Strategies for an Effective 4-Day Workweek
The work world we have all been familiar with in recent times–typically filled with 9-5 hours five days a week–has changed. Now, you may expect to work a more flexible workweek, perhaps creating your own unique hours, or maybe only working four days per week. While it may seem like this change has come about at the blink of an eye–and thank goodness you can wave the standard rigid five day workweek of your parents’ generation goodbye–the reality is that this change has been a long time coming; it just took the rapid upheaval of the work structure due to a global pandemic to shake up the foundation.
The Henley Business School found in their research that 78% of workers reported feeling happier and 70% reported feeling less stressed when working a four day week. Further, Microsoft Japan, who rolled out the four day workweek in the summer of 2019 on a trial basis found that employee productivity increased by 20%. Statistics and results speak for themselves, and thankfully, in the case of the four day workweek, the results have encouraged a major shift in how companies view workdays.
Joe O’Connor, who holds a key executive role in the not-for-profit coalition 4 Day Week Global fully supports the four day workweek largely due to the reports of success. He believes 2022 will see even further adoption of the structure to great results.
“Companies we have helped to make the transition to a four-day week have reported it has significantly expanded their pool of potential recruitment candidates. The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are ‘at work’, to a sharper focus on the output being produced. It should act as an entry point to a focused, empowered business conversation about how to work smarter and more efficiently. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future for work,” says Joe O’Connor, Global Pilot Program Manager at 4 Day Week Global.
How are companies implementing the four day week successfully? Some companies like Microsoft Japan are launching the change as a trial and gathering employee feedback, as well as measuring productivity, regularly throughout. In this way, having a little flexibility around whether the structure will stick or not may be what their employees need and surely appreciate. On the other hand, Exposure Ninja, a full-service digital marketing agency, has an ongoing adjustable arrangement where employees have full freedom to set their own hours for each month at a time, which offers them the choice for when and how they want to work.
“We go one step further at Exposure Ninja. We allocate monthly hours, but we then take a step back and allow employees to decide when they want to work them. If they so choose, they can complete all their work on Monday through Wednesday, thereby creating a four-day weekend. If, on the other hand, they choose to work seven short days a week, that’s okay with us, too. All we ask is that our employees are refreshed and eager to work while producing great results. This degree of flexibility means our ranks are filled with content, loyal and engaged employees,” says Tim Cameron-Kitchen, Chief Executive Officer of Exposure Ninja.
Here is how you can follow an effective four day workweek, according to the strategies outlined by successful CEOs and business owners.
“This may sound quite obvious, but it’s worth stating since it truly is crucial: in order to work a four day workweek where you’re effectively completing tasks equivalent to those of a five day week, you must understand how to prioritize the most important assignments. Whether you’ve worked a five day week in the past or even been a part time worker, you are probably already familiar with the art of discerning what tasks take precedence and what can be postponed for a while. With this understanding, you also realize that some assignments should make up the bulk of your time, some can be completed in increments here and there, and some are more of monthly or weekly deadlines. With the four day workweek, you have to hone your ability to focus on the most important projects first. Also, limiting distractions is important if you want to complete a comparable amount of work in less hours,” says Trey Ferro, CEO of Spot Pet Insurance, pet insurance and preventative coverage.
Find Your Peak Performance Hours
“Any type of job or schedule you hold will benefit from a little work done on your part to determine what your peak performance hours are. Really, I should say you will benefit from it, because rather than push yourself to your mental breaking point to complete a deadline, imagine working during the hours you feel most creative and mentally energized. Your peak performance hours, also sometimes referred to as your golden hours or biological prime time, are determined by your unique circadian rhythm establishing the hours you’re most awake and experiencing higher brain functioning. You’ll find you have an easier time staying focused and working through your tasks during this time. So I advise every professional, whether working set or flexible hours, to do a little research on themselves to find out their peak performance time,” says Kevin Miller, Founder of Kevin Miller, scaling the best D2C and technology companies.
Stay Organized With To-Do Lists
“I’m a huge fan of the to-do list. I find that staying organized by inputting my tasks and projects into lists and calendars helps me to have a clearer head due to the way I can look at a visual representation of my workday or workweek and know exactly what I am going to accomplish. I try to view it that way: as though the tasks on my to-do list are not the things I have to get done, but rather the things I will celebrate having completed at the end of the day or week. This gives my workday a positive focus because I’m looking ahead to the moment when I feel that lovely sense of accomplishment that I’ve done everything I needed to and now I can take some time for myself without stress about tomorrow. Why? Because tomorrow is already mapped out,” says Breanne Millette, CEO of Bisoulovely, a jewelry brand inspired by magical girls.
Take Effective Breaks
“Taking breaks during the workday is an imperative practice because it allows workers to move around, change their focus off of the work mentality, clear brain fog by stepping away from their project, and take a few minutes to reset and recharge. Even if you cut your week down to fewer days of work, breaks are still important for the best productivity levels. In order to receive the full benefits from a break, make sure you’re using your reset time effectively. Rather than slump further into your chair and scroll through social media, try stepping away from your screens, stretching and moving around, hydrating and eating a healthy and nourishing meal, and letting your mind rest. I promise that if you use your breaks well, you’ll be able to return to your tasks with a fresh mindset that promotes creativity,” says Michael Jankie, Founder of The Natural Patch Co, natural mosquito repellent patches.
Keep All Communication Within the Workweek
“Make sure you follow healthy boundaries even when working less days and hours. If you’ve worked hard and stayed on task to complete an equivalent amount of work in less time, you have certainly earned your extra day off on the weekend as per the arrangement you have with your workplace. But sometimes when you make the switch from the five day workweek to four day week it can be a tough adjustment to keep your work communication within the established work hours. Whether it’s your brain running overtime due to stress about needing to complete more in less days or your team members not staying committed to the changed work model, your work communication should be held within the confines of the determined workweek. As tempting as it may be to let your mind stay at work, instead allow yourself to take time for yourself and for your loved ones when you’re done for the day. Mentally be home when you’re home. Give yourself the breaks you’ve worked hard for,” says Jim Marggraff, CEO of Kinoo, video chat that keeps kids engaged.
Prioritize Productivity Over Hours Worked
“With any big change at work comes the need to adapt. With a transition like the 4 day workweek comes the requirement for everyone affected to adjust both their physical schedule and their mindset. Because most models of the 4 day working week expect employees to complete the amount of work they previously finished in 40 hours in 32 hours instead, I can see a very specific shift in perspective that needs to occur; no longer is the emphasis on hours spent working (in the office or at home, etc.) but on the work done, since it is expected to be maintained without much fluctuation. This means that productivity is being valued more than time spent on tasks. Personally, I see this shift as something extremely positive, because we’ve long understood that people work at different paces, but only now is the work model starting to accommodate all the different working practices. Emphasizing a standard of excellence in an effective manner without explicitly determining the timeline shows employees that their creativity and hard work is valued more than just their presence at work. It opens up the floor to highlight all the different versions of success,” says Lillie Sun, Growth Manager of Three Ships Beauty, a natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare brand.
Use Your Time Effectively
“One reason why companies have found success with changing their work model to a four day working week rather than a five day structure is because employees, understanding their expectation of completing the same amount of work in less time, hold themselves responsible for staying focused. CEOs should enter into dialogue with their team to ask them where they think they personally can cut down on unproductive time at work. Everyone wants that longer weekend, that extra day off each week, so during the workweek employees know they need to stay focused, take effective breaks so they can return to their tasks with a clear mindset, and cut down on ineffective practices during work, such as long chit chat sessions with their co-workers that can instead be moved to after-work hours. With everyone on the same page about what needs to happen, time is utilized for utmost productivity,” says Tony Chan, CEO and Co-Founder of CloudForecast, a company providing cloud budget management software.
Give the Four Day Workweek a Trial
“Not everyone is sure that the four day workweek will be for them. That’s perfectly acceptable, because everyone works in different ways with unique best practices. The whole reason the five day workweek was never truly effective for all workers is because never will everyone work in the same way or should they all follow an identical model. Just as the five day workweek is not for everyone, neither will the four day week be, or the three day week, or any variation in between. The good news is that many companies are starting the four day workweek as a trial and opening communication with their teammates along the way to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I support this transition and trial basis, because it also allows workers to speak up about any challenges they experience with such a drastic change from what they may be used to and comfortable with,” says Kevin Callahan, Co-Founder and CEO of Flatline Van Co., premium parts and accessories for Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster Adventure vans.
Whether you were already completely on board with the relatively new 4 day workweek model before reading this article or still hesitant about making the shift, now you know some of the best strategies that every worker can follow to make four days of work feel just as productive–but more enjoyable–than five. Be sure to implement this advice from successful business professionals who support the four day work structure in order to have the most exceptional workweeks of your career!