AI and the four-day week
Someone asked me a great question yesterday.
If the pandemic was the catalyst for the #4DayWeek to go mainstream, what might the catalyst be for it to become the norm? 🤔
The impact of Covid and the “Great Resignation” led to exponential growth for the shorter working week movement. 📈
We are now in an incremental growth phase, as company leaders are gradually persuaded of the benefits and convinced by the research, and adoption by industry competitors creates ripple effects to encourage others to follow. 🌱
Numerous sentiment surveys in the UK, the US and Canada suggest that the majority of executives and decision-makers believe the four-day week to be possible, desirable and even inevitable in the near future – but most are still watching and waiting.
But could another external force fast-track this process? 🚀
For me, the obvious answer lies in the impact of #ArtificialIntelligence, for 3 key reasons. 🤖
1️⃣ EFFICIENCY – Many organizations that I have worked with and supported to move to shorter working weeks have automated certain tasks and used technology to improve administrative processes. This was before #ChatGPT #AutoGPT and other tools opened up a world of possibility for how we get our work done. The scope to enhance productivity is now much greater. 💥
2️⃣ PROTECTING EMPLOYMENT – I think that it is inevitable that we reach a point in the cycle where governments and the public sector look to shorter working weeks to help preserve jobs in industries and professions significantly disrupted by #AI. We can use technology to maintain employment and productivity levels while reducing hours. 🌟
3️⃣ FAIRNESS – The inequitable distribution of the spoils of #globalization and #digitalization has led to political polarization and popular backlash against democracies the world over, most notably characterized in the west by the election of #Trump and the #Brexit referendum campaign. We have to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself, and the benefits of AI, #automation and robotics are shared fairly with workers across the economy. One good place to start is through reduced working time. 👍
The pandemic didn’t lead to an immediate surge in demand for the four-day week. If anything, the initial fallout from March 2020 onwards slowed down the pace of change, as leaders grappled with sudden transitions to remote working, supply chain disruption, economic uncertainty and a myriad of other issues. 🌪
It was only a year later, when the transformative change we had collectively experienced started to bed in, that leaders, managers and employees started to truly open up to the potential for shorter working weeks to be possible. 💡
Has the recent explosion in excitement and fear about AI tools and technologies mirrored the early stages of the pandemic? Will this be a precursor for another radical shift in how we structure the workweek?
The virtues of structured flexibility
HR leaders are currently faced with a variety of different choices when it comes to designing the right flexibility model for their business. 🤹♀️
They know that, in most industries, offering some form of flexibility is necessary in today’s labor market if they want to be competitive.
So why opt for a shorter working week structure instead of a pure flexibility model where people can work where they like, when they like?
The answer lies in the virtues of structured flexibility.
Often, when “total flexibility” is offered without clear structure, and in a way that is silent on the average hours people work or changing the way they work, this model can be so discretionary and individualized as to be effectively meaningless.
Like with many examples of unlimited holiday/PTO policies in the United States, the benefit tends to be unevenly distributed, and the level of take up and access can vary widely depending on how your manager interprets the policy, career progression dynamics, team dynamics, individual roles and personalities, and even gender.
It also fails to provide an incentive for collective, structural change.
The #4DayWeek is so universally life-changing and transformative that it drives engagement, collaboration and collective responsibility across teams to find a better way to do things.
Instead of leaving it up to individuals, people are motivated to work together to change how they meet, how they communicate, how they use technology, and how they address inefficiencies.
Whether you see the future of work for your organization as being remote-first and asynchronous, in-person and on-site, or somewhere in between, work time reduction can be a powerful driver for collective action where everyone benefits materially from finding solutions to the challenges facing your business.
The two key ingredients for change
In order to address an issue, you need two key ingredients.
- an understanding of the root causes of the issue, and
- the motivation and urgency to address it
Most business leaders today recognize the need to future proof their organization, and that in order to do this they need their operations to be lean, nimble and efficient while making sure their business is an attractive, engaging place to work for their people.
- Our operational excellence diagnostic for work time reduction assesses your organization’s health across a wide range of different factors, and identifies issues and challenges that need to be remedied and overcome – getting to the root causes of what is holding you back from being as productive as you could be.
- The incentive of introducing a shorter working week trial or policy provides the motivation and urgency necessary to engage and empower all of your people in addressing these key issues and challenges.
That’s why this approach often leads to the almost counter intuitive outcome of businesses delivering better results while their people work fewer hours – it’s got the right ingredients to make an impactful and sustainable change.