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To 4-day week or not to 4-day week

On the back of a six-month experiment where 30 companies will implement a 4-day work week in South Africa, the question on everyone’s minds is, “will employees still be productive?”

Globally experiments have been positive in terms of performance and the wellbeing of employees.

Companies are also supporting their workforce with productivity tips, better time management tools and how they can use technology to support the change.

Yet many companies are not willing to make the paradigm shift and do not want to give up the 40 hours a day work week.

After all, that is what we know in South Africa, and it is difficult to change without being certain of the benefits.

Will companies still have a productive workforce in 4-day work week?

Productivity is critical to company performance and balancing the two requires careful management if the shift to a 4-day work week will be successful.

The goal of the 4-day work week is for companies to aim for 100% productivity for 100% pay with 80% of the time.

While studies show there are benefits to this approach, companies need to ask themselves how they can better prepare if they decide to go this route.

Do you have a benchmark of current productivity levels?

It is important to know where you stand now in terms of productivity of your workforce, otherwise it will be difficult to measure how they compare when assessing reduced working hours.

While studies do show that employees maintain the same productivity levels and increased job satisfaction with a 4-day work week, how do you ensure productivity levels actually match previous levels, and how do you monitor ongoing productivity of your workforce?

When a company has analytics to back up whether they will benefit from reduced hours or not, they can make more informed decisions.

How do you accurately measure productivity?

When you have a large workforce working on company assets like computers, then technology can do this for you.

One of the ways is to implement a simple productivity and software tool that silos daily activities into easy-to-read reports.

While employees need the flexibility, and work life balance of a 4-day work week, companies need them to be accountable, effective and productive.

With a tool like WorkStatz you can view how time is being spent in your business based on the most effective activities for each person in their role; from business systems, email, online meetings to browsing, messaging and social media.

This information enables you to determine the effectiveness of activities and productivity levels.

And the real beauty is that this tool can be used whether you have a 4 or 5 day work week – at any time.

At a glance, understand who is online and working, who is using productive tools and who is using ineffective applications.

Do you know who your overworked employees are who will benefit from a 4-day work week?

Companies who have tested a 4-day work week do show that overworked employees have more work life balance in this scenario.

But often companies are unaware of who is approaching burnout and who is not. Again, how will you know the 4-day work week is actually benefiting them?

And with human nature being what it is, some employees have a high-performance mindset; they are just “wired” to achieve more, even at their own expense.

What will stop them from continuing to work flat out during the four days they will have?

Employee monitoring tools can alert you to those employees who may be heading for burnout even in a 4-day work week, so that you can proactively engage them before its too late.

Now you can have a conversation that provides a positive direction; encourage taking breaks and implement strategies to help them.

It is also important to identify individuals or departments that are overloaded with work not only for employee wellness but for capacity planning.

Measuring that change or improvement in your employees can only be done objectively through technology that truly gets to the heart of the issue.

Managing the time monster

Under normal circumstances time management is an issue that affects everyone and the same is true whether we work four or five days, or we work remotely.

How do companies – even in a 4-day work week – help employees find better ways to manage their time and be more effective?

Many employees struggle with time management faced with different aspects like long meetings, disruptions and remaining focused, and this will not go away with a 4-day work week.

Often, those employees do not understand what is wrong. They may say, “There is just not enough time in the day,” or “I wish I could clone myself”.

You may send employees on a time management course, but it is not effective.

How do you know with absolute certainty what is going on?

The beauty of software like WorkStatz is that you will discover with 100% certainty what is going on, and once you know, you can work together with the employee to solve the issue.

The thing with data is that it always uncovers the truth.

The reality is unless you understand with certainty how this person spends their time, with the systems and tools your company provide, you won’t figure out what needs correcting or encouraging for that matter.

In conclusion

Whether you are considering implementing a 4-day work week or not, managing employees, their productivity and efficiency levels, is always a concern.

Managers need the tools to help employees through the challenges of a fast-paced work environment. Especially when you have customers who demand and expect a level of service whether your employees are there or not.

By supporting managers and employees with WorkStatz, companies are able to ensure a balanced work environment that still achieves business objectives.

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