A survey of 3,000 workers around the world found that almost half (45%) could do their jobs in less than five hours each day, according to the Workforce Institute at Kronos and Future Workplace. If workers could get that time back, it implies that many jobs could be handled in a four-day workweek. Yet, the study finds, many workers are still putting in over 40 hours or feeling work intrude on their personal life.
What would you do with a four-day workweek? The allure of having time to yourself or to not feel so harried is definitely appealing and worthy enough to work towards. Here are five strategies to create your own four-day workweek:
Negotiate for a flexible schedule
If you can work one day from home, but get your responsibilities handled in the days you’re in the office, then you effectively have a four-day workweek. You’ll still need to be responsive on your “work” day at home (or wherever you spend it), but if you truly have finished what you need to do, then you won’t have anyone around to monitor you as you spend your day on personal projects. I have written before on how to negotiate for flexibility, and if you have negotiated for other things (a job offer, a raise) then you can negotiate for a day at home.
Campaign for firmwide flexibility
Many times it’s easier to advocate for someone other than yourself, so if you feel uncomfortable lobbying for a flexible schedule for yourself, introduce it to the firmwide culture. Point to studies that show the benefits of flexibility, like this Harvard Business Review article on the benefits of working from home. Partner with sympathetic colleagues in HR or employee resources groups to build momentum for a flexible culture, which includes or leads to a possible four-day workweek for everyone.
Eliminate time-wasting activities
The Kronos and Future Workplace study included some reasons workers give for not finishing their jobs in the shortest amount of time, including meetings (surprise!), fixing other people’s work, administrative work, and social media. Keep a time diary for a week to get clear on where you are spending your time and how long things take . Identify your own time-wasting activities, and resolve to minimize, if not, eliminate these. Even if you’re used to attending every meeting, see if you can trade with a colleague and each attend alternate meetings and fill the absent person in after the fact. If colleagues often ask you for help, you might have encouraged this by always saying Yes. Practice declining – you don’t need to give a reason, but you can always say you’re under deadline. This is not a white lie – you have a self-imposed deadline to work a four-day workweek!
Spend one day on efficiency improvements
Sometimes a time-wasting activity is spending too much time to complete routine tasks. It’s worth it to allocate extra time to come up with a system or template that enables you to save time on tasks that are frequently repeated. For example, if you have a report that needs to be created regularly, sketch out a blank template that is already formatted and includes the relevant categories and results you report, so you can simply fill in with the latest information. If you tend to get the same questions over and over, create form responses (using the Signature function in Outlook is great for this) so you can quickly reply without recreating from scratch each time.
Schedule one day of career-building work
If you do manage to protect one day or eight hours’ worth of time for yourself and you feel like you owe it to your company to give it back to them, then schedule that time for professional development or other career-building work. Companies like Google and 3M encourage employees to reserve 20% of the work week towards creative projects. Using their model, you could use the time to think of additional efficiency improvements or new revenue streams for the company. Even if you use that for your own professional development – reading trade publications, networking with industry colleagues – your improved effectiveness is giving back to your company.
The key to creating your own four-day workweek is to stick to the tasks and results that matter to the company and your career . If you can avoid time-wasters and reserve that extra time for company improvements or your own professional development, then you’ll create a win-win for yourself and your company. You may also inspire others to follow your lead!
This article was posted on Sep 9, 2018 in Forbes by Caroline Ceniza-Levine.