We’ve been following the UK trial of a 4-day working week with interest here at BrandPointZero, because anything that impacts organisational culture and gives businesses new ways to attract and retain great talent is very much our Employer Brand jam.

The results are now in, and they’re overwhelmingly positive – of the 61 businesses that took part in the six-month trial, over 90% have opted to continue with a 4-day/32 hour week for their employees beyond the trial period, with no reduction in their previous pay. Good news, and the first step towards the UK becoming less wedded to the Monday-Friday 40-hour contract, which has been the norm for over a hundred years and is arguably no longer fit for purpose.

As a Strategist, it got me thinking about goals and strategies – is a 4-day week the goal in this scenario, or just one path your organisation could follow? And if so, what’s the ultimate objective?

It is, of course, about hitting your business targets whilst maintaining a high level of employee happiness and wellbeing, which in turn comes with a whole raft of other benefits, like higher attraction and lower attrition and absence. Many of the businesses in the study reported that they not only maintained their profits on fewer hours, but actually increased them. So it turns out that profits are linked to productivity rather than hours worked, which anyone who does a full-time job in four days by choice (myself included) knew already.

What was most interesting for us about the study was learning about the steps the participating businesses took to prepare for shifting to a 4-day week. You can’t just take a 40-hour culture and squash it into 32 hours; you have to make changes to help employees be more productive.

Which begs the question, why wouldn’t ALL organisations want to make these changes, if we know it increases employee happiness and productivity? A 4-day week might not be the goal for your business just yet (or indeed ever, it doesn’t work for everyone), but there are still plenty of things organisations can do to foster a culture of happier, less stressed employees, whilst laying the foundations for potential future change. Here are four focus areas to consider:

  • I can’t fight this admin any more. How much of your employees’ time is spent on admin unrelated to their unique skillset? Spoiler alert: it’s a LOT – for the average office-based workers, it can be as much as a third of their working hours. Reducing admin can be about digital tools and templates or simply better communication and sharing so your people aren’t continually reinventing the wheel. Things like training people to organise, prioritise and delegate, and streamlining internal comms can all make a huge difference.
  • We must stop meeting like this. We work with a lots of organisations who have implemented initiatives to reduce the amount of time their people spend in unproductive meetings. At BrandPointZero, we start every meeting by asking two questions – ‘does everyone in this room need to be here?’, and ‘where do we want to be by the end of this meeting?’ We also rarely book meetings for more than half an hour – it encourages us to focus, and we can always review our progress at the end of the meeting and book a follow-up if it’s a meaty topic that needs a Round 2.
  • Your line manager will see you now. How much time is wasted in your organisation waiting for permission to do stuff? Empowering your people to make decisions has the added benefit of helping your people feel like they have autonomy, responsibility and influence. Clearly there need to be boundaries to avoid corporate anarchy, but removing red tape and streamlining the decision-making process gives everyone more time and keeps the wheels or your organisation turning.
  • Take your employees on the journey – it always surprises us how many employers implement significant change programmes without consulting their people, and then wonder why there are so many questions. Your employees experience these pressure points every day, so their perspective is hugely valuable to understand what will make the biggest difference. There’s almost certainly stuff that’s unique to your organisation that isn’t covered in these three buckets, but that absolutely nobody would miss if it disappeared. Ask questions, listen to your people, and formulate your productivity plan.

If you’re still not convinced that any of this will make a difference, here are some simple numbers:

  • Reducing admin by half an hour per day equates to 15 working days a year, assuming 260 working days a year less 30 days holiday.
  • Reducing meetings by one hour a day equates to 30 working days a year.
  • Saving an hour a week getting permission or approval to do stuff is another 6 working days.

You’ve probably already done the maths – that’s 51 days a year, or one day every week, give or take. But even if that saved day was spread out over the standard 5-days, think about the difference it would make to how your people FEEL. Less stress, more productivity, going home on time, having time to take a proper lunchbreak. Thinking about work less outside of working hours, enjoying holidays more, being healthier and happier. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place like that?

When you look at this list of initiatives objectively, it’s actually got nothing to do with a 4-day week. It’s a strategy for giving your people the space and time to do what they’re really good at, and helping them get the most out of their time at work. If hitting business targets and having a happy, positive people culture are your goals (and if not, why not?), we could all start planning more of these changes tomorrow. It is Friday, after all.