We live in an age when tools designed for collaboration and efficiency are rolled out monthly. The promises of increased productivity has birthed startups like Slack and MailChimp, and in turn freelancers and multinationals alike seek out and employ these tech innovations to increase their productivity and profitability. Their efforts make sense, but there’s a wild card: the human brain.
Today, we’re able to feed our minds with a wealth of data. All of that incoming information means opportunities to make decisions from multiple channels at work, home and whilst flying across the globe. Still, the latest technological innovations aren’t producing the explosive productivity growth seen in previous generations.
In 2017 the trend of productivity and wage growth in the US is stagnant. This was predicted on the TED stage in 2013 with economist Robert Gordon stating “If innovation is less powerful, invents less great, wonderful things, then growth is going to be even lower than half of history.” These powerful technologies may simplify many decisions but the noise they add is increasing the volume of decisions we are forced to make each day. With more choice than any generation coupled with a brain that burns through depletable stores of chemicals, every yes, no and maybe is precious.
As companies deal with employees who cannot utilise technologies true potential, how can they innovate to account for the rule of the slowest buffalo? President Obama’s team minimised his daily decisions because they understood the need to pare down decisions and focus decision-making energy. This same methodology has changed the way many businesses manage their talent.
Florida-born CEO John Peebles was a self-confessed ‘workaholic’ who could go months without a ‘day off’. Yet, today he and his staff run UK-based Administrate on a four day work week.
How has the understanding of productivity changed for you over time?
I think the main thing that’s changed is the realisation that your best insights come when you’ve got some space to think. If every minute of every day is rammed with busyness, you’re not going to be able to take a step back, rethink assumptions, and do your best work.
What have been the downsides of a four day work week?
We don’t see any downsides. One of the downsides in implementing a four day week is that if you need to have customer facing teams, you have to be of a certain size to work out shifts, but that’s an implementation problem that may or may not affect all organisations.
How did you expect this to change staff retention patterns? How did this change staff retention patterns?
We don’t have a lot of data on this, unfortunately. We’ve always had pretty high retention so we didn’t see that move much. I do think we’re more family friendly now, and parents seem to really appreciate the extra time for their kids (or themselves!)
What changes were made to maximise productivity during a shortened workweek? What systems, tech, and/or practices did you enforce/implement?
We try to aggressively cut down meetings whenever possible, both in quantity and in actual time spent. We had to invest earlier in processes that helped with handovers and working different shifts, which was actually a really nice operational benefit as it forced us to get more disciplined earlier than we otherwise would have. Simply having less days available (really only Tuesday – Thursday) for meetings is also a big advantage.
What is the next innovation to increase productivity and profits at Administrate?
We’re working on a few, but I’m trying to figure out how to pay for them! We’re definitely going to keep innovating and rethinking how we work. The four day week is just the beginning.