Jan. 30, 2023

From Fantasy to Reality: The 4-Day Work Week

From Fantasy to Reality: The 4-Day Work Week

This week, we discuss the results of recent 4-day work week pilots and examine the benefits and challenges of reducing the traditional work week to four days, including increased productivity, better work-life balance, and reduced burnout.

This week, we explore the growing trend of reducing the traditional work week to just four days. We discuss the benefits of a 4-day work week for both employers and employees, including increased productivity, better work-life balance, and reduced burnout. We also examine the challenges of implementing a 4-day work week, including scenarios that make a condensed schedule more difficult for some job roles than others. Through expert anecdotes and case studies, listeners will gain a better understanding of the potential of a 4-day work week and whether it could become a reality for more businesses in the future.

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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines. The problems they face, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took that will help you to get to the scripts with a digital workspace inner workings.

Heather Bicknell 0:30
I'm doing just okay, this morning, had some bad insomnia last night. So do what I can to bring the energy but I'm running on not a lot of sleep. How are you?

Ryan Purvis 0:44
Yeah, not too bad. Don't don't have that problem, per se. I've damaged my shoulder somehow. So my left shoulder which is the shoulder normally sleep on. So I wouldn't say I had insomnia. I just every time I rolled over, while I was sleeping onto my shoulder, I would wake up and go, that's not a good idea. But I you know, I'm very glad to be in South Africa, because I went and saw a doctor this morning. They pumped me full of painkillers. And I'm gonna go for sonar this week. So yeah, productive care. Has has engaged hoping to be covered by by the weekend.

Heather Bicknell 1:24
Yeah, fingers crossed. Sure. Well, what a day, I think this actually is sort of a good segue into what we chatted about covering today, which is an update on the four day workweek, which there's been a pilot that has been concluded, I was across a few countries, US, Ireland, with a few dozen companies, a few 100 employees, and their results were super positive. And then there's the larger 3000, employee group size UK study, as well, that is wrapping up now. And then more results to come from that one in February. But both studies seemed incredibly positive so far. The first one, all companies involved said they'd continued to do it 97% of employees who participated were positive on it. And similarly, the larger UK one, results are coming back super positive as well, I think something the high 80s of companies said that they would be continuing the practice. And one of the benefits that they pointed to is actually employee health things like sleeping better, because you know, all the habits you can fit into another day, or the mental relief of having one. So four day work week it seems to work

Ryan Purvis 3:05
well, then it makes sense that I mean, I'd love to find the person that decided that we had to work five days and take five days of work in in two days off, whenever that came about, and slap him in the back of their head. And go, what are you thinking. Because, you know, without even having to, you know, without having to do the science, it's just logical that you, it's not so much about productivity, but it's energy management. And you can't bring at least you know, maybe you can when you're youngster. But but the older that you get you got you can't keep bringing the same amount of energy every day. You know, relentlessly, you need time to think and you need time to explore other things. It's just natural. And it's, it's someone said it to me, I think one of the CIOs that I spoke to, that all technology has done right now is enabled us to be more saturated with busy work. And if you think about the back to back meetings, and because now you don't have to meet somebody, you could just do meeting after meeting after meeting, you don't actually have space to do any work, or take the time off. We talked about, you know, various techniques to mitigate that. It does make sense that we almost need to break the cycle with something else and four days a week of working and I think you can practice that without actually even having your company. This gives you the fourth or the fifth day off by not any meetings on a day. And using that as a day just to do just connect and do some stuff with that stuff is

Heather Bicknell 4:52
it's funny that you say that because one of the points that's been the sort of the history here is that The five day workweek is basically a century old concept, we used to have a six day workweek. And then Henry Ford with the, you know, be in efficiencies, that he was sort of pioneering with the assembly line. Basically, to get more out of workers. He proposed a five day work week and they move down to it. And, you know, we've we've done this before, basically, we reduced the days because what they found was that people were actually more productive when they were there. So it was a net benefit. It wasn't even trying to, you know, just be it was actually profit it was it made economic sense, profitable sense for the companies to, to make that switch. So, I think you hit the nail on the head that we have all this technology now. And really, at the core of it, if you think about it, you know, we're human beings with one life to live and time is our most precious resource. And we have this technology now, that should be bettering our lives, and enabling us to do things like work class and do more of what we enjoy. So the fact that we haven't made that much progress, despite the rapid advancements in technology, yet, it's not just about productivity and effectiveness, because again, all of these studies, from the four day workweek, so far have shown either similar productivity results, or actually improvements when shrinking people's schedules.

Ryan Purvis 6:48
I mean, if you look at the way that technology has made things more continuously available, if you go back, and I was talking to my White House, and I mentioned it was, but let's say he's in his late 70s, chairman of a board of a company, and, you know, he sees himself as tech savvy, but he was telling me about, like, when he started, you know, we were playing golf, and he, he was telling me about the first time he came to South Africa, you know, he was 21, just finished his his degree, came out of the UK took a boat down here, took three weeks to get here. And then he travelled around the country for two years for one year ended up spending two, as an engineer, doing all sorts of stuff. And he said, You know, I was using pen and paper, and, you know, I was, my reports had to be typed, and, you know, typing on electric typer type, right, it was a huge advantage. And, you know, he remembers having a team of typers, sitting in a room writing reports. And, you know, having to submit his report and having to submit it by a certain date, not because it was the deadline. But it was the deadline for to get on the ship to get back to the UK, to meet his other deadline. Now, you fast forward to now, you know, if you say you're going to send an email by 12 o'clock, and you haven't seen about 12 o'clock, you know, someone's going to phone, you'd say, Hey, wheres that email, you said, you'd send at 12o clock, because it should be, you know, instantaneous. And that's a good thing and a bad thing. But it does create this anxiety. And I think this is what, what covid was good for a lot of people that actually stop it, maybe we will stop for a second and go, hang on. I don't if I want to do this anymore. So not necessarily great resignation, but the great contemplation and then doing the right things. And I think the resistance to going back to the office is not so much going back to the office. But going back to the old patterns of, you know, nine to five, factory mindset be in the office be available. And I'm not saying people shouldn't work five or six days a week, if you want to know that that's entirely up to you and your personal circumstances and what you're working on and all that sort of stuff. I think, you know, I love working. It's one of my, you know, my wife hates it, because we've got a holiday, I'd be like, Well, I've relaxed now for two days, you know, I want to go and do some work. So yeah, but you gotta spend time with the kids. And listen, I've bought the kids that beat the kid that some of the kids in the morning, I've done all that stuff. You know, they want to go do their thing. I want to go to work. That's what I want to go do. So there's people like that. But I think when it's when it's mandated, I think this is where they were this fall for their work week provides more flexibility. It's mandated to be in the office nine to five, five days a week. And now I can shift to a four day we can use inverted commas where you're now not necessarily mandated to be available. Those things which are results orientated. Now they're obviously going to be jobs where you got to be available to people in an acceptable timeframe like a doctor or lawyer or whatever. But you know, if you think about again, coming into technology, if you've got the sort of work phone, personal phone divide, you can be available in your work phone 24/7 days a week if you want, or you can set schedules to be available. I think we talked about my CTO as a service thing where if you can hire me at different levels, and in different levels, you can get different access accessibility to me. And then that was based on an example, I saw someone saying, if you, if you pay this much, you can find me 24/7. If you pay me this much, which is a lot less, you only get allowed 60 minutes a month or something. For phone calls, you know, those sorts of things. And I think this is what it was opening up to now, what I'm trying to get to in a long winded way is, each person has that should have that choice to say, Well, I'm prepared to work while I sort out x y z. And if I deliver those things in three days, or two days, or four days, or whatever it is, and I don't want to work on the fifth day, or I want to spend the fifth day doing something else, I should be able to do that without sacrificing the salary that I would have gotten if I'd worked five days. And then the reason why this is such a fundamentally different mindset is, this law will tell you that you'll expand the amount of work you're going to do to the amount of time you've got. So when you cut it back to four days, you still get the same amount of work done. In fact, you'll get more done initially, because you're so worried about over running into your fifth day, because you don't want to ruin your fifth day. And obviously, over time, you'll get to a point where you're not doing the same amount of work you would have done in five days and four days. But without that stress of i better get this done or else, you can overflow into the fifth day if you need to. But at the same token, you can, you know, that's that's, that's been an adult and deciding on, you know, how to manage your time to deliver your results, where I think it becomes challenging is in leadership roles or roles where there's always a file drawer, and you're now at five o'clock on a Thursday supposed to be going off? You know, because now Friday is your day. And now there's an emergency and you're going to be involved. You know, how do you choose? Do you hold fast to a boundary? Or you'd say, well, this is the exception. And you know, there's an exception to every rule. And then it's up to some sort of matrix to say, well go in these conditions, I'll be available on the fifth day. But usually, I'm going to be on the golf course or I'm going to be doing a new skill, or whatever it is, wherever training every Friday, that sort of thing.

Heather Bicknell 12:22
I watched a video of Adam Grant addressing room of CEOs on this topic and sort of his tongue in cheek pitch of the four day workweek to them was that if your employees work four days a week, then maybe you can reduce your days you work to five or six. So hopefully there's some knock on benefit. But yeah, I think you're right, there's always there's going to be exceptions, there's going to be different roles and different levels within an organisation that will need to be more always on and you know, in theory are getting compensated for sort of having to deal with that kind of I mean, they they do get compensated for have a well, executive level for dealing with that additional stress and always on and the lifestyle like that's kind of part of what you sign up for if you the more you climb the food chain. But I think the the really crux of the issue of the four day workweek or the 32 Hour Workweek, which is a different way to be thinking about it spreading out those hours. I think you're right around the, the appeal of this is very similar to remote flexible work, which is that, that that flexibility with your time and the opportunities that opens up for even things like child care and elder care and, you know, just making life work easier, because you have that. Yeah, that flexibility. My brain is breaking a little bit because of the the insomnia

Ryan Purvis 14:07
Very important stuff that I mean. And that is the point is that, you know, if you look at the childcare costs in the UK, Australia, in fact, I was talking to my my son's teacher yesterday. She's Australian, she married an South African they went back to Australia with the intention of living there. And they had a third kid, which was unplanned, just said it's just she could they couldn't afford it. There was just just no way and the only way to to live there it was for her not to work and her husband to work full time plus, you know, another job, you know, some sort of other other income. And, you know, we we weren't seeing the same thing personally in the UK but we know that in the UK where, you know people are struggling with the cost of childcare and a woman typically are working part time, in a job, they work in sort of three days a week, and then you know, two days they are looking off the kids and stuff. And there's sort of four, and then they take it, obviously pro rata pay for that. So they're losing two of the five days a week to do that. Now, in this scenario, they'll be getting one day back, we're not changing the lifestyle too much. And if you dropped it to the case, to three days a week, they may, they're only losing a 10th, as opposed to a 20th of the original salary, which will make a huge difference. And you know, that that feeds into to the future of a country where that extra 10% of income will live will be used for the child more what sort of input stimulation but more opportunities, because there's this funding there. And what's happening now, moment is because everyone's been forced into this five day mindset, it's, it doesn't work out that way, it becomes quite a big drop to go down to three days a week. And the reality is a lot of these, these woman and I said, because most of whom I've spoken to are doing this guys don't do it. Typically, it's like one in 10 versus, you know, seven in 10. Pay in comparison, you know, they've got the time, once the kids are asleep, and once the kids are past a certain point, they're napping, or they've got time to work, but then they don't do the work. Because they're not being paid for that work. And they've already done the household stuff and all the rest of it, they would have been they do anyway. So you're kind of missing an opportunity here to give people that want to work, the opportunity to do it, again, as enabled, that, you know, these these are people that carrying a cell phone that they can do a lot of their work on. And I think this is the other thing where technology could enable this all day, or results orientated work, because some of the work you actually do is information moving, you know, it's it's making a phone call, or sending an email, it's writing a report, it's, you know, all these things you can do on your phone. I mean, I've written plenty, I'm sure you have, like, long emails, explaining what needs to happen with something in these guys, when you get home, you take the email and you convert that into the PowerPoint, you're going to do that you've used the time wisely, because the technologies allows you to use it wisely. And if you look at where and I know we were going to try use chat GPT to, to help us to come up with topics and stuff. But if you look at how that has changed things just in a couple of weeks, or so many people where they're just writing a structured paragraph to this AI, there's taking that and it's doing something with it and giving you back a product that you can just tailor. I mean, I was talking to someone yesterday who built a full application is gone into production 95%, that application was built by Chat GPT 5% by him. And he had to move two buttons around and two text boxes to finish it. And it's gone into production, that would have taken him in his mind probably two, three, maybe four weeks to write to test it all the rest of it. You know that that's a further enable we're now if he was sitting in the office without chat GPT and spending the whole time building that thing, versus being clever and using the tools available to him and not doing an antiquated thing. Now does he get should he get the three weeks back? Should he be allowed to just go do three weeks of whatever hell he likes, because he's used the tools and technology such to deliver something. Or now that he's got something out the way he can go to the next thing. But he's using his time, smartly or intelligently? Whatever you want to call it.

Heather Bicknell 18:32
Yeah, it's not incentivizing efficiency. And I think that's a very interesting point, you brought up on the intersection of tools like chat GTP, that do have the potential to unlock sort of a whole new level of efficiency, productivity from using technology in a in a new way. That, you know, the more we leverage things like that, and don't adjust any working practices around it. It does create, yeah, either you're just incentivizing employees to use tools in the most effective way, or just continuing to increase productivity at an exponential rate and get more and more and more and more done. Yeah.

Ryan Purvis 19:21
I mean, yeah, go and makes us all practices, you know, presenteeism, the amount of people that are still joined, or you have like 11/13 people on the call, and three people are just talking. That's like what the rest of you here for. Once somebody's learning anything by listening, you're probably all doing your own email or whatever you do, but to be present on the call. So they look like they're doing something inverted commas. So there's your 5th day easily, because there's plenty people that just join calls and sacred during the call that could get the transcript, again generated by AI. And I mean, there's there's some great tools out there and I'm trying to think of the one that thinks filament, I think it's filament that you just you include that in the meeting invite. And it's, and it takes all the actions down out of the call for you and send you an email afterwards. And that's been around for ages, you know, two years, I think, three years, you know, when you start looking at the amount of time that's wasted, and I think this is, again, where technology can be helpful, and I'm not going down the necessarily Black Ops, you know, what do you do on your screen all day long. But, you know, if you're at a call for five minutes, and you're looking at value, he just said, Look, guys, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna leave, I can't, I mean, nothing to add here so bye. And then the AI would pick up all the platform and pick up that you've left and send you the summary of the meeting, because you are an attendee, so you get the summary. And any actions that if there was something that was relevant, then you can still follow up and get involved in all the actions because you weren't there. But that's, you know, one of those things, but, but that's, uh, that gives you back there that 5th day without a doubt. And, and, you know, the way that some of these tools teams and slack and all that are, have been evolved, they're becoming more and more asynchronous. And I think this is where the value really comes in. It's been asynchronous, because that four days, as you said, it's 32 hours spread across the week, is it's spread across, five days, four days, seven days, six days, I think it's up to you. As long as as long as it makes sense for the business. I mean, obviously, if you're in a support desk, like a shift world, which overlaps and all that kind of stuff you need to be available and that sort of thing, then then that needs to be an unknown quantity, I think you can just go off and do your own thing. I think it needs to be transparent. But as long as people like, you know that you're going to, you're going to check if they see an email on Monday, you'll get a response, but at least within 24 hours, that you read the email or whatever it is, then that's probably fine. It's like a little bit of ground rules, or just engagement, whatever it is, I think technology can help with that. And I think it's just the more we can produce the overload, the better the quality of what work is outputted. And having time to think about stuff and not be distracted by you know, 16 teams messages that have been popping through while we've been talking, the better reminds me I need to turn off my team's notifications.

Heather Bicknell 22:16
Well, very well said, and unfortunately, I need to run to my next thing. But um, yeah, it seems well, I think we should definitely revisit this topic again in February when the results from that bigger UK study come out and just keep talking about it. Because I think there's opportunity here for this to be really the next big sea change in in how we work

Ryan Purvis 22:39
without a doubt. And one last thing. And I think that's where where the gig economy will come into it, then you've seen it with freelancers you've seen it with, with someone that can do some a closing point, you're seeing that some countries now, Dubai has offered a freelancer visa, if you can prove that you earn 4000 euros a month or something. You can come live in Dubai for five years. And there's a lot of countries doing that probably about 20 or 30. Think South Africans got one as well. Now. Where it gives you a work permit for a period of time to come in and work and they don't they don't care as a country, what your working patterns are. But that would put you do do by doing that, as you bring in people earning foreign currency, which stimulates the economy, then and it's an it's a, you know, I think it's a powerful thing. In order to add immigrants make seven times more money for a country than then than the natural person. See what it returns which is an interesting point of view.

Heather Bicknell 23:37
Yeah, that's Yeah. Another interesting point, I think there's so much to, to keep digging into on this topic. And we can revisit more again, around those, you know, the benefits that we're seeing both to in the employee and the employer. And then yeah, thinking about the larger systems at play. Good stuff.

Ryan Purvis 23:59
Cool. Thanks for that. We'll talk to you soon.

Thank you for listening to today's episode. And the big news, our producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. For your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW W podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www.digitalworkspace.works. Please also visit our website www.digitalworkspace.works. and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

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