4 Lessons from Iceland’s 4-Day Work Week: How to Do More with Less Time

You’ve seen the headlines: Iceland’s study testing a 4-day work week found that having employees work fewer hours (with the same 40-hour pay) resulted in either the same productivity or a 40% increase, not a decrease.

Although you may not be able to cut a work day out of your schedule, here are a few lessons you can take from the activity and incorporate into your work practice to drive better results.

Replace Meetings with Emails and Other Communication Where Possible

Teams in Iceland’s 4-day workweek study eliminated meetings wherever possible. This resulted in more employee time spent delivering services and making direct progress on projects.

In your business, make sure that every meeting held is absolutely necessary, with a clear objective and defined outcomes. If the same goal can be achieved another way– for example, conveying information in an email or by a short conversation with one person– then use that method instead of asking for a meeting.

Additionally, make sure that employees only attend meetings where they are needed. If someone’s presence is unnecessary, let them know they do not have to attend. Their time is better spent on activities tied to generating revenue for your business or conducting other support tasks.

Run the Meetings You Do Have at Peak Efficiency

Where meetings are absolutely necessary, make sure they are run as efficiently as possible. Have a clear agenda distributed ahead of the meeting, with time allotted for each section. Put the most important items at the beginning.

Additionally, ensure that all action items are clearly assigned to individuals by name before the meeting ends.  When everyone is clear on what is needed from them– and when– it reduces the need for follow-up and lowers the chances of an important task falling through the cracks.

Keep Personal Errands and Business Outside of Work Hours.

Employees in Iceland’s study took shorter coffee breaks and used work time for work activities, allowing them to make more progress and achieve higher productivity.

Fewer interruptions enable employees to stay focused on their work, achieve flow states more often, and can get more done. An interruption of any kind typically requires 15-45 minutes for a person to get back to the same level of momentum. Even small personal tasks, such as ordering flowers for a spouse, can snowball into a surprising amount of lost work time.

With Iceland’s 4-day work week, employees knew they would have time to run errands during business hours of the companies they needed to interact with. It was much easier to pick up laundry, supervise a plumber, take a car to a mechanic, get a phone screen replaced, or handle other personal business during their time off.

In your business practice, it is vital to make sure employees have reasonable workloads and hours so they have time– and energy– to handle home tasks outside of work. Where possible, it is also important to allow employees flexibility with the distribution of their hours. In practice, it may simply be more productive for an employee to work four nine-hour days and leave early on the last day when they need to handle personal matters, rather than getting bogged down in a series of inefficient starts and stops.

Work-life Balance and Mental Health are Critical to Performance

Team members need time away from the office. They’re human beings, not machines. Having time for friends, family, relaxation, and de-stressing naturally leads to better health, less burnout, and a better spirit of cooperation in the workplace. Work-life balance is key for high-performing teams and team members.

The Bottom Line

Better work-life balance increases productivity. When workers are allowed greater flexibility and license to find solutions, companies become more efficient as the team develops strategies to trim fat and run things more efficiently. It leads to healthier, happier workers, fewer sick days, and a bigger bottom line that you can use to scale your business to the next level.

Want Expert Advice on Increasing Your Business’s Productivity?

Want personal advice on how your business can get more done with less? Join EnrichHER’s Business Financing Accelerator to work with experts who can show you how to increase productivity, grow your team effectively, get more customers, and solve other business challenges you’re facing. You’ll also get access to a free year of weekly coaching workshops. Click here to learn more and join the next cohort.

About EnrichHER:

EnrichHER is a financial technology platform that matches revenue-generating companies led by women and founders of color to individual and institutional sources of funding. Since 2017, EnrichHER has deployed upwards of $4 million through its platform and matched business-owners to $13 million in working capital through its Accelerator. By providing capital, coaching, and connections, we are fueling the fastest-growing demographic of business owners. Our network has engaged with over 23,000 advocates through its digital community and in-person activations.

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