Microsoft Japan makes the case once again for a four-day work week.
As my colleague Betsy Mikel reports, when workers from a company and country known for putting in long hours were asked to take three-day weekends, a remarkable thing happened: Employees were almost 40 percent more productive.
Over 92 percent of the Microsoft workers said they liked the long weekends, which only lasted for five weeks, unfortunately.
So what’s happening here that seems to defy simple math? How does fewer hours worked equal more work done?
Procrastination is strong in us all.
We often think of procrastination as a failing of will power. To some extent that’s true, but it’s an oversimplification that leaves out some key factors. You can also think of procrastination as an over-abundance of time, particularly for knowledge workers who are faced with multiple avenues to take to complete a task or reach a goal.
For example, my goal in writing this column is to provide some insight into why workers were more productive and efficient on a shorter schedule. There’s no strict blueprint for how to achieve this goal. I could spend months researching the issue, canvassing experts and pouring over studies in peer-reviewed journals to formulate some insights.
In journalism, research is essential, but it can mutate into procrastination. Thanks to the internet, the limits to how much research can be done on most topics have completely disappeared. When I get really deep into researching a topic, I’m never quite sure if I’m being a perfectionist or a procrastinator, putting off getting the actual writing work done.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t spend months researching this column, and that’s because I’m working with a time constraint. I want to get this written and published while the results from the Microsoft Japan experiment are still fresh and in the news cycle. This is where the idea of procrastination ties back to a four-day work week.
We need limits.
Past studies have found that many workers’ days are filled with distractions, inefficient meetings, and time wasted switching between tasks, which requires constant re-focusing. Reducing the time allotted to get everything done squeezes out the distractions, streamlines meetings (something reported by the Microsoft Japan team), and, in my case, leads to less extraneous researching and procrastinating.
There’s a phrase out there called “work like you’re on vacation” that many freelancers and telecommuters know well. I often travel for work and work while I’m traveling for other reasons. I find it much easier to motivate, focus and get my work done when I’m in a new city and the only thing standing between me and some exploring is completing my morning tasks. When I’m at home, those same tasks might stretch out across an otherwise empty day, along with plenty of time doing research, of course.
High-intensity interval (work) training.
In the fitness world, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become quite popular as research (so much research) has shown that working out for shorter periods at a relatively high level of effort produces just as much or more benefit as a longer workout. Exercise productivity functions just the same as work productivity, it seems.
I’ve setup a little hack to take advantage of HIIT’s benefits, get a little work-life balance and boost my productivity, all at the same time. It’s simple: I try to schedule my work day in such a way that I restrict the amount of time I have to get my work done in the morning. This forces me to focus more and work efficiently getting the day’s essential tasks done first.
Then I hit a trail or a road or gym somewhere for some high-intensity running, biking or other heart-pumping activity. After this break I’m usually ready to get some more work done, but I might be tired, so I save tasks that require less focus (like research) for after my HIIT break.
If you’re blessed with a flexible schedule, try the HIIT hack and see if it helps you get a productivity boost like what Microsoft Japan accomplished through cutting back their work schedule. Or just take Fridays off.
The post Here’s Why a 4-Day Workweek Can Be Way More Productive appeared first on Inc..