Four-Day Work Week: Not A Benefit, A Performance Improvement Program.

December 01, 2023 00:17:57
Four-Day Work Week: Not A Benefit, A Performance Improvement Program.
The Josh Bersin Company
Four-Day Work Week: Not A Benefit, A Performance Improvement Program.

Dec 01 2023 | 00:17:57

/

Show Notes

We've just completed a major study of the 4-day week and the results are surprising: companies of all sizes are seeing real benefits and this podcast explains why. While we've all been comfortable with the 5-day week since the early 1920s, it's now time to let go of that paradigm. Lots to discuss and think about here, but it's real. Additional Information Our New Research and Toolkit On The Four-Day Workweek The Four-Day Work Week: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Videos and Examples) Your Co-Workers Are Less Ambitious Than You Were (Qualtrics and WSJ)  
View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] You. [00:00:05] Good morning, everyone. Today I want to talk about the four day work week because I think there's a lot of misconceptions and confusion about what this is and my opinion and our research shows that this is a very important trend and something we really need to take advantage of because it's not what you think. Most people, when they hear four day work week, they think it's a benefit. Oh, I get to take Fridays off and go to the gym, or go to the dentist or walk my dog. No, that's not what it is. Many years ago, if you think about how work has evolved, in the 18 hundreds, people worked seven days a week. And then as we moved into the industrial age, in the early 19 hundreds, it was Henry Ford who mandated five days a week, a 40 hours week. And in 1938, the federal government passed a law that the typical work week from regulatory standpoint was 44 hours a week. And over time, because of automation, because of business model enhancement and variety of technologies, we've used the number of hours you need to work to generate a particular amount of outcome, output, or revenue comes down. And as most of you have heard, and you've seen the charts on this that I've shown a lot of you, this is going to continue to accelerate. So what is up with the five day work week? Most people believe that a four day week means taking 40 hours of work and doing it in 32 hours. And what used to happen in most companies that tried this and a lot of companies tried this in the 1970s and the 1980s was that people got burned out and they said, look, I'm doing the same amount of work. I can't come in as much time. So now I'm working in the evenings. No thanks, I'm just going to keep my hours as is. But this new approach is different. It's called work time reduction. And what it's really about is eliminating the wasted effort, the wasted time, the miscommunication, the lack of clarity, the lack of accountability that wastes time at work. And what our research shows, and Julia, our analyst, actually has studied this, and we just wrote a big report on it. Working with the Work Time Reduction Institute consulting firm, is that companies that do this have found extraordinarily increases in not only employee satisfaction and employee well being because they have more time, but they actually are getting more work done. Their productivity goes up, their revenue goes up, their profitability goes up. So let me just give you a little bit of my experience with this. Most of you know I'm in my late sixty s, I went to work in 1978. I worked for IBM, I worked for Exxon, I worked for a bunch of other companies, software companies. And I've been rethinking what my work experience has been like over the years. And I can remember most of my in office work experience was filled with wasted time, meetings that went too long, meetings that I didn't need to be in time when I didn't have enough to do. I remember when I was at IBM and I was working in a sales organization, once we submitted a large proposal, or we just did a big deal the next couple of weeks, there really was not much to do, and we would sit around the office and just goof around and drink coffee or go out to lunch. I remember when I went to work for Cybase after working for IBM, I worked very, very hard during my first seven or eight years there with a whole bunch of new assignments. And later in my career there, as the company slowed, I found myself going to the office with literally nothing to do. I had a business development assignment. I worked with another partner in the company who lived in La. We closed a couple of big deals, and we literally didn't have that much to do during the day. And I used to go home early and coach my kids'soccer teams, but the company didn't really allow that. It was just a company that wasn't that well managed and nobody knew what anybody was doing. Later, when I went to work for Digital Think and worked for a startup, we had an environment with an open office. I used to drag myself into San Francisco in the early. Took me an hour to an hour and a half just to get in. An hour to an hour and a half just to get home. So I had to leave very early in the morning. I would sit in this giant sea of open desks, try to do my work as a product leader, as a marketing executive, as a product management executive. When the company slowed down and we stopped building the product because we had no money, I still had to come in. I wasted a lot of time. I had to lay off a bunch of people in our group. We still had nothing to do. And then I got laid off. And I remember wasting tons of time during that period of time, and it goes on and on and on. In fact, I even remember during my years running Burson and Associates, when we opened our office in downtown Oakland and we decided we needed to move in there for a whole variety of reasons. I used to come in early in the morning, get myself prepared, go to meetings, deal with the issues of hiring, recruiting, sales, doing research, whatever it may be. And a lot of times in the afternoon, there was nothing to do. But I didn't leave because I was the CEO and people needed to know where I was. And I would often be so tired. Many, many times I remember this, that I would lay down on the floor and take a nap in the office. Now, if I had been at home, if there had been a rule set that sort of encouraged four day a week work, this wouldn't have happened. And so if I just think about my career, which has been roughly 40 to some OD years, I mean, I think I've probably wasted 20% of my time easily, maybe more. Doing things, going to meetings, sitting around the office, talking to people, going out to lunch. That yes was good for collaboration. Yes was good for teamwork. Yes was good for communication. But a lot of it was wasted time. And so what the four day work week does. If you look at the companies that are doing this and we have a whole tool set for you and we'll be happy to talk you through it as a company is it is a way to reduce wasted time. Allow people to be more clear on who's accountable for what. Jettison work that is not producing value or perhaps just getting in the way. And be clearer with people about their outcomes and their performance and their productivity. And the reason it has such high outcomes is that people feel better when they know they're getting something done, when they have free time. And the less time you have, the more focus you get on your work. In fact, there's an interesting study that's discussed in the report called the Parkinson's concept, that the more time you have, the less you will get done and work will fill the time you have. So if you work six days a week, you'll get the same work amount of work done in six days than you would have in four days. And that's just human nature. And for those of us that are productivity hacks, which most of us are, the best way to improve productivity is to shorten the amount of time you have. Because all of a sudden you find yourself much more urgently focused on the task at hand and you force yourself to prioritize what's important and what's you know, one of the things that often comes up in the discussions of this kind of activity is meetings. And there have been millions of books and lots of planners and tools and YouTube videos on meetings. We have too many meetings. There's no reason to have a meeting anymore that you don't need to be at if you're there just to listen, because the meeting can be recorded. And what we now do in our company is we record every meeting. And if people are with clients or they're doing other work and they can't come to the meeting and they don't need to be involved in the decisions made at that meeting, they just listen to the replay and they've totally caught up. So there's lots of tools that can enable you to shorten meetings, reduce the number of meetings and save time to adopt this approach. Another example of something that I think is a productivity hack is weekly one on ones. I stopped having weekly one on ones years ago. I know a lot of people do this, and a lot of people like it. My attitude has always been, if you want to talk to me, just call me or send me a message. I'll talk to you immediately. I don't need to wait for a 1 hour meeting once a week. Maybe we don't need an hour. Maybe we need five minutes. Maybe we need to talk three times during the week, not once per week. That's a waste of time. If you think about a manager who has five to ten drug reports, that's a day or more a week, just in those discussions, that may not be worth their time. So there's lots of examples of how you can do this. Now, if you're an hourly worker, if you work in a store, if you work in a hospital, if you work in a manufacturing plant, it's not going to be as easy. And so the typical four day week implementations are much more white collar oriented jobs. But you'll be surprised when you look at this approach, how it can improve the productivity of your company. Now, the second topic relative to the four day week is the demands from the workforce itself. If you look at the article I posted on our website on Wednesday, there's a couple of sort of interesting, kind of comedic videos there of people talking about quiet quitting, lazy girl jobs, the bore out things that are coming as memes through the internet from young people about the fact that they don't want to live in the life that we created in the 1960s and the 1970s. They want to live a life where they have more external activities. They have time to walk their dog, they have time to do yoga, and they learned a lot of this through the pandemic and through their own upbringing. Being born in a year, in years when we had a lot of technology and a lot of connectivity, and this is really becoming an issue of hiring, recruiting, retention, and employment. Brand I'm going to point to a link in the podcast of some research that just came out in the Wall Street Journal come from qualtrics that a lot of younger workers are not necessarily as ambitious as we were as baby boomers. And I don't think that's because they're not ambitious. I think it's because they have a larger or longer time frame. For those of you that are my age, you were born into a society where your career was roughly 30 to 35 years long, and there was a timeline in your career. And most of us felt that if we weren't getting promoted within the first five to ten years of our career, we had fallen behind and we couldn't catch up. And therefore we were on this treadmill to do more and outperform and overperform from the minute we started to work. So working extra hours, coming in on weekends, taking work home, whatever it may be, was very, very common. It is almost half as prevalent now amongst Gen Z workers and even millennials for many reasons. But I think one of the reasons is they see a much longer runway. Young people entering the workforce today are going to live into their hundreds. They're going to have careers that span 60 to 70 years. They don't need to rush to get promoted. Of course if you want to live your life like that you certainly can. You can go work for an investment bank or aspire to get promoted very very quickly but you don't need to. And so this idea of being more productive and giving people more flexibility is very, very important to younger workers. And I think if you look at those memes they might sound silly to you if you're my age but look at the number of people that have watched those videos. 10 million people have watched several of the videos that I put in there. Now there's 160,000,000 working people in the United States. If 10 million people are watching that video that is a significant percentage of the workforce that is thinking about the fact that they want flexibility, they need more time and maybe the four day work week works for them. So what else have we learned? Well, the most important thing that I think the research points out this is not an HR policy. This is an initiative. This is a corporate initiative. A corporate initiative to save time, reduce wasted energy on projects and meetings and activities that are not core to the company's mission and to give people autonomy and a sense of agency in their job. I think one of the reasons a lot of us spent our time in the office as young people is we felt we had no choice. We felt we were going to be held accountable if we didn't show up. We thought it was going to look bad. We wanted our boss to be impressed by how many hours we were there, how early we got in, how energetic we were and so forth. That is a sign of an old fashioned industrial oriented labor situation at work. If we think about employees as empowered individuals with the training and skills and support to do their jobs as they see fit. Using the idea of job crafting where an individual takes the responsibility and executes it in the form that they think is best without being micromanaged, then a four day week or a more flexible schedule where we reduce the number of hours people spend per week is a great idea. And by the way, what you're going to find if you watch the videos and talk to the people in your company is you have people right now who are highly productive, who probably are working a four day week, but they're not telling you they're leaving early, they're doing other things at home, and they're getting their work done just fine. In our company, where virtually everybody is remote or work from home, we have one of the highest levels of productivity that I have ever seen in any organization I've worked in. And we don't tell people to work on weekends. If they decide to work on weekends, that's completely up to them. But we don't send emails, we don't have meetings, we don't work off hours. Very, very unusual that we do that because we know people are going to be productive in their own unique way and we give them whatever tools they need. I can't tell you exactly how many hours people work in our company, but I think there are days and weeks when people don't work many hours because they know they can get their work done quickly and they've been given the flexibility to manage their time the best that they can. And of course, you all know that we all have personal lives. We have kids, we have pets, we have gardens to take care of, elder, parents, exercise, variety of things we want to do with our outside lives. When we give people the flexibility to do those things, they come to work more energetic, more productive, more engaged, more know. There's a very interesting study that I saw very many years ago that was done in Germany where they actually looked at the output of many, many manufacturing plants of small companies. In Germany, by the way, we just went through this exact exercise with Panasonic and they looked at the number of widgets, whatever the product was delivered per hour of labor based on the number of hours people work. And what they found is the peak productivity was right around 30 to 32 hours per week. Above that, 40, 50, 60 hours per week, the productivity of a manufacturing professional or manufacturing engineer or manufacturing person actually declines per hour or per widget. And that means that when people are working extra hours, you're not getting more necessarily getting more work out of them. You might be getting more flexibility on your customers, but you're actually producing less output per person. Now, as you look through the research, some of the companies that did this are in the service business and so they have to change schedules and they have to decide who's going to take Fridays, who's going to take Mondays, and so forth. But those are actually great projects to do because you have the opportunity to look at the workload and balance workload more fairly as opposed to having lots of people available for customer service or patients or retail workers. When there isn't enough to you know, one of my favorite books I've ever read is called the Good Jobs Book by a professor at MIT. And she studied the activity in retailers and what happens when retail workers have less to do. In other words, more free time. And she found that what they basically do when they have less to do is they improve their skills, they clean up the store, they take care of things that don't get taken care of when we're frantically busy. So focusing on productivity and outcomes and being clear on who's responsible for what, reducing the number of meetings, scheduling carefully so we know who's responsible for customer service, at what point in time, those are all good business things to do, whether you have a four day work week or a five day work week. So think about this initiative as a new way of operating your company. Now, I'm not going to say that everybody's going to go to a four day week, definitely not. But I want you to just realize that this is not a benefit. This is a work improvement process. And ultimately, if you do a good job of productivity enhancement, if you take advantage of AI and all of the other fantastic technologies that we now have, you're going to find a four day week isn't really that difficult or that unusual for a lot of the people in your organization. Please call us if you'd like to talk more about this, where you have lots of case studies, a tool set, and be happy to work this through with you in your particular organization. Thanks a lot. [00:17:27] Close, close.

Other Episodes

Episode 0

December 01, 2021 00:19:30
Episode Cover

The Creator Economy In Corporate Learning: About Udemy, 360 Learning, Articulate, And More.

In this podcast I explain why vendors like Udemy, Articulate, 360 Learning, Fuse Universal, and other “creator tools” are growing at a breathtaking rate...

Listen

Episode 0

April 11, 2024 00:11:12
Episode Cover

Yes, AI Is Even Smarter And More Disruptive Than We Thought

Is Google’s search monopoly over? In this podcast I give you some striking insights we’ve learned from our Galileo rollout, and explain how AI...

Listen

Episode 0

September 30, 2023 00:19:26
Episode Cover

Big AI Announcements From Workday, SuccessFactors, and LinkedIn

This week and next we're going to see some big news from the three biggest companies in HR Technology. In this podcast I explain...

Listen