What would it look like if the world moved toward a four-day workweek?
The organization, 4 Day Week Global, did a 6-month study of 900 employees across 33 U.S. and Irish businesses in 2022. The study was based on the 100-80-100 model: Employees received 100 percent of their pay for working 80 percent of the time at 100 percent of the productivity.
Participating employees rated the four-day workweek a 9.1 out of 10, claiming it reduced their burnout and fatigue. Businesses said revenue increased and that attracting and retaining talent was easier.
Yet acclimating to the new structure took some companies and employees several months. They struggled to figure out how to whittle down their hours yet still accomplish all tasks. More than one-third of employees saw their workload intensify.
Time magazine says 2023 could be the year of the four-day workweek. Maryland might pass a four-day workweek program that would run from mid-2023 through 2028, joining European governments that have tried it.
But if the world is going to attempt this paradigm shift, we have to do our best to eliminate the obstacles. Companies and employees can use the methodology described in my book, Indistractable, to navigate the four-day workweek and overcome the modern affliction of wage slavery.
It’s Not Business As Usual
Moving to a 100-80-100 model is more complex than telling everyone to stay home one day a week. Companies and employees must discuss how the four-day workweek will affect the day-to-day and strategize accordingly.
With planning, companies can avoid inviting disorganization and confusion that hurts their business and wreaks havoc on workplace culture.
Teams will need to coordinate schedules so they understand when everyone is available. Leadership will need to coordinate with employees to understand when everyone is working—and enforce four 8-hour days, not 10-hour ones.
Here’s a list of just some questions companies and employees should consider:
- Will there be fewer meetings? When will they occur?
- Will switching to a four-day workweek affect employees’ flexibility over when they show up to work? Or will flexibility remain the same as long as employees meet their goals?
- How will this affect work-from-home policies?
- Will employees be expected to answer emails and messages after hours?
- Will employees be able to choose any day off, or will it be the same company-wide?
- What will the company do to ensure customer service doesn’t deteriorate?
- How might deadlines, expectations, and support change to help employees handle their workload in fewer days?
Indistractable can help companies set the stage to answer these questions.
Adapt to the Four-Day Week by Becoming Indistractable
Companies should establish a culture founded on psychological safety so employees can freely discuss the questions and concerns above. Psychological safety, as defined by Amy Edmondson, an organizational behavioral scientist at Harvard, is “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”
Consider creating a forum where stakeholders can voice concerns and use Indistractable methods to ensure a seamless transition to the new structure. The four-day workweek is about creating a happier, more efficient work environment. Unless the cut from five days to four is strategic, it could lead to a dysfunctional environment.
For example, employees, wary that a four-day workweek will come with implicit trade-offs or consequences, may feel they need to always be available to managers and coworkers, even after hours.
Moving away from a five-day workweek makes the norms of the workplace obsolete, and managers and employees need to establish new ones.
Here are the three steps to build psychological safety:
- Step 1: Frame the issue as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
- Step 2: Managers should acknowledge that no one, themselves included, is expected to have all the answers.
- Step 3: Managers should model curiosity and ask questions.
Managers should seek feedback on new workplace norms, using the Indistractable model to help employees stay focused, fight distraction, and operate at 100 percent productivity in four days.
Master Internal Triggers
In the study from 4 Day Week Global, stress decreased for 32 percent of employees, but 16 percent reported feeling more stressed. Perhaps achieving 100 percent productivity in less time was daunting for them, or maybe not knowing the “rules” of the new work environment made them feel adrift.
If your employees are feeling stress, worry, doubt, or other negative feelings related to the four-day workweek, those internal triggers will drive them to distraction and decrease their productivity. They need to know what’s expected of them to work successfully.
If internal triggers are acknowledged and explored, employees will be better able to focus on traction rather than succumbing to distraction.
Managers can resolve these issues by offering support and resources to help employees handle their workload in fewer days. They can determine realistic deadlines and set expectations for availability during the four-day workweek.
Make Time for Traction
Most time management concerns related to the four-day workweek can be assuaged with timeboxing. By allocating specific periods to certain tasks, employees can see how much of their workload they can realistically fit into the four-day workweek. If it’s a crunch, they can talk with managers about how to adapt their workload.
Timeboxing is the first step of schedule syncing, which gives others transparency into how staff intends to spend their time. For example, rather than employees rejecting a task when their workload is heavy, they can schedule-sync with teams and managers to prioritize the most critical tasks.
Schedule syncing can be used company-wide to address the crucial questions of the four-day workweek, including changes to work-from-home and flexible-work policies, meeting agendas, and availability expectations.
Like employees, customers must be clued into the company’s new schedule. For example, does your company have a customer service team? If so, will customer services teams previously available to customers five days a week still have to work on the fifth day? If not, will the company outsource customer service for that day? Alternatively, how will the company notify customers of the new limited availability?
I can’t answer these questions for you. But if companies answer them using timeboxing and schedule syncing, give stakeholders the space to provide honest feedback, and make changes accordingly, they can’t go wrong.
Hack Back External Triggers
To protect time-boxed calendars and thwart distraction, companies can hack back meetings, emails, group chats, and work interruptions. Setting etiquette guidelines for use—such as not sending emails or Slack messages after hours or during specific periods of a work day—enables staff to relax off the clock and concentrate on focused work.
The four-day workweek may be in our future, and those who become indistractable will reap the benefits from the start.
- Free Schedule Maker: Use My Google Sheet Template
- Free Habit Tracker Template. Use this Google Sheet & Crush It
- A List of 20 Values [and Why People Can’t Agree On More]
- Timeboxing: Why It Works and How to Get Started in 2023
- An Illustrated Guide to the 4 Types of Liars
- Hyperbolic Discounting: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices
- Happiness Hack: This One Ritual Made Me Much Happier