We’ve all heard of it by now. The merits of the Four-Day work week. Promising results are emerging from trials and studies conducted by progressive companies and governments around the world. From morale boosting to enhancing loyalty, you just have to Google the benefits of a Four-Day working week and you’ll be swamped by articles playing up the overwhelming benefits, quoting the need for employers to adapt to the challenges of modern-day society.
There are those business managers who love the idea. Some have even embraced it. Others dread it, wishing it would go away before their employees clamour for it or labour laws mandate it. I like to think of OVERWRITE.ai as a progressive employer…That’s why I find myself asking, is it for us?
The Woods from The Trees
Let’s keep in mind one thing. Underlying the very concept of the Four-Day work week is a singular objective. Productivity.
Having spent nearly the past 20 years in the UAE, I remember a time when the weekends were Thursday and Friday. Then, I think sometime back in 2004, the UAE’s leaders adopted a Friday/Saturday weekend format, to better align with the rest of the world. Now there are even rumours that policy makers will shift yet again to a hybrid Friday/Saturday/Sunday format, to further align with global markets and peers.
Be under no illusion that the only reason businesses and governments anywhere in the world, are looking at adopting a four day week, is to optimise productivity.
It’s not altruism. It’s about increasing efficiency. Employee happiness is a means to that end, rather than the ultimate goal. One that’s mutually beneficial to all parties in the equation. I’m not a cynic. I just like to cut through the noise and say it how I see it.
When the pandemic obliterated conventional 9-to-6 office work, the debate about employee wellbeing and the work-life balance shifted into high-gear. As economies now emerge from the trauma of 2020, many, like that of the UAE, are roaring. But nobody wants to return to pre-pandemic working models as we knew them. That’s old-school. Done. Dusted. Covid-19 has forced us not just to think, but finally to act, differently.
So it’s out with the old, and in with the new. But what is the new working model?
Novelty Knows No Bounds
US based streaming giant Netflix, has taken a novel approach to holiday protocol. It’s called “No Rules Netflix,” where staff get unlimited holidays. No doubt T&C’s apply.
One of my personal favourite unicorn stories, Australian online graphic design platform Canva.com, last week told employees they only need to come to the office 8 times a year.
Elsewhere, Four-Day working week pilot schemes have actually revealed some inspiring results. In some trials, by reducing working hours, without a reduction in salary, businesses can actually drive greater long-term profitability. Microsoft Japan tried the schedule out with positive results. Staff noted an increase in the pace of their day and were able to get more done in the same timeframe. The governments of Spain and Scotland are planning trials that would give workers an additional day off.
All these progressive employee initiatives are great, especially when you’re a multi-billion dollar tech giant or a nation state. But as I said before, let’s not forget that it’s all about achieving greater productivity.
To those touting the Four-Day working week, cases such as these would seem a vindication. But does one size fit us all?
For many industries such as healthcare, hospitality and retail, profit margins are already squeezed tight. Paying staff the same for less working hours in the hope that it yields greater long-term productivity is a risk many would rather not take. Likewise for the millions of small and medium businesses that struggle with survival as it is. The shoe simply may not fit.
Even those businesses that can financially afford to trial a Four-Day work week, how successful can its roll-out really be? It’s one thing for Microsoft Japan, where cultural nuances are understood by all, and everyone’s time-zone is the same. It’s a completely different story getting Microsoft’s 200,000 global employees to achieve greater productivity with so many practical differences getting in the way.
What about those businesses that already offer a flat corporate structure? Where flexible working hours, even days, are the norm. Does the Four-Day week make sense?
Concordia res parvae crescent
Work together to accomplish more
That’s our space. OVERWRITE.ai’s never been a conventional 9-to-6 workplace. We’ve never had an office.
On any given Monday morning members of our team are just as likely to be behind their proverbial desk as they are to be at their local supermarket.
We’ve grown our team and our business with remote-working baked into the very dough of our company DNA. I like to joke that we were remote-working way back before the pandemic, when it wasn’t cool.
When the ability to adopt technologies that genuinely increase efficiency is so widely available to us, why would we not?
Everyone in our team knows what they have to do. We trust each other, as professionals, to get the job done in the time required, and to the best of our abilities. A core pillar of that trust is clear and respectful communication. We know who’s working on what, or who’s off where, because we communicate clearly to each other, respecting the fact that we are a team, and our overall success depends on every member in it, pulling their weight. Concordia res parvae crescent.
Hold My Stake
If the end goal is to optimise productivity, then how we get there isn’t going to hinge on a buzzword or whatever’s trending.
It’s easy to understand how the Four-Day working week carries such popular appeal. So many people are living under the pressure of so much to do with so little time. Finding those that are against the idea of a 3-day weekend would be harder than keeping ice from melting in the mid-summer sun.
As a business owner, I appreciate the argument that productivity isn’t dependent on the number of hours worked. The view that there’s a direct, positive correlation between hours worked and output quality, or quantity, is ludicrous to me.
I know exactly how busy our 21st century lives are, and I respect that nobody is more or less busy than anybody else. We all have the balancing act of our professional and personal lives, and the myriad (often chaotic) curveballs that are thrown at us. That’s why I don’t expect our people to be 9-to-6er’s. That’s not how to get the best out of them.
“People don’t perform to the best of their ability because they’re told or paid to. I’ve seen too many slave-drivers who think that way. They were all doomed.”
I like to think I’ve an open-minded view on many aspects of our business. I encourage constructive criticism and open communication. I get excited when even the newest or most junior member of our team shares feedback and ideas.
People perform, even outperform, when they are empowered with a sense of ownership in their work. When they’re allowed to infuse their work with their personality, stamp their unique fingerprint on it, people take pride in their output. They’ll never rest on their laurels. They will constantly aim to be the best version of themselves, better than they were yesterday. They achieve optimal productivity in a much more powerful, sustainable way. Their accomplishments and contribution to the business become exponentially valuable. And the business becomes truly, organically dynamic.
What’s Your Flava?
We’re witnessing a moment in history where the future of work is being decided. It’s a process. An exciting one. And you rarely find in life that “one size” really “fits all”.
One thing is for sure. OVERWRITE.ai will never be a cookie-cut business. Vanilla’s not our flavour. The day we stop wanting to be better, I’ll resign.
An AI Implementation Strategist accredited by the prestigious MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ayman also has a Bachelors Degree in Mathematics from the world-renowned Queen Mary College, University of London, and a Masters in Real Estate Investment and Development from the University of Reading (UK). With 20 years’ experience working in real estate, banking and artificial intelligence, Ayman is the founder and CEO of PropTech platform OVERWRITE.ai.
OVERWRITE.ai is a world first, user-friendly marketing solution that allows estate agents to instantly autowrite unique, search-optimised property descriptions, taking the boring out of the daily grind.
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