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What are the big concerns about the 4-day working week?

Article by Alessandra La Via - Live More Offline

Following suit from Sweden, the UK has currently undergone a major trial to roll out a 4-day working week with many organisations taking part.  

Three-day weekends. Less time in meetings. Same salary. Sounds just a little too good to be true, right? There are certainly benefits to a shorter working week, however, if it’s not implemented correctly, it can cause more stress as we try to squeeze five days’ worth of workload into four.  

How can all the work get done in fewer hours? Harnessing digital productivity is key to the solution. 

Digital productivity and focus is key, in a digital world with so many distractions.

Digital work is here to stay. Since the pandemic began, the number of meetings per person has grown, we are drowning in chat messages and working more out of hours.  

How much do we then spend time juggling many tasks to try to be efficient? But it turns out that multitasking is a myth. Our brains can’t multitask – when we think we are multitasking, we are actually attention switching. Our brains are not designed to multitask and when we try, the results can be disastrous. Gloria Mark at University of California Irvine shared research revealing that it takes around 23 minutes on average to get back to the same task with the same level of focus if interrupted partway through. Research has proven that we are less accurate, less creative, we retain information less easily and we are overall less productive. We are in fact 40% less productive in chaotic working environments. 

And as technology automates more of what we do, the future of work will require us to have higher level cognitive skills… but there’s a huge challenge here – it’s actually harder to achieve this than ever before in our digital world with so many distractions! 28% of our working time is lost to distraction, and we end up working outside of our working hours to try and find that focus.  

What change can I make in my organisation? 

Wholescale culture change is of course complicated and benefits from specialist support, but there are steps you can take now to get ready to moving to a shorter working week: 

  • Let’s declutter – by reducing digital clutter, we are creating a working environment that all of us could thrive in! Imagine a world where meetings were reduced to emails, employees were not copied into communications that had no relevance to them, and a centralised system was introduced that got rid of emails altogether? 
  • Explore digital wellbeing and performance training. Digital wellbeing and performance training has become a key part of an organisation’s wellbeing strategy. With quality training you can raise awareness of the key wellbeing and performance issues of the digital age, enable a forum for team discussion and provide tools and strategies for healthy change.  
  • Smart working – Be smart and clear about asynchronous working. Did you know that you can shorten meetings all together by bringing work forward? Part of the reason why we have meetings taking up so much of our calendars is that we are relying too much on synchronous work. Synchronous work is when everybody is working at exactly the same time. Whether it is a centralized spreadsheet, a shared document, a Trello board, or other more detailed strategies – there are better ways of working that will reduce stress and save time. 

Not only will these steps make a real difference to your people’s ability to perform, but it will also improve work-life balance and help them to enjoy work. 

Live more Offline harnesses the power of science, neuroscience and the psychology of habit formation to help people to understand the way in which a human brain works and how we can design our digital environment to give you back time. Time that enables you to move from a five to a four-day working week, and even gain 4 hours a week of valuable time. 

    Alessandra La Via, founder of Live More Offline Ltd, helps leaders and teams to enhance wellbeing, performance and belonging, by creating a healthy digital culture in an age of constant connection. She has worked within FTSE 250 / 100 head offices, is a digital wellbeing consultant, and is studying a master’s degree at the University of Aberdeen, researching the impact of technology on wellbeing and role of mindfulness in behaviour change.

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