The following comments are from Anne Stephenson and echo the thoughts of Kevin Summerhays. They are both Directors of Connected Accountants.
We first started our trial of the 4DWW in February this year. After close to six months on trial, we have decided that it works sufficiently well for us to implement it permanently. We’ve had a lot of interest from others about our experiment, so we thought we’d pass on some of our learnings.
The Initial Objective
When we started, we wanted to keep profitability at the same level but improve productivity by 20% so we could all enjoy a 3-day weekend and without compromising on client service standards. The benefits of doing the same amount of work activity in fewer days was expected to result in higher employee engagement which meant we should see:
Planning for the Trial
Given that improved employee engagement was a critical factor in achieving our objective, there was no way we could successfully trial the 4DWW without having the team closely involved in the planning. The very first step was to brainstorm as a team, covering:
At the brainstorm session we agreed that we all wanted Friday off, but that we’d be available to clients by email or mobile phone. Provided each person had completed a productive week (defined as having meet agreed targets) then they could take Friday off. There are some exceptions – some clients can only meet on a Friday so we’d accommodate that and we’d also have our quarterly strategic sessions on a Friday. As much as possible, everyone would focus on work Monday - Thursday and shift personal appointments to Friday.
We were in a really good position at the start of the trial, having spent a fair amount of time and energy in the years earlier focusing on improving teamwork. We’d also shifted from measuring inputs (ie chargeable hours) to measuring outputs (ie weekly billings) so we had a good idea of what we considered a productive week. The team were all used to being responsible directly to clients and being held accountable for their own actions.
We identified some changes immediately, and a few more when the Covid-19 lockdown hit. The biggest changes we made were:
And the Results……..
Lockdown was really easy for us – a lot of the planning we’d done for the 4DWW was appropriate for everyone working from home – expectations were known, systems and processes were in place and understood. And referring back to our initial objectives, we found:
I have no doubt whatsoever that not every business is suitable for the 4DWW. It is absolutely crucial to have trust between the leaders and employees, with the whole team involved in implementation from the bottom up. So much so, that we’ve also written a blog post on Good faith was required during the trial because it is only now that we have confirmed we will adopt the 4DWW permanently that we are looking at the changes needed to our employment agreements.
On the positive side our employees are motivated and feeling happier, productivity and internal processes have improved, and we have also reduced our carbon footprint. All done while pretty much maintaining profitability!