Three ways this business found success with a four-day work week

Amantha Imber women

Inventium founder Amantha Imber. Source: supplied.

April is a pretty great month. Not only do we get to eat lots of chocolate, but we are also spoilt for long weekends. But what if your boss decided to make every weekend a long weekend at your workplace, Yet they still wanted to pay you your full-time salary?

This is what happened two years ago at Inventium.

Inventium’s CEO, Michelle Le Poidevin, suggested to the team we should try out the Four Day Week. The Four Day Week (FDW) was originally pioneered by Andrew Barnes from Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand. Barnes defined the FDW as 100% pay for 80% time at work, on the condition that 100% of agreed productivity is achieved. Our CEO’s suggestion led to Inventium running a six-month experiment where the team all worked four days per week and had Friday off.

We called the initiative ‘Gift of the Fifth’, which serves as a reminder that if you are able to get your work done in four days, you receive the gift of time. Employees might spend the time with family, in their community, or even having some much needed ‘me time’.  Like all good experiments, we collected data to test what impact the initiative had.

Employee engagement at Inventium was already very high prior to the FDW experiment. They were in the top 10% for our industry — management consulting. At the end of the experiment, engagement had risen to the top 1%, along with job satisfaction increasing by 12% and energy levels increasing by 21%.

Stress levels were reduced by 18%, which was impressive, given the majority of the team spent most of the last half of 2020 in lockdown, while financial targets were also met two months ahead of schedule. Finally, in order to fit five days’ worth of work into four, our already high levels of productivity needed to increase. We all worked hard at this and saw a 26% uplift in productivity amongst the team.

I discussed the metrics and results in detail on my podcast How I Work, but it was a unanimous success without a single downside. And thanks to the stellar results, the FDW has become a permanent fixture at Inventium.

So how did we manage to fit five days’ worth of work into four? We doubled down on several strategies to further our already high productivity.

1. Meeting minimisation was a big focus

We use a strategy called PAO (Purpose, Agenda, Outcomes) and no one at Inventium is able to schedule a meeting unless it had a PAO.

As a result, fewer meetings are set, because oftentimes, the person who is thinking about setting a meeting decides an email would suffice. In addition, we deliberately default to asynchronous communication as a team, which also eliminates a lot of unnecessary time spent in meetings. And when we do meet, everyone is fully engaged, present, and prepared, meaning we use our time wisely.

2. Six-month goals are broken down to daily goals

Fridays are the designated day off. A lot of members of the team break down their six-monthly goals into quarterly, weekly and daily goals. This makes it easy for them to decide whether they take the Friday off guilt-free, based on how they are tracking.

3. Deep work always takes priority

As management consultants, our ability to think and create is our biggest asset. My team frequently block out large chunks of uninterrupted time to do deep, focused work and switch off digital distractions, such as email and social media. Almost every member of the team use timeboxing – booking meetings with themselves – to ensure that thinking time is protected and not booked over.

It’s been nearly two years since my work week moved from five days to four. It would be really hard to go back to the old way of working. Since having the four day week in place, team members have used their Fridays for a range of activities, from learning to play golf, spending more time with family, starting a podcast, and even becoming an accredited Barre instructor. And in this busy, chaotic world, I truly believe that time is one of the most meaningful gifts that business leaders can give their people.

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