How to Work the 4 Day Work Week

It's possible to be just as productive in less time.

Published: May 12, 2022

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Post-pandemic, more companies are offering a four-day work week in response to the Great Resignation and employees’ demands for benefits that combat burnout and improve work-life balance. 46% of HR leaders say that burnout is responsible for up to half of employee turnover, according to one study, and the four-day (or 32-hour) work week is an attractive incentive for many employees to stay.

What began as ‘summer Fridays’ in many industries, where the work day ends at lunch in the warm weather months, has now morphed into Fridays off in some sectors. 38 companies in North America are in an official pilot program, with others conducting their own experiments. “Companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, productivity-focused working is the vehicle to give them that competitive edge,” says Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global. 

Career experts say that the many benefits include lower stress levels and more time for exercise, family and friends, and sleep, as well as increased creativity, engagement, and, yes, productivity. Whether your company is toying with the four-day work week or you’re planning to make the case to your boss, it’s key to prove that your productivity won’t drop. Here’s how to get more done in less time. 

Career experts say that the many benefits of the four-day work week include lower stress levels and more time for exercise, family and friends, and sleep, as well as increased creativity, engagement, and, yes, productivity.

Track your time. 

“Working 32 hours instead of 40 forces people to focus on priorities and to work smarter,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Instead of jumping straight into a shortened work week, transition gradually, cutting 3-4 hours each week until you land at four days. During this period, track what you’re spending your time on each week and it’s likely that you’ll find a good amount of unproductive time to cut out: watercooler chats, long coffee breaks, scrolling social media, unnecessary meetings, etc.  

Remove distractions. 

Part of the reason so many time-wasters creep into our schedules is that we get interrupted constantly. Our phones, always inches away from our work computers, light up with notifications. People stop by our desks to say hi. While a certain amount of socialization at work is important, especially after Covid, you may need to hide out when it's time to focus. Find an empty conference room in a remote part of the office or post a sign on your door. Then, use your phone’s ‘Focus’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’ tool to temporarily silence all notifications. (Don’t worry—most smartphones have a setting to let the most important calls come through.) You’ll be amazed how much faster you work this way. 

Practice batch working. 

One study from the University of London found that multitasking reduces productivity by 44%, so try single-tasking to succeed within the four-day work week framework. Batch working is a method that groups similar functions together and allots only one or two hours to each task. This means you could, for example, block out Tuesdays to make all your sales calls and schedule all your meetings for Thursdays. The key is to "batch" it all so your mind is able to focus on one task instead of several. Perhaps most importantly for productivity, try batching emails a few times per day instead of responding to each one as it arrives.  

Use technology more wisely.

“Technology was supposed to create a world where people would work less and enjoy more leisure, yet tech has just created more work for most people,” Olson says. But there are ways technology can help you take control of your productivity. A simple calendar tool is one of the most effective ways to manage your time. Make sure that time to accomplish every item on your to-do list, or in your project management tool, actually gets scheduled in your calendar—as well as buffers for tasks that run long. That way, you can see when your week is filling up and say no to commitments that aren’t a high priority. 

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