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August 31, 2023
Reflections on the 4 Day Work Week Experiment

“I’ll be very interested to hear how it goes.”

That’s the comment most often heard when talking with someone about our six-month experiment of a 4-day work week. About about half of those people showed genuine interest and the other half expressing extreme skepticism. As a recap, in January 2023, we initiated a six-month experiment to work a 4-day work week at Intelligent Futures. We had discussed this at our quarterly planning session in September 2022 and began testing ways of working so that we were able to hit the ground running rather than completely overhauling our work life on day one of the experiment. 

What changes did we make?

Removing an entire day from the work week is a fascinating forcing function to reconsider all manner of ways that we are working. We wanted to be intentional with the changes, so we explored adjustments to:

  • Our weekly rhythm: We changed the times of our weekly startup, weekly closeout and timing of internal meetings.  
  • Meetings: We reviewed and adjusted our meetings to be more planful about what we were meeting for and when those meetings were happening.
  • Technology use: We reinforced our use of technology, such as Slack and Asana, to ensure we were as productive as possible.
  • Measurement: We instituted a monthly survey of the team to understand how the experiment was impacting us as individuals and as an organization. We also measured a set of key indicators, such as revenue, utilization rate and achievement of quarterly goals during the experiment. 

What were the results?

The results have been extremely positive, but not perfect. The infographic below illustrates the highlights of our six-month experiment. As you can see, there was a tremendous benefit to the lives of our team and to our productivity. Levels of projected revenue are on track, utilization rates are strong, and we are delivering high-quality work on an increasingly diverse array of complex challenges. 

Overall, the 4-day work week experiment was a success, but there are areas we can improve.

The area that experienced the most challenge through the experiment was our delivery of internal goals. Every quarter, we set out a series of actions that work towards our annual goals. These relate to internal capacities, process improvement and the development of new offerings. During the first six months of 2023, we achieved lower levels of accomplishment in this area. In one way, this makes sense, as client work takes priority, and during a time of significant change, some things may not receive the attention they deserve. On the other hand, the broader aim of the 4-day work week is to make these changes without compromising on our standards of excellence - both external and internal. In order to improve on our internal goal achievement, we have evolved our processes to be more collaborative, which aligns with our value of extraordinary collaboration. 

What’s next?

The team rightly pointed out that it would make sense to continue the experiment through the end of 2023. Why? Because after being digital-by-default after 3+ years, we will be moving into our new home at Kensington Corner in September. Having a physical space for the team to gather (stay tuned for all kinds of information and stories about our cool new office, coming soon) can have a profound impact on how the team works and is able to maintain and improve our standards while still living a 4-day work week. 

So, we’re going to continue the experiment for the rest of the year. We’ve learned a lot in these first six months and are making additional changes based on our learning. Building on research from Future Forum, we are expanding our concept of ‘hybrid work’ to include not only the flexibility of space but the flexibility of time. This requires that our team will need to be that much more thoughtful and intentional in our practice to hit the right balance of team/collaboration time and individual/focused work time. At our most recent quarterly planning workshop, we established a series of team agreements that build on our learning from the 4-day work week and integrate new frameworks to address challenges we’ve experienced. Key changes will include:

  • Establishment of core collaboration hours. These hours are when IF team members are available to each other throughout the day. This provides flexibility for team members to deliver their focused work when it works best for them. We have always been vehemently opposed to ‘presenteeism,’ but establishing these core collaboration hours provides an effective structure to avoid this happening by default.
  • Use of asynchronous information-sharing. Rather than using valuable collaborative time to sit through the same information (project updates, presentations, etc), our team now regularly shares information asynchronously so that information can be reviewed prior to a meeting, and we can then use our together-time more effectively.
  • Refinement of meeting expectations. Adam Grant has a great, simple description of why we should meet: learn; decide; do; and bond. Building off the two previous changes identified, we have evolved the reasons for getting together and the expectations for the host (provide an agenda 24 hours in advance, share relevant info beforehand, etc). 

We’re excited to continue the experiment and to keep pushing ourselves to find ways of working that create the positive impact we seek in the world, provide an exciting and fulfilling experience for our team and allow for a wonderful life outside of work. Stay tuned (again) for an update in six months!