Why I'm Shifting to a Four-Day Workweek This Summer
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I’ve always been a fan of closing the office early on Fridays. In fact, my employees have been ending their days at 3 p.m. on Fridays for the past few years. So the decision to close the office on Fridays was by no means a 180° in my thinking as the CEO of inkWELL Press. If anything, I’ve been intentionally stepping into this workweek model over the years.
Speaking through the lens of a productivity expert, I’m a firm believer that employees can be just as productive (or maybe even more productive!) in four days than in five.
One silver lining the past few months have brought my business and team is clarity — a better understanding as to what is truly important in both our personal and professional lives. We’ve reengaged with the company’s core values, and it's allowed my team to let go of anything extra that does not align with our company mission and vision.
This renewed focus has resulted in an increase in effective, valuable work from my team. And in the wake of all the pain the country is experiencing right now, it became a no-brainer for me to move our team to a four-day workweek. That is, what possible negative could come from gifting my team their Fridays?
Now, I realize this is not a perk all businesses can offer — particularly those who make up our front line and essential workers right now. But if you can, what’s stopping you from doing this for your team?
Marrying Parkinson’s Law with the Pareto Principle
You see, I live by the principle that we have the power to bend and stretch time. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." More simply put, if an individual knows he or she has five days to complete his or her work for the week, the work will stretch out to fit into those five days. If that same individual is told he or she has four days to complete his or her work for the week, it’s been proven that the same amount of work will get done … just faster.
A deadline — even if it is an internal deadline set by you — will push you forward and motivate you to complete a task. Having one less day to complete the task just means you need to hone your focus. I help my team do this by subscribing to the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle — also known as the 80/20 rule or the law of the vital few — states that roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. That means your company’s bottom line can be directly attributed to 20 percent of your employees’ efforts. Figuring out your 20 percent is where the magic lies. I like to meet with my team every Monday morning to plan out the week ahead and make sure their focus is zeroed in on those priorities. That way, the four days they are working are not spent on extraneous efforts that don’t align with the company’s north star.
Why you don’t need as much time as you think
This is one of my favorite topics because as I’ve already mentioned, I believe we have the power to bend and stretch our time. Here are a few tips on how to get more time in your week:
- See yourself as a priority. When we say, “I’m too busy,” we are often not only talking about our own tasks and priorities, but also talking about everyone else's. We often take things that are important to other people and bump them to the top of our own list, in front of our own priorities. Every time you say yes, you’re saying no to something else. Before you're tempted to say yes to make other people happy, figure out where that hidden no is. Is this task going to take away time from things you truly want to do (i.e. take Friday off)?
- Find the small pockets of time and claim them. We all have these tiny little pockets within our day — 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. These little tiny pockets are undervalued. We think they're too small to make any real gains, but these little scraps add up. Use these tiny little pockets of time to take little steps to get you closer to your goals. We get this idea inside our minds that we have to take continuous giant leaps in order to accomplish our goals, but really it's just these small steps adding up over time.
- Give yourself containers of time. When you're sitting down and planning what you want to do each day, designate 30 or more minutes of uninterrupted time to solely focus on deep work. Block it into your schedule. Choose a time when you have good energy and a time you can really give all of your thoughts toward your goal. Treat it like an appointment. Schedule in a 15-minute fun break right afterward. When we give ourselves this reward for doing the work, it reinforces our brain to want to do it again and create a habit.
Customers love when you stick to your values
Thus far my customers’ response to the office being closed on Fridays has been overwhelmingly positive. One thing I did to ensure this response was give them the “why” behind my decision. Every Friday I set up an automatic email response to our customers and clients that explains one of inkWELL Press Productivity Co.’s core values is family. As such, I’ve made the decision to give my employees Fridays off so they can focus on their family.
Any decision you make for your business should align with your core values. If it does, your customers and clients will respect you for it. And if they don’t, ask yourself if they are an ideal customer. Focusing in on those ideal customers (the 20 percent we talked about above in regard to Pareto’s Principle) is what will actually allow you to scale and grow while working less.
Whether or not you end up giving your team Summer Fridays, I hope this article will help you take ownership of your time. The fact of the matter is, there is no “good” time to take a day off. If it’s not a busy season, then we’re preparing for a busy season, right? But especially now, you need to prioritize your happiness and mental health and make it happen. I promise your productivity and work output will not suffer.