Productivity Confidential: Can a Four Day Work Week Work?
After years of fighting tooth and nail for it, the labor movement in America finally won the battle for the 40-hour work week. Workers were no longer expected to work day and night without fair compensation. It was a victory that changed the way we think about work, and the modern work week was born.
That was nearly 80 years ago, and since then there hasn’t been much of a discussion about whether or not, with the rise of next-generation technology, it’s still a valuable guide rail for the majority of workers. But, business leaders are beginning to look critically at whether the traditional work week is worth maintaining with all the new technology available to keep employees engaged, and the results have been satisfying. On this episode of Productivity Confidential, we talk to Natalie Nagele, cofounder of Wildbit, about her mission to institute a 32-hour work week in her company and why sometimes the best thing you can do for a company’s success is telling employees to stop working so hard.
Highlights from the podcast:
TED BROWN: [With a four day work week] You’re giving people time to take a step back and get perspective and new sort of takes on problems they’re trying to solve at work… The amount of time I’ve had to step back from writing an article or working on something and maybe give myself a rest for 30 minutes. It just helps even in that short amount of time.
NATALIE NAGELE: Totally, and the work’s better. I mean, I really believe….People ask me all the time about thirty-two hour work weeks. They’re like, well, how do you know if it’s successful? I was like I’m telling you that I write less lines of code. Well, not me, I don’t write any code, but the team writes less lines of code, but the code is better. The problem solving is genuinely better.
BROWN: Can you give me an example when you’ve seen diminishing returns from either an employee that’s been overworked from your personal life or from teams that you’ve seen?
NAGELE: Burnout is such, you know, everybody’s talking about it because it’s really important. And I think I’ve burnt out personally where I’ve gotten to a place where it’s just a constant and my brain is working so much, right? It’s constantly under stress that decisions become really reactive and kind of really shallow. And so we had a time in our work where like things weren’t going, we weren’t growing like we used to be and we felt really stuck. And I reached a point of anxiety, like, you know, true panic… and it was really just this inability to see rationally. I remember because it was this cloudy feeling, you know, I’m coming home, I had a little kid at the time and everything just feels like you’re in a cloud. I was washing dishes and my heart started beating so fast and I was like, oh my god, I have to lay down. And I realized, all this time, everything is so surface level because my brain is just so tired and really can’t function. And I’ve seen it on my team. We’ve had times when the products needed a lot of support and I’ve seen the team just really like just working so hard. And it’s the physical working in front of a computer, but it’s also when it lives in your brain, you know, even if it’s anxiety and it’s living in your brain, you’re still working through it. And if those things are negative or difficult, the work gets worse.
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