Use These 5 Strategies to Maintain Productivity When Switching To a 4-Day Workweek

Making the switch while maintaining — or even increasing — productivity requires first addressing these common time wasters

learn more about Tom Medema

By Tom Medema

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The four-day workweek offers many advantages to employers and employees, but reducing the work schedule without reducing productivity will require organizations to adopt new tools, processes and solutions.

According to a recent pilot conducted by 4 Day Workweek Global, the condensed schedule resulted in less burnout, higher job satisfaction and better mental and physical health. It's also proven to offer significant recruiting advantages. Most of the pilot's 30 participating companies have since made the change permanent.

However, many who fail to adequately prepare their teams before making the change face significant challenges. But there are ways to cut down on work time without cutting down on productivity. In fact, a 2022 study found that knowledge workers only spend a third of their time focussed on skilled work and 9% dedicated towards major strategic goals.

Switching to a four-day workweek while maintaining — or even increasing — productivity, therefore, requires first addressing the most significant time wasters. Fortunately, a range of tools and processes can enable employees to cut a full day's worth of waste out of their weekly schedules.

Related: You've Been Tracking Employee Productivity All Wrong

1. Focus on outcomes, not effort

So much of our work culture equates "busyness" with "effectiveness," but encouraging a culture that prizes "busyness" can reduce overall productivity. Rather than focus on how much time employees dedicated to a task, organizations should instead work with staff to set benchmarks related to specific outcomes on a realistic timeline and a mutually agreed upon measure of success.

That could include contributing their piece of a larger project before a certain deadline, drafting a budget in time for the next board meeting, or landing a certain number of sales per week. Whatever the task, it's essential to focus on what's accomplished, not how many hours it took.

2. Get more out of fewer (and shorter) meetings

Research has found that remote work has led to more and longer meetings, a trend that organizations will need to reverse to cut down on wasted time. Here are a few ways to reduce meeting time while keeping everyone in the loop.

  1. Always prepare and share an agenda in advance
  2. Limit meetings to 30 minutes or less
  3. Start meetings at odd times — such as 12:03 — and stick to those start and end times to reinforce a culture that values every minute
  4. Set the tone, context and expectations before the meeting begins, and share critical points after it ends, using asynchronous communication tools like email, Slack and Bubbles.
  5. When necessary, continue conversations over async alternatives to avoid extending meetings.

Related: Got Too Many Meetings? Here's How to Cut Back

3. Use tech tools to measure and optimize work hours

Finding more hours in the day is only possible when those hours are tracked and measured. That's why it's important for organizations to adopt project, time and task management tools before adopting a four-day workweek. Combined, these tools can help leaders benchmark time-saving activities and measure their progress towards shared goals, such as cutting down on meeting times and frequency by 20% across the board.

Related: 78% of Employers Are Using Remote Work Tools to Spy on You. Here's a More Effective (and Ethical) Approach to Tracking Employee Productivity.

4. Reduce distractions with async tools

When staff is engaging in their most productive "deep work," the last thing you want is for them to be distracted by the dings and buzzes of endless notifications. In fact, research has shown that even small interrupts can lead to anxiety and frustration and that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back on track.

That is why organizations looking to get more productivity out of less work time need to be vigilant in their effort to reduce unnecessary distractions at all costs. One of the most effective ways to do so is by relying less on real-time communications and instead adopting more asynchronous strategies. Tools designed to facilitate asynchronous communications, like Bubbles, allow team members to collaborate effectively without requiring them to be "always-on" and without pulling them out of their deep work with endless notifications.

Related: What If Your Productivity Tools Are Making You Less Productive?

5. Encourage a culture of productivity and time management

To optimize their staff member's time, organizational leaders need to acknowledge that the most disrupting distractions come from the top. While we might easily brush off a notification from a colleague, most will pull themselves away from the task at hand to respond to a message from leadership. Therefore, the strategies outlined above are only as effective as the leadership's willingness to adopt them.

Some of the ways leaders can "walk the walk" include:

  1. Adopt asynchronous work styles
  2. Avoid treating every task as urgent, and prioritize appropriately
  3. Avoid sending text, slack and email messages to colleagues that might distract them from deep work

The four-day workweek offers many advantages to employers and employees, but those benefits can only be achieved when workers are empowered to cut down on wasted time. Fortunately, there's a lot of room for improvement and a lot of new solutions designed to help employees maintain or even increase productivity while reducing overall work hours.

Tom Medema

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Bubbles

Tom is the Founder of Bubbles, one of the fastest-growing remote work tools in tech— with a quarter of a million users. As a former CTO, he scaled his last company's remote engineering team from 1 to 150 in under two years. Those growing pains led to Bubbles, an async video collaboration platform.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

American Airlines Sued After Teen Dies of Heart Attack Onboard Flight to Miami

Kevin Greenridge was traveling from Honduras to Miami on June 4, 2022, on AA Flight 614 when he went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious mid-flight.

Business News

Meta Employees Interrogate Mark Zuckerberg in Town Hall Meeting

The CEO fielded tough questions from rattled staffers at an all-hands meeting.

Business News

The 'Airbnbust' Proves the Wild West Days of Online Vacation Rentals Are Over

Airbnb recently reported that 2022 was its first profitable year ever. But the deluge of new listings foreshadowed an inevitable correction.