There’s a very traditional view that the number of hours a business works is directly equal to what that business can produce. Think harsh Victorian mill owners pushing their workers to toil for longer hours so they make more money.
It’s an archaic idea, one used around the world, but one that doesn’t consider the effectiveness of an individual.
Humans aren’t machines. Our brains work better when we are well-rested and happy. This is especially true of creative people who are capable of being more effective - more creative - when they aren’t stressed and enjoy a far better work/life balance.
I wanted to explore what would happen in my agency if we dispensed with the workhouse mentality and gave the team time to think and to relax'
I was convinced that working a shorter week is viable. I’ve spent time working closely with women who were returning to the workplace after maternity leave. In many instances, it fits best with their family life to work part-time, fewer days or to arrive just-in-time and leave bang-on-time. The traditional view would be that as workers they would be less effective - because fewer hours present or less flexibility to work beyond their committed hours, must equate to lower output levels or effectiveness. However, I discovered that the absolute opposite was true, and despite working fewer hours each week, they achieved just as much as a full-time worker.
It seemed that having short, fixed ‘windows’ in which to complete their tasks, instead of a full and rambling week, caused the ‘part-timers’ to work more efficiently. They also had a far better attitude to work, as they had more time away from the office environment and a greater degree of freedom over what hours they worked. In a nutshell, they were happier (albeit as working Mums, possibly less well-rested overall).
Seeing that dispelled in my mind the idea that one hour of work was equal to one unit of achievement. Instead, the emphasis was placed on the end result: what was actually completed, regardless of how many hours had been spent completing it.
Therefore I started to trial a four day work week and gave my employees the option of taking either the Friday or Monday off, either side of the weekend. As well as offering more downtime, it also created flexibility, softening the traditionally rigid work week.
As a result, people were happier, less stressed, and were starting to enjoy a greater degree of freedom. From a business perspective, efficiency didn’t drop when people started working fewer hours. In fact, it increased.
However, before you immediately implement a four day work week at your company, there is a lot to consider. The most important thing is to remember that the majority of businesses are still working five days a week. To compete, your business must, too, so managing your team to make sure someone is always available matters.
Automation can also really help with reduced office hours. If there is a task that can be automated, automate it. From simple admin tasks to dealing with customer enquiries, buy yourself as much freedom as you can.
Also, be sure to monitor how your employees adapt to a shorter working week. A change in work time can produce a change in work styles. I’ve found that it highlighted where reshaping of the team might be needed, to better play to everyone’s strengths in the new working environment.
For my company, shifting to a four day week has been a huge benefit. Something as simple as having an extra day off has resulted in my staff being happier, more focused, and more able to think creatively.
Once you overcome the out-dated idea that more time working equals greater results, you’ll want to make the change, too.
About the Author:
Lyndon Nicholson is Founder and CEO of Future Present, a specialist presentation design agency based in York, London and Manchester.
Visit https://futurepresent.agency/ for more