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Aligning Process, People, Productivity, and Profits: The Four Day Work Week

October 13, 2023

TRANSFORMING
WORK

WITH
SOPHIE WADE

Aligning Process, People, Productivity, and Profits: The Four Day Work Week

Aligning Process, People, Productivity, and Profits: The Four Day Work Week

Joe O’Connor is the Director and Co-founder of the world's first Center of Excellence in Work Time Reduction. Joe brings his previous experience as CEO and global pilot program manager of 4 Day Week Global, where he led the design and implementation of four-day week trials all over the world. Joe explains the intention and process of reduced-hour, productivity-focused new work routines and shares data, insights, and predictions having supported over 200 employers and 10,000 employees make the transition.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

[03:00] After studying accounting, Joe does a master’s in strategy and innovation management.

[03:57] Leading a work-related research project within the Irish Public Service, Joe makes a surprising discovery that working parents can achieve the same results in less time.

[05:16] Applying Parkinson’s law in reverse, what might be possible? Joe wonders.

[06:57] Competitiveness, productivity, and hours worked—how the US and Europe actually compare!

[07:27] The short workweek is public sector driven in Europe and by private sector experimentation in the US and Canada.

[08:33] The private sector catches up where the initial impetus comes from government, eg Iceland.

[09:08] Technology advances previously reduced worktime, but that hasn’t happened recently in the US and the UK.

[10:00] What the 4-day week really means in Iceland and elsewhere.

[11:27] The central premise of the 4-day week and associated commitment.

[12:14] The different variations that companies adapt for their specific business and workforce.

[13:11] Worldwide, companies’ interest in experimenting with reduced work time skyrockets with the start of the pandemic.

[14:46] Infrastructure needs to be developed to support the number and variety of organizations trialing the 4-day week.

[16:20] Why we should focus on the process of HOW to adhere to the 4-day week.

[17:08] How participants’ habits change and what potential is unlocked.

[18:03] Inefficiency and optimization lie in “off system” tasks that aren’t designed or documented.

[18:56] Why operational excellence must be at the core of a trial project.

[21:01] The diagnostic phase answers: readiness, constraints and challenges, and optimal structure/model.

[22:17] The corporate culture—and related mindset—affects a pilot project’s progress.

[23:27] Companies most likely to succeed have cultures that elevate trust, autonomy, and experimentation.

[25:49] Key hurdles to overcome: resetting boundaries and expectation and aligned resource management.

[27:22] Clients are part of projects too—benefiting from transparent communication.

[28:53] Three implementation variations relate to (a) pre-work, (b) a graduated rollout, (c) client interaction.

[30:21] Recognizing and adjusting for interdependencies is critical—requiring flexibility for employees.

[31:23] Understanding trade-offs and hand-offs.

[32:19] The 4-day week is not about eliminating discretionary effort or flexibility.

[33:04] Framing the intention: redesign and bite-size rather than intensify and speed up.

[33:50] The essence is to eliminate wasted efficiency and unlock potential, incentivizing psychological behavioral benefits.

[35:25] Some leaders ‘just do it’ and—rather chaotically—make it work!

[36:10] The high success rate results from organizations self-selecting.

[36:41] A few companies dropped out usually caused by some other unexpected significant change.

[37:20] Most organizations can make the 4-day week work with clear benefits for attraction and retention.

[38:18] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: To propose a four-day week trial at your company, pitch a feasibility study to build the business case, recognizing the conditionality of a trial based on hitting targets and offering nascent thinking about what could be done differently.

QUOTES

“There is not a linear relationship between hours worked and productivity.”

“The idea that advances in productivity and technology can be shared in the form of reduced work time has been an age-old reality.”

“On one side there's a commitment to a genuine reduction in hours for the same salary, and on the other side there's a commitment to maintaining output which in itself assumes some form of increase in terms of hourly productivity.”

“I think part of the reason why some leaders and some organizations are resistant to this idea is because of how it gets interpreted in the media. It's very outcome driven rather than process driven. It's focused on the results rather than how organizations did it.”

“I think one other misunderstanding about the shorter work week is that it is a very rigid model. Actually this is not about eliminating flexibility. This is not about eliminating discretionary effort.”

“If you've got a top down command and control style leadership this is probably not going to work. It relies on a very bottom up approach where there's a partnership between employees, managers, and leaders.”

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