A year ago my business partner Alexis and I were talking about the time we needed in our lives outside of work — me, time with my daughter and Alexis, time to write their novel. We were the CEO and COO and had the power to claim that time. But what about everyone else? At this point, we’d already been asked by so many of our employees about reduced work hours, that we had had to tell everyone NO until we found a solution that would be fair for everyone.
So I started googling and quickly found 4 Day Week - Global — that’s right, the foundation behind the massively successful UK trial you’ve read about - and other successful international trials before that. The appeal of following an already-established and successful pilot program was big and I emailed to ask when they’d be coming to Germany and how Expath could be involved.
We ended up launching the 4 Day Week Germany movement in September 2022 together with 4DW Global, ahead of their EU pilot — before disaster struck Expath in November 2022 and we had to withdraw from the pilot in order to focus on restructuring and saving the company.
Alexis and I didn‘t know if we would be able to keep the trial in place. Four months later we‘ve stabilized the company and we started our 4-Day Week trial this week! Proof that where there‘s a will, there’s a way. So what was our way (so far)?
Step 1 — Does Everyone Want to Do This Pilot?
Alexis and I were totally on board, and team members had been asking us even before Corona about going down in hours, flexible work, etc. but we wanted to double-check. So Alexis and I wrote a pitch, thought in advance about the questions and concerns, and held a company-wide meeting to ask - the overwhelming answer was YES!
Step 2 — Learning About the 4-Day Week
In case you need a boatload of evidence about the positive benefits of a 4 Day Week, here’s a great place to start!
We signed up to participate in the EU trial of 4 Day Week Global, the world leader in coordinating organized pilots, integrating academic research to ensure integrity of results. We attended many info sessions to understand how other companies have implemented the 4DW, what problems they faced and solutions they introduced, and what impact the 4DW had on their bottom line.
Step 3 — Preparation Workshops
Our active preparation phase started four months before we wanted to launch the pilot (February 27). Expath did two big in-house workshops (being a trainer I was happy to run them myself):
October 27, 2022: We made the 4DW a key focus of our yearly offsite, with one big brainstorm on Efficiency (how we define and measure it, top pain points, ideas for improvement) and another on our 4DW hopes and fears. Our brainstorming revealed critical areas that we would need to improve or focus on in order to be more efficient or manage the 4DW (ex. Ownership to act, Meetings, Knowledge Silos, Accounting, IT systems, Client management, etc.)
November and December: were spent doing crisis management at Expath, and Alexis and I assessed that we could still do our own trial and picked planning back up in January 2023.
February 3, 2022: The whole company met in-person to draft a 4 DW Mission Statement and brainstorm pain points and possible Best Practices in the four key areas we had pinpointed after our offsite: Time Management, Knowledge Sharing, Communication Channels, and Delegation & Ownership to Act.
Step 4: Final Steps Before Launch
The rest of February was spent putting our ideas into concrete practice.
Teams researched, wrote, and presented Best Practices. Employees worked in four teams (one team per Best Practice) to dig deeper into how to do this area right, create a list of recommendations for Expath, and present their ideas to the rest of us. They did this in a big presentation on February 23, and the Best Practices were also turned into sections on our wiki.
Setting up KPIs and reporting — each team decided their own two-three efficiency measures, and how and how often they would measure them. We‘ve created a shared Google Doc for the 4DW tracking and teams took a baseline measure in February 2023.
Logistics — We had plenty of final logistics to set up. Here are some examples:
Schedule: Teams created their own system that works well for that team. On our largest team of six, to be fair with the long weekends, 3 colleagues will get Friday off for the first three months of the trial, and then they will switch. Nobody has Mondays off as it's the busiest day for email tickets (after the weekend).
Calendar: We set up working hours and tags in Google Calendar so we can use the Time Insights feature. We time-blocked Focus Time on Google Calendar (the Focus Time setting shows you are unavailable). We grouped meetings to be back-to-back and set up the Short Meetings function (30-minute meetings change to 25 minutes, and 60-minute meetings to 50 minutes).
Knowledge-sharing: We‘ve introduced Notion as our company wiki page and we beefed it up with additional info we would need for delegating, making autonomous decisions, and better sharing information.
Check-in meetings: We also set up a monthly check-in, to have a look at the KPIs we are measuring, talk about how we‘re feeling about the trial, and see if we need to adjust any of the Best Practices we wrote.
We launched our 4 Day Week trial on Monday, February 27 and it will run until September 1, 2023.
More on the 4 Best Practices areas we came up with, and what actions we took to implement them, coming in my next article!
You can follow our journey here on LinkedIn here!