“I’ll just quickly do that ….”
How many times a day do you say this? Especially over the past two years where most of us have been working from home?
Despite the obvious domestic benefits for some of us due to working from home, how much have we really thought about fixing the ill effects this has had on our ‘output’ (and I mean both work and home tasks here)?
I would put money on the fact that at some point during lockdown, we have felt either extremely overwhelmed or near breaking point due to thinking:
- our workload was too high.
- we are battling with conflicting priorities between home and work.
But have we really spent the time to understand why? Are we assuming that it is a combination of those reasons and find it hard to take control of fully?
What if the underlying reason is something else?
I have sat in a lot of meetings during my career encouraging people to talk about and measure productivity, but that topic does not go down well, because it is not an easy one. However, it is critical to running a business efficiently, so let us be brave and think about Productivity for a moment.
Now I know what some of you will be thinking at this point. “No thanks,” “that’s too boring,” “way too complicated for me/my business” or “I don’t want to micromanage my people or be micromanaged thanks.” This is what happens time and time again in that very first meeting when I try to explain to our customers how I can help them.
So, I will position this differently.
How would you like to transform yourself and your business? How would you like to be able to maintain your customer service, produce the same output and do this in 4 days rather than 5 days?
If that grabs your attention then guess what, we are back to where we started. We need to understand Productivity.
We recently had the pleasure of talking to Andrew Barnes about the four-day working week. Have a listen to this week’s podcast. Andrew has been pioneering and championing the 4 Day week since 2018. You will hear first-hand how passionate he is about making the world a happier and more effective place. (It is truly, inspirational stuff), so here is a link: The Empowered Podcast
I am very enthusiastic about all things that surround this topic. This is a potential game changer for you, your teams, and your business.
Why is that?
To help you answer that question and hopefully get curious about it, here are a few reflections from our discussion with Andrew.
- So, let us get back to the ‘P’ word. Some of us approach projects that involve the word “Productivity” with extreme caution. Why are we so fearful of it? By understanding that resistance, the way Andrew and his team positioned this is very clever. They looked for the win-win equation: “I’ll give you a day off a week if you hit your productivity with no detrimental impact to our service delivery.” You cannot argue with that! So why isn’t everyone deploying the 4-day working week? I will take a stab at answering that, and I would guess it is all around the perceived complexities about where to start? And we can help you with that.
- During the discussion it reminded me how much easier it is to define our non-productive activities rather than our productive ones. The truth is they are often imposed on us by something or someone else, making it far easier to list them. If we know what we should not be doing, or what we feel takes us away from our core purpose, then that seems like a good place to start. I bet you could easily rattle off a list, as could your team. Try it and then discuss whether they help or hinder your productivity.
- Another area to consider is the 52/17 ratio. Research by the University of Toronto suggested that the key to producing more was taking regular breaks.
- The most productive workers stepped away from their machines for 17 minutes every 52 minutes of working. 20 years ago, I used to deploy Production Management methodologies with my teams. Managers would allocate an hour or two of work at a time. Once done they had to take a break and ask for more. The results were incredible. Both Quality and Productivity results improved, significantly.
- That approach may not suit everyone I know but let us try and apply that approach to our own ways of working. I bet you have mountains of work in front of you, usually in the form of an overflowing email inbox. It is quite overwhelming right? You could never realistically clear it in one day. It is no surprise we procrastinate, and then worry about that backlog of work rather than breaking it down, categorising it, and of course prioritising into bite size chucks of what work to do first.
- Why don’t we do that? It is probably because we think it is too time consuming to get organised and focussed. And so it starts, the vicious cycle of being overwhelmed with work and feeling out of control.
- Studies have found that on average we are interrupted at work every 11 minutes. It takes a further 20 minutes to get our focus back. So, it is no wonder that in the UK we are only productive for 2.5 hours a day! The good news? We can help ourselves and others with some easy ‘hacks’ around interruptions. Andrew has lots of examples of these too but here are a few to get you started:
- Turn all notifications off – especially social media and email ‘pings’
- Have a work relationship with your desk – it is for working not eating your meals
- Book in breaks and lunch in your diary – and then stick to them, you need a brain break!
I could go on, I love this topic, so, if you have got this far, are you up for a challenge yourself?
Here are four final questions to ask yourself
- Do you know how productive you are?
- What impacts this? And what can you easily remove by implementing some simple hacks?
- What is the size of the prize if you, your team, your business increased productivity by 20%?
- And more importantly, what would having a day back a week mean to someone’s life, to your life?
You can take control of your ways of working, whether you have a 4-day working week arrangement already or not. By taking control. you get time back and is key to preventing either your Burnout or someone else’s. There is no better time than now to implement such a system as we have all got more comfortable with alternative ways of working of late. We are all leading this blended life. Combining all our home and work tasks within similar time periods. It is simply not effective nor productive.
We need to re-condition ourselves back into defining ‘when is my time to do my work tasks’ and ‘when is my time to do my home tasks?’ Blending them never works! Once we can define this, we might then stop saying, “I’ll just quickly do that …. before I have my day off”
Keep an eye out for The 4 Day Week Global initiative, listen to the podcast and as ever, we would love to hear what you think?