Anne Stephenson

Director



Anne Stephenson on the four day work week (4DWW) at Connected Accountants [15/12/2020] -

Teamwork – A Critical Success Factor of the 4DWW

One of the most frequent responses I get about the 4DWW is “how lucky you are, but it would never work here”.  Perhaps that’s because we refer to it as a 4DWW, when in reality what we are talking about is flexible work practices, designed to maintain profitability and service standards while improving work-life balance for the whole team.   We have started to notice that flexible work practices are being adopted by an increasing number of businesses and there seems to be no “one size fits all.”  While we work standard days with everyone taking Friday off, other businesses have spread the off days over the week, yet others have increased the hours worked per day so they are still doing 40 hour weeks and others might do a 9-day fortnight.

If anyone has read the 4DWW book by Andrew Barnes, they will know that the reason Perpetual Guardian started thinking about implementing it was because 2 studies had shown that the average person was productive for something between 1.5 – 2.5 hours per day – that’s a staggering 67% of time spent each week on non-productive busywork.  While we did not think that our team was as low as that, there would certainly be a fair amount of non-productive time.

Research by Gallup shows that NZ is very similar to the rest of the world with approximately 70% of all workers being somewhat ambivalent about their work – the remaining 30% being pretty evenly split between being actively disengaged and actively engaged with their work.  The productivity of an actively engaged person is a massive 20% more than someone who is ambivalent about their workplace. 

In hindsight, teamwork and engagement have been an important part of our success with the 4DWW, and the groundwork that had been laid over the previous few years was invaluable.  

Recruit Right

One of the recruitment truisms is “hire for attitude” but it is up to each business to work out what sort of attitude they are looking for and then to design a recruitment process that uncovers those attitudes.  For us, the process started with our company values.  We originally had six values, but found that it was too hard to remember them, so we reduced down to four values.  To ensure that they form part of our every-day life and remain front-of-mind, we often have each team member talk about how they have lived one value in the past week. 

To achieve our strategic goals, we know we have to provide a unique experience to our clients, with that experience being delivered by each and every team member.  Over time, we have defined the specific attributes that have been common to the most successful team members. 

Our recruitment process now includes questions that relate specifically to both our business values and essential people attributes.  Those attributes also tie in closely with our values.


Think Right

Hand-in-hand with recruiting right, is ensuring our people make the choice to keep their thinking “above the line”.  Above the line thinking is about open minds and active discussion, rather than defensive behaviours.  It is the difference between being proactive and reactive, understanding and doubt, optimism, and anxiety.  Above-the-line thinkers also tend to be better to be around because of their positivity.

One thing that is really important is for each and every team member to be responsible for their weekly deliverables and be prepared to be held accountable.  There is a great deal of trust required between the owners and the team members and we have left it up to each team member to make the call as to whether they have had a productive week.  When everyone is working above-the-line then it is a lot easier to have open and frank discussions.

One question we’ve been asked is what do you do if you have a person who is not performing but they are still only working a four day week.  The answer is simple - exactly the same thing we ‘d do if we were working a 40 hour week – talk to them about their lack of performance, set out expectations and agree what would be done to lift performance.

Work As A Team

“It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage…………….both because it is so powerful and so rare”  Patrick Lencioni.

A team is a group of people who are united in working towards the same goal.  Not only does that mean the business has a goal, but the team also need to know what that goal is and what role they have to play in getting there. 

While our overall strategic direction was set over many months by the owners, we also held several sessions with the team to make sure they understood what our goals were.  Since then, we’ve involved the team in our quarterly strategic planning & review sessions.  Not only that, every person has some responsibility to deliver on the agreed quarterly actions.

We’ve made it compulsory for all team members to read Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team – one of the great business leadership books.  If nothing else, this book helps to set the scene for expected behaviours, although most of the team still struggles with addressing areas of conflict between each other. 

We always use psychometric testing as part of the recruitment process, and rather than use the profiles only for that purpose, we’ve also charted where each person sits.  That has helped us all to understand how each person operates and also where their strengths naturally lie. 

We have found that the post 4DWW level of teamwork has improved – each member is prepared to work to ensure that everyone can take Friday off.

Output-Based Productivity Measures

Typically, professional services businesses have used inputs, such as chargeable hours, to measure individual productivity.  Some years back we decided that made no sense and measuring the work completed and billed was a far better measure. 

Our agreement with the team is that if you increase productivity and achieve desired weekly targets, then you can take Friday off.  If targets are not met, then you are expected to work Friday as per usual.  Having output-based productivity measures in place made it really easy to agree what a productive week looked like and made it easy of everyone to work out whether or not they needed to work on the Friday. 

Profitability-based measures are only half the story – the last thing we wanted was a short-term focus on ticking off hard numeric targets at the expense of softer long-term goals of building better client relationships.  So it is also important to have quality measures such as client satisfaction or team collaboration and communication, and a means of measuring them.

Steve Dawson

Accountant



Steve Dawson on the four day work week (4DWW) at Connected Accountants [15/09/2020] -


1. What are the positives & how have they made a difference?

From a personal perspective the biggest positive is obviously the three-day weekend – who doesn’t want that? The extra time away from work to recharge and focus on my personal life gives me more enthusiasm for the job when I come back on Monday, which benefits everybody.

For the wider team, I think the biggest positive has been our collective, internal efficiency. With 20% less time in the week to get things done, one of the first things we did was look at our own processes for where time could be saved. Team meetings were cut down in length by having an appointed leader and an agenda for each meeting. Processes and information flows were mapped out and evaluated to see how they could be made more efficient and pass through fewer hands. New tools were introduced to speed up communication and collaboration between the team. Saving a few minutes here and there is significant if it affects everyone in the office – that time adds up!

 

2. What has been challenging and what has helped to overcome those challenges?

Other than the obvious challenge of getting 100% of the work done in 80% of the time, a big challenge is keeping up the team spirit and encouraging teamwork in the office while everyone is extra-focused on their own goals. Fortunately, we foresaw this being an issue and addressed it quite effectively from the beginning with the introduction of team goals and collaborative tools (e.g. Trello and Microsoft Teams). Collaboration improved by structuring our Monday team meetings to ensure that everyone has an overview of what the rest of the team is doing each week and how we might be able to help out.

It’s important for the team to critically review performance as we go. Three-day weekends are great, but we have to be realistic about problems and challenges that arise and do our best to overcome them to make sure that extra time off isn’t costing us.

 

3. How did Lockdown affect the 4DWW? 

4DWW pretty much went out the window during lockdown, for me at least. During that time everyone had their own ways of dealing with work according to their own styles and preferences, which were also highly dependent on the environment they were locked down in. Personally, I had a lot of limitations at home and ended up effectively working 7 days to get through urgent work. For these reasons we rebooted our 6- month trial of the 4DWW when everyone was back in the office.

One positive thing that came out of the lockdown was that we all made the preparations enable us to work from home comfortably in the future. Whether it’s because I’m locked down again, or if I’m sick enough to stay away from people but not sick enough to stop working, or I just feel that my focus will be better at home for a day, I can now work from home at a moment’s notice and keep the transition seamless for the company and for my clients.

 

4. What are your tips for improving productivity?

Productivity tips are like study tips, different things will work for different people and there’s no sure-fire way to approach the issue. But I have to answer the question, so:

  1. Look at everything you (and your team) do on a regular basis and determine what actually adds value to your clients/customers. Anything outside of that category is where you should start trying to save time – things like team meetings, onboarding processes, signing and filing of documents, and other such admin work can probably be sped up.

  2. Plan out your own workload based on 4 days. Whatever it is that you actually need to deliver should be possible in that time, with a little bit of time dedicated to the abovementioned admin work.

  3. Stop checking Facebook so often! Everyone has their vices and it’s amazing how much time you waste in a week, even if it’s on things that you tell yourself are productive like reading news or informative articles and blogs about investing and such. Or maybe it’s just memes and cat videos. Either way, save that stuff for after work and on Fridays, and I bet you’ll be able to get more done in 32 hours than you thought you could.


Anything else you’d like to add?

I highly recommend to any workplace to investigate the 4 Day Work Week and whether it could work for you. There are so many benefits to employees’ happiness, work-life balance and productivity as well as positive changes for the community. For example, decreased congestion and pollution and more time to spend money at local businesses. These benefits don’t necessarily come at a financial cost to the business – in fact, many indications suggest a 4DWW could actually boost your bottom line.

There will be decisions to be made about the exact details of how it would work, and for some businesses it won’t be possible due to the nature of your work (at least, not without a much bigger and more difficult change) but I encourage anybody who reads this to have a think about it, and reach out to us at Connected Accountants if you have any questions or would like some input.

Emma Bergström

Practice Manager



Emma Bergström [31/03/2020] -

"We are now on the second month of our 4DWW-trial and to say the least – life and work certainly looks different compared to the first month! We are all at home under Level 4 restrictions and we are all trying to stay sane during this madness. I know the whole Connected Accountant team have been working hard these past few weeks to provide as much support as possible for you, our clients, but also providing support for our internal team. 

We implemented our four day work week policies before the lockdown, so we were already prepared to work remotely. As Devoe mentioned, we have introduced Microsoft Teams to our team, and it has been a great tool to use for support and communication. I am also very glad for tools such as ZOOM so I can still see the faces of my fellow colleagues. I can honestly say that I miss the small talks by the coffee machine in the mornings and I cannot wait to do that again!

I feel that the lockdown has brought us together as a team, colleagues and friends. We have daily check-ins and we have all been working even harder on the communication within the team.  

As far as 4DWW goes, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Being the office manager, my personal success is not measured in numbers but I have found that I can focus for a longer period than before and that I also get more done, even with less time!

I had to look into what I needed to change in order to do all that I needed to do in four days rather than five days. The first thing I did was to change the due dates of tasks to “do dates” – I can thank Trello for providing me with that little gem of advice. Another thing that keeps me productive throughout the week is the idea that the 4DWW is Connected Accountants rewarding us for doing a good job. This is a huge motivator for me to continue doing a good job!"

Devoe Rangi

Accountant



Devoe Rangi [10/03/2020] -

"The first month of the 4DWW was a success. I was able to achieve 106% of targets with 20% less time along with adding value to some of my regular meeting clients. At first, it came as a shock because I thought “how am I ever going to get all this work done with only 32 hours?”. However, once the dust settled, my mind set shifted. I was now thinking “what can I do to get all this work done in 32 hours”.

The first place we looked at was in our internal processes. Do these processes add value to our clients (our number one driver)? If not, how can we make these processes more efficient and easier to complete?

Those 2 questions guided me in looking at tools that can help us perform internal tasks more efficiently. Two of the tools that became the front runners were Teams and Trello. Using these tools, we were able to cut internal meetings to only 30 minutes, sometimes even 10! – and it enabled people to have clarity around what needed to be done in the week to ensure we earnt that 5th day.

One of the most important factors was having transparent targets and goals. You need to understand what you are aiming at to understand what you need to be doing. We all sat down as a team to talk through what the key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to be, why they were important, and to brainstorm ideas around how they could be achieved.

Now we are into month 2 >> My goals are the same and my mindset is the same – I believe I will be able to replicate that same success from the first month and enjoy Fridays to myself!"







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Peter Kerr wrote:
4 Feb 3:48pm
Great explanation Anne, delighted to find a potentially risky initiative is paying off for Connected Accountants and its clients
Anneri Dippenaar wrote:
Official
11 Mar '20 4:15pm
Powerful thing - a mind set shift. And of course having clear goals to work towards. Great post Devoe.
Devoe Rangi replied with:
Official
11 Mar '20 6:31pm
Thanks Anneri - having the goals were massive enablers. What good is shooting a basketball if there's no basket?

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