A heap of studies and surveys shows most knowledge workers' days are massively wasteful, full of pointless distractions and dead time where our brains are simply too drained to produce anything of value. Companies are starting to take notice.

Long-time four-day workweek evangelists like Treehouse are being joined by more firms (and at least one whole town in Sweden) who are either giving their employees an extra day off each week or letting them leave a few hours earlier each day. Star Wharton professor Adam Grant has even called for work to end at 3 p.m.

So what if you you're thinking of jumping on this bandwagon and experimenting to see if your team can get the same amount done in significantly less time? Can you just decide to cut down your hours on Monday and hang a closed sign on the door the following Friday?

That's the topic of a fascinating recent article from Inc.com's sister site Fast Company. In it, Lindsay Tigar interviews leaders who have made the switch from long, bloated hours to a lean, streamlined schedule, asking for their best advice for other bosses hoping to make the switch. The whole piece is well worth a read, but a few essential bits of preparation for a four-day workweek stand out.

1. Ease into it.

Working fewer hours overall means employees are going to have to find ways to work more efficiently when they're in the office. That's entirely doable, but it's not going to happen overnight, so give your team a transition period in which they can figure out new, better ways of working.

"Try shaving off an hour or two day, or swap from a four-day week and shift back to a five-day workweek. It can be a bit challenging at first to only have four days a week, so you can ease into it in any way that feels comfortable," suggests SkinOwl founder Annie Tevelin, who successfully instituted a four-day workweek with her team.

2. Communicate about availability and hours.

You may be able to get the same amount done in 32 hours that you used to do in 40 but you'll still need to be clear which 32 hours you'll be working exactly, as well as if and how customers and colleagues can reach you where you're enjoying your newfound time off.

"Have a consistent day off so your team members know your schedule, and set clear guidelines about whether or not you will be reachable via phone or email on your day off," Chelsea Kane, a PR consultant and 4-day workweek convert, advises.

3. Consider time batching.

One of the biggest time wasters for knowledge workers is task switching -- the minutes (and concentration) lost when you have to shift from one sort of task like email, to another, like head-down writing or number crunching. One way to get more done in less time is to cut down on task switching by batching similar tasks. Set aside Wednesdays for all your meetings, for example, or protect Monday as your uninterrupted writing or thinking time.

The efficiency of this approach makes it particularly popular with four-day workweek enthusiasts. Consulting firm owner Carolina Ramirez-Herrera designates Monday mornings "solely for finances and invoices, Tuesdays are for business development and sales, and Wednesday is for creative work," reports Tigar. "This helps her to maintain her timelines, meet goals, keep clients happy--and get her and her team one day closer to their three-day weekend."

Of course, situations vary and different firms might have different struggles when it comes to cutting down their hours. But experiment with these three initial steps and you'll probably be surprised at how much you can accomplish in significantly fewer hours.

You probably won't be surprised by how much your team loves the new schedule.

Published on: Nov 8, 2018