The 4 Day Work Week?

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I’m going to put my geek job guru hat on for this column and discuss the idea of the four-day workweek. I’m sure we’ve all heard about Iceland’s experiments in such an arrangement. I want to go into how it’s possible to do so with little interruption – but there’s something else to address first.

Namely, a lot of current working arrangements are awful. People are underpaid, abused, work in bad conditions, etc. We must fix these things, and we must have a robust social safety net. Also, a four-day workweek would be good for mental health, period.

With that out of the way, let me explain why I think a four-day workweek is possible for many jobs. I believe that people can be just as productive, with some exceptions. I also don’t care about the exceptions because I think a four-day workweek is a good idea.

But, anyway, a four-day workweek is possible because many businesses and organizations burn a lot of time on useless stuff. Imagine if organizations worked to do things better and that saved time meant less time on the job?

FIXING MISTAKES IS A PART OF TOO MANY JOBS: And I’m not talking QA or editing, but fixing mistakes that should be rare. People burn cycles going over poorly filled-out forms, bridging gaps that shouldn’t exist, and so on. Ever know someone whose job boils down to “talk to people who don’t talk to anyone else?”

TOO MANY BUSINESS PROCESSES ARE TERRIBLE: The reason so much goes wrong is many business processes are awful. Endless forms with no guiding documents and poorly implemented reports suck up time. Many people waste time doing things that don’t work very well as no one wants to fix them.

MEETINGS: Somehow, in the last two decades, meetings got even further out of control. I suspect technology has made it even easier to schedule time-wasters – meetings with no point or where only a few people are needed. What if we, you know, had less?

USELESS TOOLS:  I remember being excited about business tools – programs, spreadsheets, etc. However, they may not solve problems and can even create more if they’re not the right ones. How many times did you give up on something and use Excel (the duct tape of tools).

NO IMPROVEMENT: Agile has taught me how to focus on improvement. However, a lot of businesses don’t seem to want to improve by, you know, improving. THere’s not much bottom-up feedback (like Agile) but plenty of consultants ready to take your money. In the end, it seems not enough changes anyway.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY: I have heard this since . . . forever. It’s hard to know what’s going on in any large organization. This may not be nefarious – sometimes miscommunication happens. But when you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t plan.

BURNOUT:  All of the above leads to more people burning out. Burnout leads to failure, resignation, inefficiency, etc. If you had fewer of these problems, you’d have less burnout. Burnout makes bad things worse.

I firmly believe if organizations committed to a four-day workweek, many could make it happen by making things run better.

For fun, spend a week or two and ask yourself what tasks could be more efficient – or removed altogether. The answer . . . well, it won’t surprise you.

Steven Savage