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Work Redesign and Productivity Tools Key to Four-Day Work Week

New research from the world’s most trusted human capital advisory firm, The Josh Bersin Company, undertaken in collaboration with Work Time Reduction Center of Excellence, shows that a four-day work week is now possible and can work well is CHROs and leadership teams take conscious steps to redesign work and ask employees to embrace productivity and time-saving techniques.  

Anticipating multiple benefits like increased productivity and reduced employee burnout, the four-day work week is an idea many organizations have been experimenting with in trials dating back to the 1970s. The study says that a new model has emerged that focuses on productivity and work redesign. The research points to three important innovations.  

  • measuring work through outcomes instead of more time-based metrics;  
  • introducing practices to boost employee focus and productivity; 
  • and leaders fostering a new approach to flexibility and employee autonomy.  

The research shows that these practices make the four-day work week into a powerful and practical model, one that not only boosts employee experience but also often increases overall company productivity.  

The findings show that true “work time reduction,” coupled with these practices, outperforms models with focus on condensing 40 hours of work into four days. Reduced hour work schedules for the same level of pay, when coupled with work redesign, is a much more powerful approach, the report finds.  

Josh Bersin Company experts analyzed nine mid-range organizations from across the world designing and running four-day experimentation. Benefits identified by participants can be found below.  

  • PRAXIS, a marketing agency in Toronto, Canada, reports a 26% increase in mental health, 42% increase in work-life balance, and 15% decrease in time spent on internal and admin tasks.  
  • The Ross Firm, a law firm in Ontario, Canada, exceeds its business targets and sees sick days nearly disappear.  
  • An environmental consultancy based in the U.K., Tyler Grange, reports a 22% increase in productivity, producing 109% of previous work outputs across four days.  
  • Inventium, a workplace consultancy in Australia, reports a 26% increase in productivity, a 21% increase in energy levels, and an 18% decrease in stress for employees.  
  • An affiliate marking organization in Europe, Awin, observes that 92% of staff report being more productive at work, 94% say work-life balance has improved, and the organization reports a 33% reduction in employee turnover.  

The Josh Bersin Company and expert collaborators find that what unites this first wave of successful four-day pioneers is a willingness to adopt a cultural shift towards continuous improvement, with a focus on performance, collective responsibility, communication, and accountability.  

The findings suggest that organizations with supportive and innovating cultures with strong norms of communication and trust are also best positioned to implement these changes successfully.  

Best practice tips on moving to a four-day work week are below.  

  • Reprioritize what’s urgent and let non-essential work fall away. Companies cannot transition to this new model without revisiting what’s most important. This starts with getting clear on business goals, assessing which work contributes to outcomes, clearly assigning accountability for each taks or project, and removing obstacles so employees can contribute most meaningfully.  
  • Allow employees to operate “top of license.” Enable people to focus on what they are most uniquely qualified for instead of being distracted by admin or meetings that get in the way.  
  • Understand each employee’s passion and career goals. High-performing companies take time to understand what each employee is uniquely good at, as well as passionate about, and allow them to spend most of their working time on those things. This hallmark approach of “dynamic organizations” enables each employee to “self-optimize” their time for optimum productivity in fewer days.  
  • Embrace asynchronous communication. When teams adopt a four-day working schedule where employees aren’t all off on the same day, asynchronous communication becomes essential. Project management tools can be helpful for project-specific communications, and employees can control their notification preferences easily. Defining new norms around how communication tools are used will also be important. Along with reducing live meetings, embrace written or recorded status updates, which allow employees to consume the information at a time that works for them.  
  • Empower employees to adopt their own productivity spaces. Some of the organizations involved in the study created a list of best practices around work habits, even offering training to employees. Others may leave it up to the individual to determine what works for them.  
  • Create a clear policy for action in emergency escalations. Identify urgent situations that typically need to be addressed quickly and define the expected response. While some escalations are inevitable, others may be avoidable, and defining what truly requires an escalation is important and can help to preserve employee focus during the workday, as well as employees’ days off if action can wait. Consider being very specific about what requires an escalation, including who should be brought in and when. 

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