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4+1 work week?



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It is a working strategy that was developed and tested in Unfair Lean Marketing company. It means that in the workplace four days of the workweek are focused on work and the last day is dedicated to learning new, recovering, or self-evolution. This method of working had a big change in the workplace. Unfair won the best working place in Finland in 2022. Because the four days are focused intensely on work and clients, on the fifth day there is given room for the employees to recover, learn, or self-evolution. Many times the fifth day was also used to meet all together with all the employees to go over companies internal things. It’s an interesting way of working and it has many positive outcomes, although system to work the organization needs to be committed to change and observe their working life from a new perspective. 

Why this method was created? 

The leaders of Unfair were wondering how to make their employee’s busy office life great again and increase employee satisfaction after CORONA-19 hit. Many different variations were thought of, like the 4-day working week. Where the organization only works four days from the traditional five-day workweek. The proven benefits from there have been increased productivity among employees, improve work-life balance, and lower overhead costs in the organization. But when the idea of moving to a 4-day working week was asked of employees, they stated that it would harm their work. Because it would force them to work more effectively during those 4 days and they felt there would increase the need to take work things up during the weekend at home.  

Because the 4-day work week was not an option to try, they started to investigate what is the main reason that is causing the employees to stress and why they were not satisfied in the working environment. From the employees there were raised points such as their work got disturbed often during the day and that meetings were not organized effectively, also that there was too little time to recover. 

Leaders of Unfair then started observing and catering data on how often their employee’s work got disturbed and why. It showed that many times work was disrupted by a message or a post from other workers in the internal channels. Also often times these messages weren’t that urgent and were not that related to clients. But the effect that one disturb has can be big. Because according to psychology and brain scientist, Mona Moisala human brain takes at least 20 minutes time to pick up on the work it was disturbed from. So based on that they needed to come up with a solution that would reduce the disruptions. Also the constant disturbing slowed down their work and sometimes work followed them to work, because they were not able to finish it at the office.

Another thing they were trying to tackle was the meeting culture. Because many employees opened up about how they felt that their time was wasted in the meeting. The meeting was felt to be too long or their contribution to the meeting took only a small part of the meeting. When they started observing their meeting culture and how often they were happening, the topics of the meetings, and who was attending them. From there to their surprise they discovered that some practices were still used even though they were not topical anymore. For example, there were three teams having their meeting one after another on Mondays, because it used to be so that their CEO would join all of their meetings during that time. But then she realized she did not need to attend those meetings anymore. There could have been changes that the three teams could have had the meeting at the same time to be more effective, but they were not doing it because they were used to the old system and didn’t recognize the possibility to change.

The way organization works and what unconscious practices there are that may harm the working are only discovered when the organization is able to observe its way of working from the macro and micro level with new eyes and questions the way of working.  

How to change?

After making research and thinking of different variations Unfair’s leaders started testing different ways of work. But it to work they pressed the point that their companies practice was not allowed to damage and clients were still to keep satisfied. 

They introduced the 4 + 1 workweek concept. Where the four days were reassuring to working and clients and the fifth day (Friday) was devoted to learning, recovery, or self-evolution. Also on the fifth the whole team meetings were held to talk about topics other than clients. Rules that were given on the fifth day were that employees still needed to report on what they were using their hours on and that employees needed to be reachable by phone. Employees were still able to work also with their client’s cases if they wanted to do so, but it was given their choice on how they use their working hours on that day. At the beginning of the testing, many employees were using their Fridays to recover, because the need to recover was big. But after some time they could see that the trend was going down on recovery and their employees were using more and more time for learning and self-evolution. 

Moving to a 4+1 work week also needed other matters fixed to provide a working environment where employees were able to get their work done efficiently. One was to get rid of useless meetings and make meetings more effective so that people in the meeting would feel active and that their time was used well. For that meeting holders were asked to think about who needed to attend the meetings, how long everyone needed, to provide material and agenda of the meeting beforehand, and shorten their meetings. From 60-minute meetings to 50 minutes meetings and from 30-minute meetings to 20 minutes. Also, everyone was given the authority to end the meeting if it seemed or felt that the meeting had everything that was needed to discuss discussed. This gave people attending the meeting a clear picture of what is going to be discussed and also the shortened time motivated them to discuss only the things that were supposed to in an effective way. But they also recognized that it might create a busy environment, where people might not have time to talk. They introduced the two types of meetings: where one is focused on going through things and making decisions and the second model was calmed down for dialogue, where longer discussions were happening without trying to reach a conclusion. 

This change in the culture of the meeting reduced the number of meetings and gave them more value. 

Notifications were disturbing employees. Many notifications during the day it was built in the working community in the way that employees were trying to react to all of the notifications. Many employees also had their notifications on and were disrupted by the noise of it as well. To solve the problem, there were clear “rules” made on how to message and where other employees were, only urgent things needed to be reacted quickly, notifications were turned off, status messages needed to be updated, and on urgent things you were allowed to contact via phonecall but not urgent matters are expected to handle by messaging or another not disrupting way, automatic messages were courage to be used and made. Many small things made a huge difference in communicating things between employees. When an organization sets clear rules and makes it visible where to find the information it is easier for employees to follow and communicate. 

Result

After getting used to the new working week employees were feeling the change positively. Because of the change, the workplace also won the best working place award in 2022. The culture grew bigger and employees’ satisfaction grew. But to make sure it keeps up, the company keeps track of the satisfaction of the employees by having surveys done for the employees. If the satisfaction drops the employee is asked to a meeting to figure out the reason and to come up with a solution on how the company can help. Also, their clients have given positive feedback regarding the work, cause instead of work being delivered late on Friday they get delivered already on Thursday.

Conclusion

4+1 working week is a working way where 4 days time is dedicated to working and on the fifth-day employees have the freedom to choose between learning new, recovering, or self-evolution. It resembles bit Google’s way of working where employees are allowed to work on their own project for 25 % of their working hours but they have modified it to serve their needs. But for it to work there need to be clear rules as well the company’s working environment needs to be observed and allowed to change if there are indicators that are not serving. Also, data and statistics about the changes and result helps to measure the success. 

 


 

Sources:

Unfair Lean Marketing – webinaari 4+1-työviikosta, by Taru Kumpulainen & Emilia Särkiniemi, 2023

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSyOEcurF6M&t=1018s

Blog text by Unfair. 4+1-työviikko: epäreilun hyvää työarkea.

Blog text by Emilia Särkiniemi & Johanna Raiskio. Mihin sinä käytät perjantait? Unfair loi neljän päivän työviikosta liinin 4+1-mallin.

News article, Helsingin Sanomat by Tanja Vasama, 2020. Kahdeksan tehokasta tuntia on harhainen tavoite – Mona Moisala on aivoinfarktin kokenut aivotutkija, ja hänen mukaansa nykyinen työelämä on rikkomassa meidät.

News article, CNBC, by Jennifer Liu, 2023. Workers report a 4-day workweek improves health, finances and relationships: `It simply makes you happy` .

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