Workpuls: Hi everyone, welcome to another episode of Workpuls Productivity Talks! My name is Bojana and I will be your host, as always. And today with me, I have Alex Pang, who is an author and founder of Strategy And Rest. He wrote several books regarding shorter working hours and resting, so we will definitely be hearing some interesting tips from him today. Welcome, Alex. Thank you for joining us.
Alex: Oh, thanks for having me on. It's a pleasure.
Workpuls: Okay, so first things first, tell us a little bit about yourself what it is exactly that you do, and then we can move on from there.
Alex: So, I have been working in Silicon Valley for the last 20 or so years, first, as a technology forecaster and futurist. And then more recently, with my new company Strategy And Rest, I've been working with companies who are interested in either shortening their work weeks, moving to, four day weeks or six hour days, without cutting salaries or reducing productivity; or finding ways of incorporating more opportunities for rest and breaks into part of people's daily schedules with the aim of helping people remain productive, but also have longer more sustainable, less stressful careers or workplaces. So, that's what I do.
Workpuls: Okay, great. So, what would you say the productivity is in your opinion?
Alex: So, the simple definition is output of labor per unit of time. Now, the challenge with a lot of us is that we work in industries or professions where that's actually pretty hard to measure. If you're in a factory, you've got two things kind of going for you in sort of figuring this out. The first is, you've got like a box of widgets at the end of the day that tell you how productive you've been. Second, the factory whistle goes off at five or six, and you can put down your tools and you can go home. I think for a lot of us, particularly for knowledge workers, for entrepreneurs, neither one of those things exists to help regulate our work. There's always the sense that we can make things a little bit better, that often the standards by which our work is going to be judged, aren't very clear. And because there's often no clear stopping point, a lot of us have challenges figuring out when to stop work. I think that as a result, we often substitute other kinds of things as proxies for productivity, particularly the amount of time that we spend working. And a good bit of my work is about helping people rethink the relationship between time and productivity, in a sense to kind of reorient their thinking about how those two things are connected away from just quantity of time as the measure of productivity, to focus and attention as the things that really define how productive we can be in the in a given period of time and how much time we have left over to live the rest of our lives.
Workpuls: Okay, would you say, given that most of us aren’t working in the factories aren’t making actual things and at the end of the day, we can’t say, “Okay, I made these three things today so it was a successful day.” Would you say that productivity can be measured all across the board in different industries and areas?
Alex: I think certainly that there are measures that we can use. I think that for people who are working in complicated subjective kinds of projects, marketing campaigns or in my case writing books, the challenge is to find tools that can give you clearer short term measures of how productive you are. So this is why for writers things like daily word counts are super valuable, because they do two things. The first is, they give you some kind of indication of how much you've done on a given day and how much closer you are to your ultimate goal. And they also encourage a degree of sustainability and routine in your work that for creatives is a really, really useful thing. We often tend to think of creative work as something that happens in these bursts of inspiration that lead to all nighters. And while this is something that many of us kind of play around with when we're young, really good work, it turns out, done by super creative and prolific people. The likes of, Beethoven or Stephen King or Charles Darwin. These are people who worked in incredibly systematic routine ways, and they had very well worked out structures that helped them shape their days, that helped them measure their work. So that they were able, over the course of their lifetimes to do far more and far better work than they did in their younger days, when they tried to operate on this kind of much more romantic, get it done fast, stay up all night model.
Workpuls: Yeah, I think I’ve actually spoken to somebody today about it. The thing is like right now I feel that a lot of us, especially in the situation that we're in right now, since we're probably all on lockdown, it's hard to put away the laptop. It's hard to take that rest you're talking about a lot. It's just one more email. It's 10 o'clock at night, but I have nothing else to do. Let me just do this. How can we put an end to it ourselves, especially right now?
Alex: That's a great question. And I think that we are confronting at home, a kind of concentrated version of the challenges that we often have in our normal working lives, which is figuring out how to draw these lines, to draw these boundaries and to stick to them. I think the first thing we have to do is recognize that those boundaries actually are useful things that help us have better work lives and better personal lives. I think that, given that we live in an era when we can carry our offices around in our pockets effectively, that we think that these are useful for breaking down the boundaries between work and life. And ideally, these technologies allow us to optimize the time that we spend working so that we can break up work into big chunks that we plan throughout the day.
The reality is that what tends to happen is that work gets grounded down into a sort of fine powder that just blows all over our calendars, so that we are checking email at the dinner table or we're trying to conference into a call when we're with kids at the playground. And this turns out to be both a recipe for not a terribly good work life or personal life, it's also not particularly productive or sustainable. So I think that, one of the things that we are all confronting is how challenging it actually is to develop and maintain those boundaries. And I think that doing so partly requires a greater degree of personal discipline, but I think that it's also really important to recognize that organizations and kind of organizational culture play a critical role in supporting that. So, in my new book, which is about companies that have moved to four day weeks or six hour days, all of the successful companies have daily routines or daily schedules, in which people will spend, everyone will spend a couple hours really focused on their most important, highest value work. During those periods, you can be a little anti-social, you don't have to answer the phone, you know your colleagues aren't going to come by with just that one quick question that turns into a 15 minute conversation that derails your focus. Everybody has permission to really be heads down. And when everyone does that at the same time, you're not just like, 20% more productive as an individual, everybody is, like, 50% more productive. And so one of the interesting things that I'm seeing in the last month or so, is companies replicating versions of that or discovering versions of that, for people working at home. They are discovering other kinds of practices, that the companies I studied in my last book were using to figure out how to do five days worth of work in four, to figure out how to make company culture more focused, more resilient, to help people have better lives. And so, it may be that these will be good things that come out of this kind of grand pause that we're all living through.
And then, in terms of other things that we can do, and I think that, the lives of creative people in successful organizations teach us that routines actually are really valuable things. That they both allow us to deal with the small things that we need to get done in our days, but they also kind of counter intuitively serve as a sort of springboard for creative thinking and creative action. We think of creativity or intuition as somewhat unruly, unpredictable things, and it is in fact difficult to know exactly when they are going to strike. But psychologists and neuroscientists have learned a lot about the kind of conditions under which they happen and it turns out that having a good daily routine, especially one that has both periods of intensive focused work and periods of rest, are great breeding ground for new insights for ideas for breakthroughs that you don't have just sitting at your desk grinding away at a problem. So my other hope is that maybe one of the things a few of us are discovering is that having these periods of rest, a little more leisure in our days, maybe also actually helps us be more effective in ways that someone like Charles Darwin or Winston Churchill would recognize as being parts of their lives.
Workpuls: Yeah, I get that totally. At some point, I think it was about maybe a year and a half or two years ago, I was working at this other company and I was doing something and it was very intense for me, it was something new that I was learning and I was stuck. At some point, I was stuck. I had no idea where to go. I just stood up from my desk, went outside and rested for a bit on the balcony and all of a sudden while I was there, it hit me and that's when I realized that it really helps me to get some rest. It was sort of like an epiphany for me, like a completely new thing. If I get rest it is going to be easier for me. I always saw things about it, I read things about it, but I never felt that myself. And in that moment, I was like, “This works. This actually works.”
Alex: Almost everybody who takes risks seriously, who builds routines, that balance work and rest have those kinds of moments. There's some particular thing that they solve, some insight that they see that makes them think, you know, actually there is value here, and this is something that I can work into my daily life, my daily working life that will make the work go better and help me work better. So good for you.
Workpuls: Yeah. When companies approach you for your consultancy services do they usually come in with, “Okay, we want shorter weeks,” or do they usually come with, “We need help. We need to increase productivity. We need to change something in our organization in order to get better?”
Alex: There's been a little bit of a shift from the second, a general sense that we've got to do stuff to the first, that we're interested in, in four day weeks. Partly because there's been a lot of press in the last year or so about companies that have been doing this and have seen really good results. I also do stuff with organizations or kinds of professions where simply shortening the workweek isn't really an option. And so in those cases, you have to think about other kinds of strategies to build to that, that companies can use to build in more rest and more time for recovery.
Workpuls: Okay, and for all the managers and business owners who want to increase productivity in the workplace, who want to do something about it, what would you say is the first thing they need to do? What's the first step?
Alex: Well, there are studies of multitasking in the office, distraction or the amount of time that we spend in meetings that indicate that we waste between two and four hours of productive time every day. So, I think that we are very accustomed when we talk about making changes and organizations or making companies more effective, to think about stuff like implementing new technologies or changing office designs to make spaces more inherently collaborative or exciting. But we can apply those same kinds of tools, that same kind of design thinking to redesigning time, to redesigning the workday, and there are great opportunities for doing that, that are lying right in front of us.
So I think for companies that want to go this route, the first thing that I recommend is redesigning your meetings, because nobody really likes meetings. Certainly, nobody likes badly run meetings where they're wondering, “Why am I in this thing? Why isn't this an email? And, why is everybody else, they have their hands under the table, they're checking their email, and they think that no one can see that.” Almost every company has some sort of hour long weekly, all hands meeting or that they can just eliminate or cut to an email or maybe a five minutes stand up at the beginning of the week. The other thing that companies do is they make meetings shorter, they make meetings a lot smaller, you think a little bit more about who really needs to be in the room, and you make them more action oriented. You hold a meeting when you have a decision that needs to be made by a group of people and that's when you do it. I know one company that has a particular space, they've got a set of really comfortable couches where they will entertain guests and pitch new clients. And then they've got a little table with some very uncomfortable chairs where they hold their meetings, because they don't want the meetings to be very long, and the space helps reinforce that. So, the other important thing that redesigning meetings show, is that collective action has an awful lot of power when it comes to helping people be more productive.
We often think of productivity as something that is a kind of individual responsibility. Productivity is a bit like, your productivity is a bit like how fast you can run a marathon or something; it's about your strength. In reality, productivity in the office is about what people are able to do together supported by norms and culture and tools that help reinforce that,, and collectively working on making meetings better is a powerful early example of the collective nature of attention and productivity in action.
Then the next thing that companies focus on are using their technologies more wisely. Which partly is about eliminating distractions. So implementing rules around things like, “It’s okay to check your email twice a day, not respond every 10 minutes to whatever new thing comes in.” Getting control of your Slack channel or other sorts of tools that can be distracting, but also figuring out what kind of less productive but time consuming things can be automated, and figuring out how you can use technologies to augment your highest value, most important stuff. So a great example of this is an accounting company in the UK, that uses cloud-based accounting services at the core of their business. With cloud-based accounting, essentially, rather than that old model of like these giant books of papers and scraps and receipts from the client and you spend a month tabulating it all up and figuring out how much tax they owe and, and how much money they've made. Cloud-based accounting is a bunch of tools that allow you to see all that stuff more or less in real time. So, you're drawing information from payroll, from spending from people's personal expenses, all that stuff. And what that means is that for the company, you get a lot more real time visibility into the financial health of your company. For the accounting firm, it means that they spend, 100th of the amount of time doing the kind of paperwork stuff that they used to, and they can spend more time focusing on things like advisory services, which are a lot more interesting for everybody and deliver more value for clients.
The final thing that people do, that companies do is actually redesign the workday itself. So set aside particular times of day for that really important focus work, have particular times a day, often in the afternoons, where you have quiet meetings, you deal with phone calls, you do the more kind of forward facing external stuff, and then also work in periods for just being social. A lot of people like coming to the office because they get to see their friends and you don't want to lose that in the course of an organization becoming more productive. So one of the things that happens organically with a lot of companies is people start eating lunch together. You’re not either having the sad lunch at your desk or dashing out in order to go get something by yourself, people gather together. And this is when they can chat and be sociable in a way that they can't during heads down time and that allows for both more focused work, but also better social time. So it turns out to be sort of a win-win on both of those counts.
So that's the kind of stuff that I'm seeing companies doing that helps them be more productive but I think that the really important thing to recognize is that when we talk about productivity of this sort or productivity improvements, that they're really about organizational changes. They're about system changes. They’re about normative and cultural changes. It's not just about what one person is doing and another person is doing as kind of atomized individuals. It's much more an organizational and social understanding of what productivity is, what the efficiency is, and even what things like attention and focus are. So that's what they do.
Workpuls: Yeah, but I guess that managers, at least a portion of them have issues when they want to do something. They have an idea on how to improve productivity, how to do this or that in the workplace, how to change this system. But what is the approach they should take with their employees in order to get their buy-in in those situations? Sometimes it's not that easy to just come up and say, “We are going to do this like this.” It needs to be a bit of a conversation there, but what would you say is the best practice to do it?
Alex: That's a great question. And I think that there is a bit of a social contract in companies that move to, four day weeks or 30 hour weeks. The first part of that is that this is something that is driven from the top, no company implements a four day work week without the founder or the CEO driving it. This is a very big, kind of risky change so you need permission from the top to have to try it. But it's something that very much is implemented from the bottom up. Nobody knows enough about everybody else's job to say, “Here’s how you're going to do five days worth of work in four days going forward.”
You got to let people figure that stuff out for themselves. I think that the next part of the social contract says that workers get to share productivity gains in the form of time savings. So you're asking people to essentially redesign their days and rethink just about everything about how they work. And if you are, like an unimaginably charismatic CEO, working in a field where lives are at stake, maybe you can do that and say, “You are going to give all of this for this mission and I'm not going to give anything back. I get this higher productivity, we’ll change the way we work and you get the satisfaction of having gone through this.”
For 99.99% of us, however, workers do this successfully, in exchange for getting more free time. The idea of being able to work four days a week and then have a three day weekend every week, is an incredibly powerful incentive for a lot of people. The other important thing is that the companies that do this successfully, don't cut salaries. It's not about saving money on your payroll line because you recognize that this is actually a challenging thing, that people are going to be producing as much as they had before. And so you're going to get an increase in productivity, often above the 20% that you need in order to stay at the same level as previously, but this is not something that you're just asking for free.
The final thing is that you got to treat it as an experiment, meaning number one, that people have an opportunity to try new things to sometimes try out crazy stuff, to rapidly try new things, to prototype new tools, and to succeed or fail and to move forward. You got to recognize that a bunch of these experiments aren't going to work. A few of them are going to work spectacularly well and in order to get the second you got to put up with the first. So failures got to be okay. Radical new things have got to be okay. The other part of that is, if the experiment doesn't work, we go back to the way things were, that the four day week is not a gift that is given to workers or one that is simply extracted by labor. It is something that has both short term and long term benefits, but you got to actually see those benefits in order to make it something permanent. And so there are some companies that try it for three months and realize that, actually, we can't make this work. And even the companies where it's a roaring success, they still say, “Alright, you know, we're going to measure this, we got to see what our clients think. We got to see what the numbers are. If those numbers start to fall, then we will rethink whether we're going to stick with this or not.” So that's what you do. That's how you convince people.
Workpuls: Okay. How long would you say an experiment would need to last? Obviously, I guess it depends on the size of the company and the industry. About on average, how long does it need to last in order for you to see if it's really successful or not?
Alex: An average, an official trial period will last 90 days. I think one quarter is generally an easy period for people to get their heads around. A quarter is already a piece of a business cycle, so you kind of have a sense of how to plan for that. It also, I think, is good, because the first month or so is kind of disorienting. You're trying to figure, it's a lot of figuring out how to make this work. People often go through a phase of wondering if this is going to succeed or not, and it takes a little time for them to cut, for the ship to kind of right itself, for people to regain their balance, and to actually have the confidence that this is going to work and to do the experiments necessary to make itself. I think three months is also good because it does give you something, for most companies give you something of a financial snapshot. You've either seen the impact on foot traffic on customers coming through the door or on longer term projects and how successful you're able to complete them, and you've also had time to have some conversations with clients about this and why you're doing it and whether it works for them. And then, but everybody continues after that to watch the metrics, to watch both the financial numbers and numbers of things like employee satisfaction, and to keep an eye on those. And if they start to go down then, again, you take a moment and reassess and figure out, whether you can fix this within the framework of four days, or whether you got to come up with something else.
Workpuls: Okay. In your experience, do usually larger companies opt in for this approach and this change or smaller ones?
Alex: I have seen companies that range from two people to 2000 do it. Generally, though, smaller companies are having an easier time making a change this large because they're just fewer moving parts. When you're in a situation where you can get the whole company into a decent sized room then you're able to make this work without an inordinate amount of complexity and bureaucracy. And the larger companies where this has worked are companies that are less than 10 years old, that are still run by their founder, CEOs who were very hands on, quite charismatic and have a lot of moral authority within the company. So even in those cases, they still personally know all the people in senior positions and a lot of the people in middle management so there is still that kind of personal touch in a way that there isn't with let's say, like a Fortune 100 company.
That is not to say that much bigger companies couldn't do this. In Korea, SNK has been experimenting in a couple of their divisions with four day weeks, with the idea that, you figure out how to make it work here, and then maybe you can roll it out in, those lessons can be adopted in another part of the company and it can be rolled out over time. And indeed, when the Ford Motor Company in the 1920s went to an eight hour work day, they were the first really gigantic company to do eight hours, five days a week. That was a process that actually took them three years. The story usually is told about the big factory line shifting in 1926. Well, they'd actually been working for the last 36 months in the paint department, in shipping, everywhere else figuring out how to make that work. And so the assembly line was the last largest and most complicated part of the company and Ford at that point had like 100,000 people working in it. So, if they can do it in 1926 with 1926 technology, I think, a very large company can figure out how to do it today.
Workpuls: Okay, would you say that it would be perhaps maybe a bit more complicated for a smaller teams to do? Because in smaller companies, people usually wear multiple hats. It's not just one role, you have multiple roles. So getting that into a four day or 30 hour week, it seems that it would be a bit more complicated.
Alex: That’s interesting, but I think that it would… The honest answer is that we don't yet know enough to be able to say definitively. I think that the fact that most of the companies who've done this have fewer than 100 people and now many of them have 10 or fewer, and of those smaller ones, some of them are already pretty aggressively interdisciplinary, suggests that it actually is not a big impediment. But it actually would be a really interesting, interesting thing to research a little bit more.
Workpuls: There’s an idea!
Alex: Exactly. I need more projects.
Workpuls: Okay, and how did you even get into that space when you realized that getting more rest and doing things that way, and getting shorter weeks is something that's going to bring out more productivity to the people?
Workpuls: Well, I discovered the value of rest the hard way like, actually, everybody does. I had been working for about 10 years or so for a consulting company here in the Valley. It's the sort of work that's really interesting, but you're always like one half project behind. I was spending a lot of time on planes. I was increasingly feeling like I was close to burning out. And so I was lucky enough though, to get a sabbatical at Microsoft Research Cambridge, one of Microsoft's laboratories in the UK; and I spent three months there. And about halfway through, I had this epiphany where I realized I was getting enormous amounts of stuff done. I was having great ideas, but I didn't feel the kind of time pressure that I did here in California and it made me think that, maybe our assumptions about the relationship between time and productivity; that in order to do really great work, you have to engage in these enormous herculean acts of self sacrifice. Maybe that's actually wrong. Maybe it's totally backwards. In fact, to do the kind of work that we are really passionate about and that can bend the arc of the universe toward justice, maybe we need to rethink the relationship between work and rest. To think differently about how our passion for work gets expressed over the course of our days and over the course of our lives. And so that experience was what set me on the path that eventually led to writing Rest. And then after that book came out, I started seeing companies that were putting the lessons of Rest into practice by shortening their work weeks. And once I started digging in there, I discovered that, these actually are not just the little creative enterprises that you might expect, like advertising agencies or design firms, places that have a lot of autonomy and also places where like a distinctive work culture and work style is sort of a calling card. But also restaurants and call centers and factories, software startups, places where overwork is the norm, where you would think that shortening the workweek absolutely could not work. You would think like telemarketing is the last place in the world where you could implement a four day week effectively. But around the world, companies in a wide variety of industries were doing this. And I realized not only were they doing it, but they were approaching the challenge of shortening the workweek very much in similar kinds of ways, that they were using tools in a kind of experimental approach that reminded me a lot of what here in Silicon Valley, we call design thinking. And that consciously or not, these companies were very much taking a design thinking approach to redesigning how they worked and redesigning their time. And at that point, I realized that this was a story worth telling about a global movement that was only now becoming aware of itself. So, that's why I wrote Shorter.
Workpuls: Okay, and do you expect that and when? Actually, better to say when do you expect that more companies, the majority of the world population will switch to the shorter work weeks?
Alex: Majority of the work population. These kinds of large scale things are always really hard to predict but I would say that within the… I would say within 10 years or so that the majority of people in Western nations will be able to work four day weeks or 30 hour weeks, some variant of that sort. There's a great classic essay a century ago by Bertrand Russell, that predicted that we could all be working 15 or 20 hours a week by now, had this great line about how that was only one possibility, and that the other future was one in which technology allowed either for leisure for us all, or for overwork for a few and starvation for many. We've chosen what's behind door number two, but we actually have the technology that could allow us to switch over to a four day week, but we've just buried it under bad practice and kind of culture of overwork and a belief that we have to extract long hours out of our workers in order to be profitable.
Since I finished the book, I had looked at a little over 100 companies there, I have since found another 70 or so that have adopted shorter working hours just in the last, basically in the several months right before the lockdown. So I think that the movement is growing and I think that there are companies that will be in a position when all of this starts to lift and we go back, and offices reopen that will see the four day week as actually a tool for helping them get back to business faster.
For the following reasons: One of the things that companies have to confront when they go back to work, is you don't want the workplace itself to be where people get sick. You don't want it to become a hot zone. For something like a virus, how do you do that? One of the important things you do is engage in social distancing, just as the world is doing now on a massive scale. And there are like architecture firms and office design companies that are prototyping things that we can do, looking at improvements and ventilation systems in the flow of people around offices, in office spacing to help promote that. But it's also something that you can achieve by redesigning the workweek. So, a number of companies moved to when they shortened their weeks, moved from eight hour work days to six hour shifts, but kept the office open 12 hours a day. So this is popular, for example, with government services. And that's a win-win, because you've got fewer people in the office at any given time, which means social spacing is easier. But it also means that you're more available to your customers. If you're open from 7am to 7pm, people simply have more opportunity to come in before work or after work. And this is true for government services, I've seen auto repair shops do this, other retail establishments.
The other thing that companies in my book do is combine four day weeks with flexible and remote work. And some of them they'll have overlapping schedules where half the company is in Monday through Thursday, half is in Tuesday through Friday. So the front-facing part of the company just looks totally normal, even though individuals are working fewer hours. If you combine that with a schedule for flexible work, you can pretty quickly get to the point where you've got at any given time 50% of your staff in the office, which can be enough for a critical mass for meetings, for dealing with clients, etcetera. But again, which allow for enough distance so that nobody gets sick.
The other important thing about the shorter hours is that people who work four day weeks or six hour days are better able to take care of themselve. Because you can cook again, you've got more time for exercise, people generally are healthier, which these days I think is something whose value you really don't have to question.
And finally, I think that the skills in remote work in having meetings online, a shift toward becoming more familiar with doing, interviews and pitches to new clients over online systems rather than having to get on a plane and fly two hours for a one hour meeting and then fly back These are things that we actually are learning to do in the lockdown that we could bring back into our ordinary into “normal” working lives. And that we actually are developing a set of skills now that can help us move to a kind of work life and working schedules that give us more flexibility, that help organizations be more resilient, and that allow us to be productive, even while we're being safe. So end of prediction.
Workpuls: Yeah, that's the thing. I think that this right now will help more companies realize that remote work and flexible work isn't anything to be afraid of. That companies can still function this way because, even though remote work really grew in popularity within the past few years, it's still not a norm everywhere and not everybody allows it. A lot of people are against it. They think people will slack if they're working from home and so on.
Workpuls: So I think this is really helping establish that mindset in the eyes of employers. And look, this can work. So maybe like coming back into work with shorter hours in order to achieve that social distancing and everything. Maybe we'll be able to see a quicker shift, the quicker adoption of the shorter weeks as well.
Alex: I certainly hope so. And there is an enduring challenge in companies that have flexible work policies or work from home programs, who actually have been, enthusiastic about them and have wanted people to use them. That uptake even in those companies has been much lower than people would like, with the result being that for example, working parents are a lot more likely to have to struggle, to leave a company than their childless counterparts. And what has tended to happen, where these things have founded, have been around kind of cultural norms around being in the office. There is this enduring sense that you've got to do extra work if you've got one member of your team who's working from home or how can you really be sure that they're getting stuff done. For all of our advances in technology, for all of our capabilities to work remotely, there has still been this enduring suspicion that people who do it really are kind of slackers.
On the other hand, when you yourself are working at home, you have to do twice as much work in order to remain visible to your colleagues, to make sure that your manager knows what you're up to, to not be an inconvenience to the system. And I hope that one of the things that happens as a result of this, is that a lot of companies and managers of companies recognize both, how challenging this is, but also how viable it actually is, and that those suspicions will largely go away. So I think that that's something that's likely to happen. Even as we appreciate being able to get back into the office and get back to seeing people, that we will know that we can work flexibly and we can make flexibility work.
Workpuls: Yeah, we have been flexible before. We have work from home policy, so people can go out and work from home whenever they feel like it. So that was a good thing that we were sort of used to this type of thing but of course, now obviously, there's more pressure on it because of the whole situation. But I think we're all, we had a couple of meetings and like a couple of Zoom calls outside of working hours just to hang out and we were, like, “I’m never working from home again.”
I think it's more on the social aspect, than an aspect whether I'm doing any work at home or in the office. It's more seeing those people and spending time in the office with those people. That's really something that's missing in this equation a lot.
Alex: Yeah. And I think it's a super valuable thing to have in your toolkit. People will also be shocked at how much more they're able to do when they don't have small children around. And you can work from home while the kids are at preschool, that's going to be like a revolution.
Workpuls: Yeah, I think that's definitely going to be a big change compared to what's happening right now. So yeah, that would be all on my end when it comes to my questions. I don't know if you want to add anything. If we forgot to mention anything.
Alex: No, those are the big things. Yeah.
Alex: Nenad, did you have anything you wanted to add or ask?
Workpuls: Well, I was thinking about how we would be able to move to four day week? Practically, I'm just thinking about how to squeeze everything into four days. Well, we might give it a try.
Alex: I think that, when people look at their schedules, and if you think first “All right, can I take that? Can I take these meetings? Can I make them a lot shorter? Are there things that we can do with a technology that help us with these recurring tasks? Can we spend less time at that sort of stuff?” Pretty quickly, you recognize that you can, that if you can get a handle on that you can go a long way to making a four day week work. I think the other thing is that even in client facing organizations, four day weeks are a lot more viable than people expect.
Everybody worries about alienating clients if you shorten your working hours. But it turns out that, I know, out of these hundred companies, one story of one prospective client who said, “No, this isn't going to work for us.” Everybody else was totally supportive of it, partly because, especially if you're working in an industry where you've got project deadlines that are fairly long, you're hiring people, because they're experts and they have expertise that they will apply most effectively with a measure of independence doesn't really matter whether they work four days a week or seven, right.
But the other thing is that your clients are dealing with the same kinds of challenges around work life balance, and recruitment and retention and burnout and overwork that you are solving. And it's one thing to hear about, like a public agency in Sweden, that's doing this. At least in the US, when you hear about a Swedish company, that's cool, but you might as well be talking about the elves in Middle Earth. It feels like a completely different sort of world. If on the other hand, it's one of your vendors. If it’s a company who you understand, who understands you, who you've worked with for a long time; if they do it that's really close to home and the lessons that they learn are ones that maybe you can adopt yourself. And then finally, I think in an era where everybody has their phones super glued to their hands, and you always feel like you've got to be instantly responsive to whatever comes over the transom. Actually, having a company say, “We’re not going to bother you on Fridays.”
Feels a little bit more like a break, than a problem. It feels a lot more like a good thing that they're doing for you, than an abdication of responsibility. So for all of those reasons, clients are a lot more supportive of it than I expected when I started work on this book. And then if you want to talk further, I'm happy to do so.
Workpuls: Thank you. Thank you for joining us. We're really grateful.
Alex: Oh, you bet. No, this has been a lot of fun. It's been a real pleasure.
Workpuls: Thank you. Yeah. And on my end as well, it's been a pleasure having you as a guest here. And thank you, everybody for watching another episode of Workpuls Productivity Talks, and I'll speak to you soon. Bye!.