Charlotte, welcome to the show. You're the founder and the Managing Director of the 4 Day week global campaign. What is the 4 day week? Can you explain it to me?
So we, as an organization are something that Andrew Barnes and I set up that provides a, basically a format to promote the idea of productivity focused, reduced hour work. What is the 4 day week? Well that is the interesting misnomer I think? Initially we started with an actual 4 day week, but now we really talk about how can you reduce work hours with in your business by focusing in on productivity and ensuring that you don't have to reduce work pay. So those are the three things productivity, less hours, but not a reduction in pay.
Okay. So if I'm working, let's say then 35 hours a week, I'm doing normally now Monday to Friday, seven days a week. What would that look like normally then?
Yeah, so what we're trying to do is, as we, so we have a model which we call the 100-80-100 principle, where you are paid for a hundred percent of your income; you work 80% of your time and you provide a hundred percent of your productivity. So it doesn't really matter how many hours you're working. What we're looking at doing is getting those hours down to 80%. And the good thing about having that as a model is that, you know, it doesn't matter with you're working the standard city seven 40 hour week, or whether you're working 60 hours or whether you're working, you know, 20 hours. The idea is to reduce the amount of work time, but focusing on productivity and, and maintaining pay, because let's face it. If productivity has remained the same, why should pay be reduced?
Right. Okay. So how do you improve productivity?
Oh, there are lots of ways you can improve productivity.
Cause governments have been trying for about 55 years.
Well the interesting thing is that governments, while governments have been trying and governments have have focused every government that I'm aware of has a focus in on productivity. I mean, in New Zealand, we have a thing called the Productivity Commission. But the problem for a macro solution of course is that actually productivity in a business is a micro solution. So what we aim to do is help individual businesses look at what does productivity mean to them. Now, there are simple equations around how many widgets do you produce, but actually what gets into the layers that, that get down to that are often very individually specific to each company. So there are some general rules I mean certainly in white collar meetings and running meetings efficiently is a large one, but in manufacturing, there's often little things that happen within the process or within the way that things are done that create an issue for businesses around reaching their maximum potential. And the little, well, not so little, actually quite substantial piece of this is that we tell the C-Suite do not overthink it; your decision is to reduce work hours and then you work in partnership with your people to find out how you will do that. And that's the thing that most businesses miss out when they're trying to sort out productivity, they tell their people, hey guys, we've got these a time and motion people that have come in, I've got McKinsey coming in or some other external person we've got the software that's going to, I don't know, spy on you! No, look at how you use your time and see. And the problem with doing those sort of things, is that people on the whole feel reasonably threatened by that. They're all, gosh, the boss thinks I'm not working hard. I know I'm working lots of hours. I know I'm putting in the time. Of course time is not productivity. And so, so people feel threatened when you, when you use external ways of validating, how you increase productivity.
And then of course it back to, you know, why you might want a happy workplace and wellbeing in the workplace, of course, feeling threatened doesn't promote that sort of a workplace and people often, when you hear this, what they hear is you want me to do more with less, and there are redundancies or layoffs on the way.
But when you say to your people, you know what guys I want you to have to work, spend less time at work. So to do that, we need to find ways to make the workplace more productive. We also don't want to reduce your pay. Then people will be motivated to find all the little nuances within their job as an individual within their teams and within the organization as a whole, that they'll find ways to help you increase productivity because they all want to go home and spend time with their children or have time for yoga or have time to educate themselves, or I dunno, just to binge watch Netflix.
For most people, the motivation of what they would be able to do with time actually is the benefit that gets them thinking about it because they don't feel that their job is in under any threat and they also most importantly don't feel like there is anyone else in their team's job is as is under threat because they can all work together in terms of how they increase productivity. And the great thing about this of course, is it's a huge team building exercise as people within an organization, no matter how large it is work through, what are the little nuances for our organization and all at the C-suite. has to do, is set the boundaries around what is the measure that we need to get to? Is it a profitability measure? What are we measuring? What do you want us to get to? And different businesses have different things and we've got more and more businesses that actually include wellbeing in the measurement as part of what you're doing. We want this wellbeing outcome. So, you know, so, so that's kind of what we see. And if you think about it, if you're at work and you're clear about why you're there, you're clear about what's expected of you and you're given the resources to do it. Then you actually feel really good about it. You get to the end of the day going. I really feel like I contributed and as humans, we like to feel like we matter, we like to feel like we contributed. So that also adds in to how people feel at work.
But because we fetishize being busy and being busy as being good. I wonder if you come across, you know, employees and workers that are really quite resistant to this and to this way of...
Absolutely, ok. Yeah, you do. I mean, within every organization, you are going to find those who are, who think that they are very they're the ones that say good, I'm really busy, but busy is not productive and a lot of the eight personality types, you know, they, they love as a person saying that they work, you know, 80 hours a week and they it's a badge of honor. And as a society, we are, you can't force people to change, but as a society, we need to work out what is better for us all and, okay, fine. So you can probably still going to have the odd, A personality who doesn't get it at the moment. But we also know that within the millennials and the younger generations, they want a different way of working. They don't want to work the long, ridiculous hours that they have watched us, their parents work. You know, my children have seen me, I've got young adult young men, and they seen me burn out. They, they don't want that life. They want the time, you know, my, my two young men want the time to be able to spend quality time with their partners, quality time with children when they come along and they want time for themselves to be able to pursue outside interests. And as a society, if we can create that we will get less divorce or relationships split up. We will have children that grow up knowing their parents and being parented by their parents. We will have people who have time to do community things. I mean, you look at something like rotary, for example, rotary is it's a fine institution, but struggles to get members these days because people just don't have the time. Oh, I hazard a guess that church struggles with the same thing, you know, sport and family activities has taken over the space that something like a church life might have had for many families. And so, it's about actually taking our pace of life back down to that of our grandparents without all of the mother stays at home, she's not allowed in the workforce. And without some of the things that we now consider, you know, the way that we run our lives more progressively, and it's about how do we use technology? I mean, John Maynard Keynes said that, you know, by, by now we would be working a 15 hour a week on the basis of what he thought in the 1930s with 1930's technology that we would be able to get to, but we didn't, he didn't factor in you know, our mobile phones, which are our alarm clocks and our emails from work and our way of finding out information by browsing. And so you end up in this situation where the technology that was supposed to free us has actually entrapped us.
So what started you on this journey? What's your background?
So we, we put a 4 day week into our business in Perpetual Guardian back in 2018, beginning of 2018. And Andrew was interested, he read an article that said that productivity in the UK was less than two and a half hours a day. And he thought to himself, really, you know, it's, it's to Canada, it was like 1.4 hours
I know right? But he was thinking, wait, but what getting in the way? Why are people not productive at work? And then sort of transitioned that to, and is that happening in our businesses? So we started on the 4 day, week pathway, realistically, as a way of understanding how productivity worked in our business. And if we could give people a bit of extra time off, would those, you know, things that crept into the work day would actually those be able to be done at another time? And so therefore people would be more productive at work. So it was a productivity thing. We weren't coming at it from employee wellbeing or gender balance or the environment or, or any of the things that come out mental health. And we weren't coming at it from any of that, but, then when we put it in, we're like, oh, this is great for gender balance. We got all these people that, that choose to come back to work after parental leave. And they negotiate an 80% package because they want to work only 4 days a week and then you get 80% of all the benefits, but in general, you're giving a hundred percent, of all the productivity in the work. And one of the, one of the, the chaps, who does a four day week here in the UK, a gentleman called John Nash from Nicholson Search, he worked out that he's been doing it since 2015. And he worked out that it was quite possible to do it in recruitment because in his previous role, there'd been a woman that had come back from parental leave onto a 4 day week. And she achieved just as much as everybody else. And then she had a second child and came back 3 days a week and was still achieving the same as everybody else. So he knew it was possible, because this woman had done it. And, you know, and he took that and went with it as, as a new way of working for himself.
So that's well, before the, the large part of the conversation started when we started talking about it in 2018, and certainly, you know, the pandemic has put the conversation into a whole new level. Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, the great what's termed, the great resignation I think is, which is, you know, which is a really great movement. You know, it, the fact that employees have the right to say now. I mean, you need that every now and then it needs to be this balance between whether the employer or the employee has the power. And at the moment the employees have the power. So it gives us this incredible opportunity to just completely reframe how work exists in our society and start to drive back some of these things that we should have back this time to ourselves and time to be whole humans. You know, I, I use the phrase a lot with when I'm talking to employers and say, remember that we borrow our people from their lives. And when you think about it like that, so, you know, cause you get a whole bunch of employers that go, oh, why is Bob not at work? Well actually Bobs not at work because he's, that's not part of his life today. And so I think that it's really, you know, the UK has nearly 18 million work days lost each year to a workplace stress and mental health. 18 million days! So if we can, and those people, arguably, some of them are ending up on our poor overworked NHS. So actually if we can chip away at some of what happens, and businesses that do a reduced hour work week find that their sick days go down and their staff happiness goes up and all these things. And as a consequence of that, they're actually starting to move some of these macro dials that might need to be moved by the, by the government over time. You know, how do we reduce that 18 million days? How do we reduce the impact on the NHS? And what I love is that people often go well, that's all very well and fine for you office space workers, but that would never work in the NHS. But what if we had doctors and nurses who weren't overworked and leaving the NHS because it's too hard, they're providing excellent diagnoses and care because they are not overworked. What does that start to impact on the costs of running the NHS? Because we will have better care. I mean, the, you know, the GP service is falling apart and, you know, there's all this talk about GPs being able to come down to a 40 hour week. Well, you know, why wouldn't they, right. Everyone else wants a 32 hour work week.
So actually, you know, when we start to pick apart what place overwork it has an our economy and, and our society, then we start to pick apart some of the solutions.
Is it, is it like an Anglo-Saxon sort of Anglosphere problem because of when you sort of look at the, you know, for example, European countries, the Italians, the French, whatever their productivity rates are always much higher than what they are in the UK. And maybe we don't measure the stuff in the same way. Maybe there's a difference in, in how productivity is measured between let's say here in France, but it does, but it does seem to be though that actually in Europe they do seem to produce more, but spend less time doing it.
Look and you're right. And when it was hard to know, because arguably we want to be sure that the statistics are accurate, but a lot of the time these comes out of organizations like OECD. So you'd like to think that they've got, they're very clever statisticians are actually measuring things accurately and, and yes, it comes down I mean, they, you know, the Metall union in Germany, which, you know, Volkswagon and car manufacturing, they work a 28 hour week and still have their pay increases into their union contract. So it's not necessarily hard. France is an interesting one because they dropped down to a 35 hour week and it didn't really succeed. And it gets often gets talked about. And the reason why it didn't succeed though, because there was no corresponding conversation around how you increase productivity. So it is about the two. And so you've got Belgium going down this road. We've got Scotland that are really interested in that. We've got Spain, they're looking at it too. So over time, this is a train that is coming and is possibly already, you know, half out of the tunnel and here, and, and businesses need to decide, am I going to be on it? Or am I going to be jumping on a little bit late? Or am I going to be following behind in the, in the, you know, in the dust and you know, there'll be a lot of those falling behind in the dust and the impact for that of course, if we go back to things like the great resignation people are choosing employers who will pay them well, who will seek to find the criteria in terms of, you know, what is my product of outcome that you want from me and will pay me appropriately. And so there were more and more companies where we've got over 50 companies joining our pilot program in the UK at the moment. And we could probably open it up to have a whole pile more. And we've got a wait list to come on to a pilot later on, because those companies aren't ready to start just yet. And so, you know, there's more and more of them that are happening every day.
Can I ask you though about the organizations, you know, on the pilots and things that you're, that you're running? Is this essentially a white collar, white collar organizations? Or is there a mix because I was just thinking that, you know, if you work, if you're a bus driver or your, you know, your in an Amazon warehouse or, or somebody else's warehouse, in fact,
We did have Amazon on one of our calls and the US.
Okay. Okay. I was just wondering though, that it does that work, does it work better for example, if you're working for a bank or a firm of architects or a law firm or it doesn't really matter?
Well, the interesting thing about law firms of course, is they've got the whole, like you as a client, want to pay for time? No, no, you want to pay for an output. And so actually the law firms that are doing this, and there is a real movement in law to this anyway, they are doing value based billing now, and there is a real movement towards it within the legal and account, you know, there's legal, accounting and creative, right they sort of sit in that space and that, and one of the programs we're putting together as part of what we do is a support for those organizations to look at how they transfer to value-based billing. But yes, it's not hard to see that it's a ton easier to understand how you might do it in an office and it basically just comes down to stop doing so many meetings, right?
But in other organizations, it comes back down to, and most importantly, this is the point, right? Work with your people to find a way. So your bus driver example, you work with all of your bus drivers and you go, right, this is the service that we need to provide. How are we going to do it in less time? And then the other thing to question of course is ,is this the service that we should be providing? And so the great thing about an organization going through this as they truly question what they're doing and how they execute it, and you can take it as deeply as you want, if you want and some of it might be engaging with customers. I certainly happen to know that in Auckland there's certain, there's a particular road in Auckland, which a lot of buses go down simply because it suits the bus company, but there isn't very many passengers that jump on. So if you ask the drivers you know, is this an efficient way of doing it? They might come up with other ideas.
Okay. So that is the secret ingredient, isn't it? It's the, actually you have to ask all workforce your employees about how they would like to structure their day essentially.
And there are, there are restaurants doing it. So there's a restaurant chain in the US doing it and obviously particularly in the US where their pay is largely tips based. And so he was very keen to ensure that his people continue to be able to get the number of tips they needed, but work less hours. And so he worked with them to completely redesign how the, the restaurant floor worked. And so again, it's the you're right? It's this is the secret sauce, right?
Yeah, it is because actually I interviewed a guy called David Hieatt who runs a business called Hiut Jeans in Cardigan, in South Wales and this is a factory that manufacturers really, really very high quality denim and he didn't know anything about running a factory. So he said to his employees, you know, and they said we would like to do a 4 day week so he let them decide the opening hours of the factory and what things would happen. And when things would happen. He just said, you know, you can't just Google it. He says, you ask the employees what they would like to do, how they would like to run it. And it's run very successfully for him.
Yup because, you know, because the thing about it of course, is that for most of these people, they, they there's this what they do know that could run better and what they don't know, but until they start practicing it, but when you empower them to find the ways to do it better, then they find all sorts of things. Cause they're not worried about losing their jobs or their team member losing a job. So you take away all of that fear and all of that pressure. In the end, people just want meaningful work that they can come to feel like they've achieved something, get paid properly, and then go home to all of the reasons why they earn that money in the first place.
Yeah. Yeah. No, absolutely. Are there any sectors or industries that you think that actually this may not work? You've identified?
We seem to have, we seem to have pretty much every single sector, somewhere in the world doing this. And often when people say to me, well, look, that will never work there. People start with that will never work. And often they'll say an industry that they're not even connected with. I'm like bold move! And they'll say that'll never work in the US or that'll never work in Australia. They pick a whole country. It's like, well, You're making a bold move by saying that it'll never work and in a whole country or a whole sector or even a whole company. But what we do find is that, so, I mean, I guess the point is one of the things Andrew talks about in his book is he heard someone say, well, that would never work in Dairy. But what you're saying when you're saying that is that we have the pinnacle to how we execute that particular sector or that particular service is here and now we will not develop any new systems, any new way of doing any, any more efficiencies. What we're doing now is the best that it can be done.
Okay. And let's say you're an office jockey right and that's what you do, is is our meetings, the biggest, biggest waste of time and the biggest enemy of productivity? So should we all do it like Queen Victoria did then and she, she made all of her ministers stand up and then people didn't hang around quite so long?
You know, stand up meetings is a thing, right? If you think about it, you know, so we why do we use meetings? And I guess that's one of the things, I mean, there's one chap who does a 4 day a week and here's the phrase that's 'no agenda, no attender'. So he won't go to any meeting that hasn't got an agenda, but so if you run a meetings effectively, but be clear is the meeting necessary or should it be an email. And who do you invite to the meeting? And how many times have you gone to a meeting that you've been invited to because you've been invited to go click okay I got a space in my diary, despite the fact that you've got a report that needs to be done, and so you go to the meeting, you sit there, you may or may not contribute and you may or may not get anything out of it. It might not start on time and you know possibly won't finish on time, but that's an, and because outlook so friendly, it's an hour of your time. We don't seem to put in half hour meetings. and so it's an hour of your time that you're not going to get back and that report that's on your desk still needs doing, but if you looked at your meetings and then you questioned that person who has invited you and said, do I have a really important report that I need doing, do you need me at the meeting? And I challenge people to look at their diaries and ask that question. Do you need me at this meeting? Now, if someone says, yes, I do your key to it, then go. But if they go, no, if you've got an important thing, I, you know, we can, we can do without you. And we can, I don't know, do a circular and you know, and everyone will know what's going on and we'll give you the minutes of the meeting, with the agreed outcomes. The other thing that tends to be a bit of a time-waster in a, as challenging in the modern world, which is interesting in this post pandemic with flexi and remote working, is of course the open plan office and the ability to just walk past, but, you know, I, so what we did with Perpetual Guardian, which I think is sort of quite key to how a business can support their people to to reduce work hours. So we used to have everybody used to work in pods and each pod had a little meeting table in the middle of it. So you can have a little internal meetings or one-on-ones or whatever that were there. And so we took those pods and we still kept the people together, but we took the ability to meet out of that space and made small meeting areas and some meeting rooms for people to meet. So it meant that if you were going to do a meeting, you had to be more deliberate about it. And also my meeting with you doesn't disturb everybody else in the team. We had a rule around not eating lunch at your desk because let's face it your reheated curry while you try and get hold of the plumber right. Trying to get, you're trying to get hold of the plumber for during lunchtime, you're eating your reheated curry isn't conducive to me, I'm going to make a decision, I'm having my lunch half an hour later. It's not conducive to being me being able to, to do work. And then there was some, there's some deep work hooks to get into. So we allowed people to wear headphones, or we had the system where you could put a flag in a pot. There was a flower next to your desk. And when the flower was there, you were working. And so it was kind of a please don't disturb me and so therefore you've got a visual cue that sort of says, you know, come back another time and enabling people to put their out of offices on so that it says, look, you know, I I'm, I'm working on some extra work. And I think that sort of thing tends to be and even in the remote working space, you can use some of these anyway. And it's quite interesting cause it was Oxford University did some research that has yet to be published. But what they looked at in an organization was the whole process of deep work and they had half of their team, half of their organization and multinational company, half of their organization with deep work and half of their organization without, and of course the results are obviou. But even within the deep work team, they were variances based upon how much the line manager left that person to do their deep work. And some of this comes down to how we, as people, manage our own emotions and self-sooth sort of thing where I need this done, I'm going to have to interfere with this person's day because I need it done. And I can't wait. And I can't. And so that the team leaders who were constantly interrupting their team members, of course there was, there was this variance within the deep work thing. There's a company in the US who came down to the 4 day week because through via Cal Newport's deep work book. And I, I don't, I'm sure you've probably talked about it on your, on your podcast before. You know, it's a really interesting concept and the digital world and always being on and having our smartphones and all of that stuff we know that happens with our brains and our eyes from screens. We've lost that ability to focus. And I think the deep work concept is actually really about retraining ourselves to concentrate on something for a period of time. And I strongly recommend people. If you've got any listeners out there that haven't read deep work, I really recommend that you do
I'll put it in the show and links.
Absolutely, and then there's another book out there called bullshit jobs feel free to read that as I mentioned. And so what Andrew Barnes often talks about is his 4 day week book sits in the middle of this, between, between deep work and bullshit jobs is this whole concept of the 4 day week, because the reducing work hours gives you a reason to look at your job and look at how you're working and actually gives you a structure and a process to follow. That gives you each side of, of it. So, It's quite interesting, and as I say it's it really incredibly, exciting time. And whether we end up or everybody coming back into the office in time, or whether we, I hope manage to find some way of doing flexible and remote, that makes us the workforce that we should be.
It'll be interesting to see.
Charlotte, Lockhart. Thank you very much, indeed.