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Where to next for the #4DayWeek?

In 2021, I designed the first-ever #4DayWeek pilot program and research project in my home country of Ireland, having been involved in #WorkTimeReduction research, advocacy and coaching since 2018.

A lot has changed in the 5 years since then. This model, which was originally intended to be a small-scale project which provided some support, infrastructure and assessment to de-risk the process for leaders in Ireland who were interested in testing this out, was expanded to support a host of global trials in 2022 involving hundreds of companies and thousands of employees all over the world – including the recent landmark UK trial.

As an impatient leader that is constantly thinking about the next thing, how we build on this success and momentum and how we take the movement forward has been on my mind since the middle of last year.

First, we need to acknowledge that the bigger and more complex the organization, the more challenging this endeavor will be. It will also require in many cases a longer-term, more incremental, more flexible organizational transformation to #WorkTimeReduction than the prescription for the mostly small to medium sized businesses that took part in the #4DayWeek trials. That was a big part of my motivation for teaming up with Curium Solutions and Curium Solutions US to set up Work Time Reduction, as they bring the necessary experience and expertise in supporting big, complex change management and operational excellence projects in larger companies to the table.

Second, we need to acknowledge that if the movement is to be scalable and inclusive, we need to find a way to support companies who have limited resources to bring in outside expertise, companies who don’t speak the same language as us, and companies in countries where we don’t have on-the-ground infrastructure.

That’s why I’ve been working on building a collaborative solution that leverages our knowhow and networks in this field, alongside cutting-edge, market-leading technological capacity and software expertise. Our goal this year is to deliver a cost-efficient, universally available product with the scalability to support leaders, managers and employees not only to change their organizational policies and operations to accommodate a shorter working week, but to change their culture, processes and behaviors, as well as measuring the impact of this change. This will be a one-stop-shop for smaller, more nimble organizations with relatively flat structures and straightforward decision-making processes to move to a shorter work week.

Third, and arguably the most pressing challenge, we need to acknowledge that if the model to adopt shorter working weeks is not one-size-fits-all, then our model to support them shouldn’t be one-size fits all either. That’s why through our expert advisory group, our partnerships with industry specialists and shorter working week pioneers with sector-specific expertise, and the new industry-specific programs we have announced this week, we have developed a tailored approach designed to meet the company’s individual needs and challenges as well as their specific industry context and circumstances.

We’re starting with law, insurance, marketing and professional services, although more will follow later this year. These particular sectors have been chosen as while they have been underrepresented for the most part in recent global experiments, we believe that with the right approach, there is a significant opportunity to reduce working time in these professions without loss of pay or productivity. We have the expertise and the model in place to make this a reality, and the slower pace of adoption to date in these industries only means that the competitive advantage and differentiation that will flow to those who embrace this new workplace innovation will be even greater.

There is an opportunity now to apply the learnings and positive findings from recent global trials and case studies to industry-specific, company-specific, even department-specific challenges. We’ve assembled the people and built the roadmap to make this happen.

Many businesses who ended up moving to the ‘gold standard’ 4-day, 32-hour work week model in the trials had previously had successful experiments with incremental work time reduction models like 9-day fortnights, half-day Fridays, summer Fridays or ‘flex’ Fridays, which gave them the confidence and the buy-in to go all the way. We need to support businesses to get on the road and start heading in the right direction, as well as those who are ready to head straight for the final destination. Many others that work in industries with irregular hours will need support in designing alternative work time reduction models to the #4DayWeek, accommodating shorter work days and different shift patterns.

My prediction for 2023 is that the thing that will move the needle most for the shorter working week movement will be mid-market, strategically significant companies across different industries embracing the #4DayWeek or other forms of #WorkTimeReduction. This will have a competitive ripple effect that will make the Fortune 500 companies who have been watching this with interest, and maybe even some scepticism and fear, stand up and take notice.

We’ve zoomed out and built the broad case. Now it’s time to zoom back in again, meet people where they are at, and truly understand what it takes to pull this off for different companies with very different DNA. What is the feasibility and impact of shorter working weeks in these industries, and what exactly does best practice look like? We’re about to find out.