I have a group of hardworking, passionate employees in my digital marketing agency, all with different lives, passions, talents, and dreams. 

As an employer who cares about each one of them, I want them to feel happy and have time for the things that matter most to them, whether it be sports, hobbies, kids, partners, charity, studies – anything that enriches their lives. 

As a business owner, I want my business to run successfully – and I want all our clients to get the best service and business growth possible.

I’ve contemplated over and over how I can make this happen. What can I do to give my employees a better quality of life, while ensuring my clients receive the stellar results that my team and I guarantee them?

A couple of years ago, my team came across a very interesting discussion about a four-day workweek. Back then, it was just a topic that coloured the conversation and then faded. The idea seemed far-fetched. Eventually, we started the conversation again in 2020 and I told the team that I was happy to reconsider a four-day workweek – if they were able to convince me that it’s a fantastic idea.

And guess what?

The lockdown caged our dreams… 

But, one year later, we’re ready to make the move and are extremely excited about it. And, as a team of marketers who managed to sell the fact that they can work harder if they work 8 hours less a week, I can confidently tell our current and future clients: your marketing is in extremely persuasive hands.

So here we are, pioneering a road for other businesses. 

As said by Shakespeare in Hamlet: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”

So, what’s our method? Well, we’re piggybacking on a lot of the research that Perpetual Guardian CEO Andrew Barnes conducted. He wrote the book 4 Day Week. In his book, he shares a way that you can create a sustainable, profitable future – one in which employees work fewer hours, but are productive, engaged, and satisfied. 

Barnes’s interest in a four-day workweek started growing after he read an article in The Economist. The article cited studies showing that British workers were productive for about two and a half hours and Canadian workers only one and a half hours of the standard eight to nine-hour workday. These shocking figures made him wonder whether his employees were also productive for only a couple of hours at work. And, if so, could he help them become more productive?

Would a four-day work increase productivity? He would only need to get an extra 40 minutes of productivity out of each employee each day to get as much out of them as he was in a five-day workweek.

Andrew decided to test it out. He did a two-month trial where his 240 employees worked four days a week instead of the conventional five. Employees did not receive pay cuts. He implemented the 100-80-100 rule. The rule states that employees receive 100% of their contractual compensation and only need to work 80% of the time, provided they deliver 100% of the agreed productivity. 

Perpetual Guardian’s trial period was a huge success. Results were as follows:

  • Productivity was unharmed by the reduced working hours
  • 7% reduction in work stress levels
  • 24% increase in employee work-life balance
  • 20% increase in employee stimulation
  • Employee leadership levels increased by 22% 
  • Employee commitment levels increased by 20% 

Benefits of a four-day workweek

Happier, healthier employees

A growing concern in today’s work environment is mental wellness. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) released a major research report in 2020: “Defining the Mental Wellness Economy.” The report states that the global mental wellness economy is worth $120.8 billion, based on consumer spend in four markets: senses, spaces and sleep ($49.5 billion), brain-boosting nutraceuticals & botanicals ($34.8 billion), self-improvement ($33.6 billion), and meditation and mindfulness ($2.9 billion).

Pre-COVID, stress, loneliness, and burnout were exploding. It goes without saying that the pandemic heightened these internal battles which we as a society face.  A large-scale study conducted by Back Dog Institute found that people who had higher job demands, lower job control, and more job strain were at greater odds of experiencing signs of mental illness, which often show as worry, fatigue, and insomnia.

My thoughts were, how do we know if employees are struggling with mental wellness and how can we help them feel less stressed and more in control of their personal and professional lives?

Surveys indicate that people who work a day less every week are less susceptible to high levels of stress and burnout. This is because a four-day workweek promotes a better work-life balance. This balance can help improve mental health, which is a key to enabling employees to be more motivated and productive at work.

Increased productivity

Another big concern for all employers is team productivity.

Very few employers know how to measure output, so they gauge an employee’s value by the number of hours they spend at their desk.

– Andrew Barnes

As mentioned, employees are only productive for a couple of hours every day, so measuring their value by the number of hours they spend at work isn’t accurate at all.

I hope to abolish the “fashionable” culture of overworking employees and prevent presenteeism (or working while ill). I certainly don’t believe in an Ellon Musk or Steve Jobs way of driving people. Instead, I want to create a team that is motivated, engaged, and, most of all, happy. I want employees to be productive and not just busy.

Since we’ve started preparing for a four-day workweek, I’ve already noticed a spike in productivity. Employees have rethought workflows and how they spend their time every day. By eliminating distractions and preventing any duplication of work, the company is already more efficient.

Implementing the trial

The purpose of the trial period will be to disconnect productivity from hours spent in the office. It’s the team’s responsibility to create systems and workflows and put communication systems in place to be as productive as possible. The team will evaluate individual as well as group performance to determine the success of the trial period and to decide whether it is worth continuing the four-day workweek or further adjusting the current way of working. 

We’re going to conduct an 8 week trial period starting from Tuesday 23rd March. This will be the biggest experiment we’ve ever undertaken. We’ve researched the best way forward and been hard at work making sure that the experiment runs smoothly.

It’s been absolutely astonishing to watch the team come together with motivation and enthusiasm. In preparation for the big change, we have:

  • Redefined our core values and purpose as a company
  • Learnt and developed new skills to work more efficiently
  • Put thorough communication systems in place to ensure a smooth workflow
  • Put processes in place to ensure maximum productivity and minimum room for errors
  • Found a way to uplift our personal lives so that we’re able to bring the BEST versions of ourselves to serve our clients

The core motivation behind this experiment is to increase productivity! It’s important to note that the four-day workweek won’t be seen as a free day off or a long weekend, but rather a gift. In exchange, employees will deliver high levels of productivity and meet customer service standards as well as goals within our business. 

During this trial period and after, we vow to always uphold our company values, which are:

Transparency: We are open and straightforward about our goals, performance, and operations. 

Integrity: Guided by strong moral principles, we act with honesty and treat everyone with respect by building and maintaining trust.

Collaboration: Our team and yours work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose.

Evolving: Through innovation and powerful resources, we ensure continuous improvement to help you reach your business goals.

Results-driven: We focus only on the results that matter but are always steered by our other values.

Share this journey with us

My main aim is to ensure that my employees have a better quality of life so they can feel valued and continuously work hard to grow IEDM Digital Marketing and our clients’ businesses.

The IEDM team vows to always be transparent and continuously improve efficiency to make this big change a success. Our offices will remain open from Monday to Friday and client communication will not be affected at all.

Stay tuned. We’ll be reporting on our four-day workweek trial in a few weeks.

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