Dogs in offices. Flexible work hours. Mental health days. It may sound simplistic, but most workplace change stems from an employee wanting to improve their life and a leader brave enough to listen and implement.
As a Scottish business owner in Australia, I used to take great pleasure in my annual 30-hour transit back home. It was my time to clock off and think big. I didn’t work, I didn’t jump on my laptop, but when I landed I ended up roaming around Europe, hunting for a notepad and pen when growth plans came to me.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 killed the romance of running a business. But I didn’t stop working … I worked harder.
My business partners and I worked 80-hour weeks for two years. We hired staff, took on big projects and I joined Harvard Business School. As an advocate of anti-burnout culture, you have to wonder what was I thinking. My rationale was it wasn’t possible to burn out because we were physically stagnant, unable to go anywhere but into the vortex of our own business plans.
As the world opened up, burnout never came, however the long-lasting feeling of exhaustion did. Online messaging reverted to conversations, and Zoom calls became workshops, talks and whatever we could get our hands on. It was a new, tangible, post-COVID world.
It was fun, challenging and refreshing at the start, but something negative has lingered – we’re working too much. Walking too little. Missing personal appointments and forgetting about haircuts.
Why is this? Now, as things are back to a “new normal”, surely sanity is restored?
My co-founders and I started off by asking questions. How could work be different?
Perhaps the solution wasn’t working more hours, but working less. We took a leap of faith and joined a pilot program run by 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit coalition that supports businesses transitioning to a four-day week.
Shifting to a four-day week is no picnic for any business leader. It’s 100 per cent of the pay for 80 per cent of the time. In exchange, you commit to delivering 100 per cent output. On paper, you can argue it’s a bad financial move. In reality, it’s hard to set up and involves a high level of trust. Not for the micro-manager. Not for the toxic work environment.
For my business, we get paid to design solutions and solve problems. These two things are easier to do when the mind is fresh and your motivation’s pounding. It’s also effortless with an engaged, happy, healthy team who don’t want to work anywhere else; low turnover, high growth, and a unique culture built around the individual.
4 Day Week Global reports that 78 per cent of employees working four-day weeks are happier and less stressed. In short, we should all work less. Let’s create space to personally thrive whether it’s through doing, resting or reflecting. Let’s put family and friends first and go in to work ready to give our all.
Before you set up your four-day week plan, discuss it with your team. Listen to their concerns and queries – it’ll help shape your final plan and give a better understanding of how you’re going to make this work.
If you’re tentative about shutting the business down for a day every week, try a roster system so you can remain open five days. Decide between your team, based on how big you are.
We’re only two weeks into the trial but we’ve seen a big difference already. I’ve found I can prioritise health appointments I have previously been unable to make. Feedback from staff has been positive, with some saying it means their partners can go back to work one day a week as they can take over child-minding duties. One staff member who is a part-time DJ has committed to making a new song on his extra day off, while another attended a matinee performance.
There’s an air of excitement in the office, and while the truth is people are a bit nervous getting into a new routine, the overall feedback is that even the concept itself says to our team “we’re prioritising your happiness and wellbeing”.
Would I recommend it? Yes, especially to businesses willing to test the waters in terms of output. From a commercial point of view it makes you think creatively about improving productivity and removing bureaucracy. The age-old question – could that meeting have been a message? – becomes very real when you remove one-fifth of your work hours.
Source: Thanks smh.com