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How to Successfully Implement a 4-Day Workweek Even if You're a Fast-Growing Startup

The notion of a four-day workweek is picking up steam, but making this kind of schedule work for a lean, fast-growing startup can be tricky. Here are a few practical steps to implement a shorter week without negatively impacting productivity or your business goals.

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After a year-and-a-half of pandemonium in the workplace, the Great Resignation is in full force, as droves of employees are voting with their feet in search of more pay, greater flexibility and better benefits. A record 4.5 million people left their jobs in November, according to Joblist’s U.S. Job Market Report 2022 Trends. And there is no slowdown in sight as nearly 70 percent of all employed workers are planning on quitting their job in 2022.

With that in mind, employers are rethinking policies and benefits for this new future of work. Although people have been talking about the four-day workweek for awhile — and closely following trials across the globe in places like Ireland, Spain, Japan and Scotland — 2022 shows signs of being the year it actually takes off in a real way. But if you're leading a fast-growing startup, is this actually feasible? Can you keep up the pace and productivity your customers, investors and other key stakeholders expect while cutting hours? Turns out, lots of evidence shows you can. It just takes planning, communication, flexibility and a few other considerations. Here are a few key steps to making it work. 

Regular internal communication is key

Create an ideal model for a four-day workweek supported with a detailed communications plan that announces upcoming changes. Arm managers and leaders with a thorough Q&A and regular discussion points with employees so they are confident and clear on how schedules for individuals and teams will be impacted at every organizational level. How will this affect business hours on work days? Will PTO plans be affected? With such a big change, more (communication) is better.

Related: Why I'm Shifting to a Four-Day Workweek This Summer

Inform clients, customers and other external stakeholders

Notify your community of clients, customers, partners and the like to reduce potential confusion and frustration around the change. Ensure your stakeholders know when employees are reachable, and have a backup plan with second and tertiary points of contacts so that there is never a lull in communication or slow response times. Manage client expectations from the start by explaining the change, and pull the thread on how a four-day workweek supports your company’s vision and values. Reassure them that this change will not impact the quality of work or the service you provide to them as a trusted partner.

Aligning schedules is critical

Emphasize that employees are responsible for making the necessary changes to their calendars in coordination with their team. Collaboration and communication are key so that everyone is aligned on deliverables, actions and schedules. Employees should also be encouraged to set hard stops for themselves at reasonable times.

Related: Working from Home Is Leading to Record Levels of Burnout. Is a 4-Day Work Week the Fix?

Provide a communications playbook

Outline definitions for meetings, emails and instant messages to increase the effectiveness of operations. Encourage employees to consider the necessity of regular meetings. Provide best practices for using email versus instant messages. Make available communication guidelines that can help people stay on task, free up calendars and streamline workflows.

Define default meeting times and set an agenda

Consider evaluating all recurring meetings, and try changing 45-minute calls to 30 minutes. Require that all meetings have an agenda, and encourage the use of brainstorming models that bring greater focus to an otherwise creative process. Go further than encouraging employees to be efficient with their schedules, operationalize it with policies that leverage technology.

Related: What Are the Real Consequences of a 4-Hour Workweek?

Write a standard OOO message for employees

Ask your communications or marketing team to craft a standard out of office message that the rest of the company can use. Include messaging about the four-day workweek and a reason for its implementation. Here is an example: “Thank you for your email! In an effort to promote our wellbeing and honor a better work-life balance, we are piloting a four-day workweek to all employees. I am out of office today, but I will reply as soon as possible.”

Constantly assess efficacy

Ensure teams perform to their key performance indicators, and regularly check in with managers and employees to get feedback on the new workweek. Start with a four-day workweek trial over a defined amount of time, and empower managers and employees to make the changes they need to give this approach the best shot at success.

The four-day workweek might not be suitable for every organization, but employees might be more motivated to come up with new ways to be efficient than ever before. If a reduced workweek is something the majority wanted to begin with, it’s in their best interest to collaborate, ideate and engage so that it becomes the norm and a welcome relief to the chaos that has otherwise ensued.

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