Wondering about how you can help your team move to a 4-day working week without the stress of cramming five days of work into four? Digital productivity could be your solution.
This year has seen thousands of UK workers begin the world’s biggest trial of the 4-day week, with workplaces recognising that work-life balance could be what will set them apart in recruiting and retaining their people. But with the move to a 4- or 4.5-day working week, the same question keeps being asked – how can all the work get done in fewer hours? Often missed – harnessing digital productivity is key to the solution.
In a digital world with so many distractions, digital productivity and focus are key
Microsoft’s Work Trends Index Report shows that our digital ways of working could be draining our time. Since March 2020, the number of meetings per person has increased, we are drowning in chat messages and working more out of hours:
So how do we work well and do the same in less time? Well, as technology automates more of what we do, the future of work will require more higher level cognitive skills – creativity, analytical thinking, problem solving – … but there’s a huge challenge here – it’s harder to focus than ever before! 28% of our working time is lost to distraction, and we often end up working outside of the 9-5 to try and find that focus.
To make a four day week actually work, we need to dial down distractions and dial up focus. Work effectively instead of working longer hours. Enhance people’s ability to perform and improve work-life balance.
Where to start?
- Understand where you are starting from. How are individual digital habits, and the digital culture of the team, impacting your team’s day and their performance. Uncovering issues is the first step to making time-saving changes. Do this through a simple conversation with your team, or bring in specialist digital culture support to uncover the reality of how your people feel. Do you have too many communication channels? Do people have enough time outside of meetings and email to actually do their work?
- Do a meeting audit. How much time is lost to ineffective meetings? Are you working smarter and using asynchronous work, shared documents?
- Raise awareness of the myth of multitasking. Do people feel a pressure to be connected or reply instantaneously to emails? Each time we switch to answer an email we lose effectiveness. Researcher Gloria Mark showed it can take 23 minutes to get back to the same task with the same level of focus. And it’s not just performance, working in a distracted working environment raises stress levels.
- Explore digital wellbeing and performance training. Digital wellbeing and performance training now needs to be a key part of an organisation’s wellbeing strategy. We need to educate on the value of downtime and train managers in how to create high-performing digital teams – for starters that green light on Teams is not how we evaluate performance! This can make a difference. In fact, digital wellbeing consultancy Live More Offline has found that managers in their leadership training report saving four hours per week from changes to digital ways of working!
This is such an issue that many organisations are investing in intentional steps and training to improve meeting efficiency, reduce unnecessary meetings altogether, and in turn increase productivity. For example:
- Dropbox only uses meetings for 3D’s (decisions, debates and discussions), then moves other interactions to asynchronous communication. You could trial this as a framework to decide whether what you are doing needs to be a meeting at all.
- Microsoft uses guidance and a framework to structure expectations at the start of meetings so they run more effectively and with intention.
About the author:
Alessandra La Via is the founder of Live More Offline. Her struggles with tech-life balance caused her to leave her successful career as a Big-4 accountant and Head of Tax, walk 500 miles on the Camino in Spain and ultimately help others to find new ways of working in our digital age. She 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 100 head offices 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.
Digital wellbeing consultancy Live More Offline works with organisations specifically to enable them to move to a 4 or 4.5 day working week through smarter digital ways of working, and delivers Digital Productivity sessions which help people focus in a digital future of work.
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