A 4-day week and no bosses — that’s how we work

A 4-day week and no bosses — that’s how we work

Wednesday August 24, 2016,

6 min Read

After eight years of trying 109 different tactics and over 100 different work methods, because we are passionate about improving the productivity in our work, we finally decided to get rid of bosses.

This move helped us improve our work efficiency by 204 percent. How can you implement this in your organisation?

You need to first realise that your worst enemy is interruptions. A study carried out by Basex showed that employees lose around three to five hours of work each day from different types of interruptions.

4 day week

Image : shutterstock

Creative people, such as engineers, programmers, writers, designers, and many other professionals, need a minimum of four continuous hours of work without any interruptions in order to achieve maximum concentration and consequently their highest level of productivity.

Interruptions by meetings

Our first challenge was to eliminate one of the biggest interruptions that exist while at work — meetings. We started limiting drastically the scope of the meetings.

An article published by The Economist showed how a manufacturing company was able to save the equivalent of 200 employee salaries just by limiting meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and seven team members.

During a three-month period, we defined the internal policy such that each employee could attend just one meeting for 15 minutes per day and have only five people attending it.

Over time, the meetings naturally decreased in number until finally we decided to eliminate them altogether. To achieve this, we have annual getaways, during which we all meet to define the general company goals as well as the tasks and responsibilities of each team member in order to reach those goals over the following six months.

We also developed an internal blog. Here each person provides a three-line update of the previous week highlighting the achievements, obstacles encountered (even asking for suggestions and ideas if necessary), as well as work for the coming week.

Interruptions by emails

Based on the positive experience of eliminating meetings, we decided to do the same thing with emails.

We began migrating all of our work to Basecamp, a program that lets you manage group projects. There are other tools as well based on what fits best for your company: Slack, Asana, etc.

Currently, we only use emails for communicating with third parties (providers, clients, etc.).

Email was created more than 45 years ago. It was developed as a basic means for communication between two or more computers, but it was never designed under any circumstance to efficiently manage all of a company’s internal projects.

One of biggest problems with email is that all the information remains behind closed doors between those who shared the messages (the sender and the receiver). Added on to this, they are stored in an unorganised way which is not practical at all.

A project management tool, on the other hand, can document every job and can be accessed by all the members of the team. Additionally, when someone wants to come on board of a project, all they need to do is log onto the platform and they give get access to all the details.

Interruptions by bosses

The first two goals led us to make the final leap of completely eliminating interruptions caused by bosses.

Thanks to the internet, in a world that is ultra-connected, it is no longer necessary for someone to have a job whose role is to check on others, making sure that they are all working properly to stay in sync and advance. Today, everyone knows exactly what the rest of the team members are doing in real time.

As a result of these methods, we learned that the challenge and the key is in hiring and working with only those individuals who are proactive, that is, with people who are also entrepreneurs, who do not need to be told what to do and how to do it.

Unfortunately, you will have to invest more time and be much more selective not just in the technical training of your current and future employees, but also in your culture and autonomous, self-disciplined way of working.

In not having meetings, emails, nor bosses, all of our communication is asynchronous, which means that no one needs to have their level of concentration interrupted when they are doing their job.

Less interruptions, more time with your family

As a consequence of improving our productivity, we currently work four days per week. When your employees can work interruption-free for four hours in the morning and then another four continuous hours in the afternoon, it is then that you will be able to implement this change.

As Gloria Mark of the University of California shares in this interview, on average you will lose 23 minutes and 15 seconds in order to catch back up to the level of productivity that you had before being interrupted.

The way we were able to do this successfully was on a gradual, step-by-step basis. We started out with one Friday free per month. After trying this for three months, we went ahead and tried two Fridays per month, and so on until after one year, we took all Fridays off.

What we learned and where we erred at the beginning was that all of us took off on Fridays and this made it so that no one could give a response to a client or someone outside the company until Monday. Based on this, we divided the company in half, with one group taking off on Monday and the other on Friday so that all of our clients' and providers' questions can be answered on any day of the work week.

There is no doubt that the advantages justify this new initiative. We are witnessing a drop in the number of days employees take leave either for being sick or for going for a doctor’s visit. This is in line with what the well-known English Physician John Ashton postulated: people should work four days a week to significantly reduce stress levels.

The difference is not in the quantity of hours put in but in the quality of the hours. Without a doubt the formula is simple: quality of hours worked + zero interruptions = maximum productivity.

Also, our employee retention rate and the feasibility of hiring new top-notch human resources has increased significantly.

With the advances in technology and the new communication tools that have emerged, it is your responsibility to improve your work methods so that your company can be more effective and that you, as well as your employees, may have a better quality of life.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)