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Are You Ready for the 4-Day Workweek?

The next phase in the evolution of how people work is a shorter workweek.
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Are you ready for the four-day workweek? After breaking the rules of where you toil away, the evolution of work sets its sights on how long you work or, more specifically, the total days in a week you work. The standard of clocking in five days a week (woe to those who are required to work six or seven) is again being challenged as more companies decide to free up Friday (or another day) for a more worthwhile weekend. That is, of course, on top of working from home.  

The four-day workweek increases productivity.

Bloomberg.com details how Berlin-based tech company Awin implemented the four-day workweek and found that “sales, employee engagement, and client satisfaction all rose.” Spain, New Zealand, and even Japan, home to overworked employees, have also hopped on or are considering the shorter workweek.

The big idea is this: With the shorter time frame and the incentive of a leisurely weekend, people are very keen to, yes, finish that report, boss. And then recharged from more days of mind-and-body rest, they return inspired and raring to get things done. Sounds familiar? This is what you feel whenever a holiday lands on a Friday or Monday.

Another idea behind the four-week workweek is working smarter versus harder, which Adam Ross, CEO of Awin, cites as a factor for increased productivity in the Bloomberg piece. Think about that amazing co-worker who does a bang-up job (complete and excellent) in half the time. Maybe he formulated a more efficient way to do his tasks? Maybe he’s just hopped up on caffeine? Whatever it is, if you work smart, you don’t need eight hours in a day or even five days in a week to destroy your to-dos. 

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More time at work does not equal more work done.

Now think about the traditional system of working eight work hours in a day. When the same worker finishes his tasks early (because he’s just amazing), he’s left with nothing to do but to sit in front of his computer to watch the paint dry. He’s just counting down the time until freedom o’clock, and this dulls the senses and hurts the behind. 

That’s another thing. When workers know that their company trusts them to manage their time and also values them by offering incentives such as more rest days, they feel better about doing their job. They're more motivated to do well at work. 

The traditional thinking that more hours equals more work has been debunked in several studies, all of which point out how overworking hurts the bottom line, the very thing that more hours want to prop up. More hours or an always-on approach leads to decreased performance. But you already know this. You know how your body feels after a string of sleepless nights or how your mind just doesn’t seem to work properly anymore after the eighth hour. 

“By focusing on productivity and output rather than time spent in a workplace, the four-day week allows for better work-life balance, improved employee satisfaction, retention, and mental health,” says Andrew Barnes, author of The 4 Day Week and co-founder of the 4 Day Week Global in a report by NBC News. 

The pandemic has shattered traditional ideas about how people work. It confirmed that, yes, an entire company can run with a work-from-anywhere setup. It proved that, even without a manager breathing down your neck, people will show up for work and, more important, get things done. It is also now showing how companies that keep up with the new modes of working, those instilled with more freedom, flexibility, and trust, are flourishing. Those who refuse to budge and fight new ideas like the four-day workweek may fall behind. 

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Clifford Olanday
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