Embracing a Hybrid Working Future, and the 4 Day Week
The momentum towards a better work-life balance seems unstoppable. How can you embrace this challenge without compromising your business?
In October 2022 Robert Lavery & Associates (RLA), Orchid’s distributor in the Americas, hosted a virtual event called Rejuvenate 2022. A key theme of the event was adapting to the changed business environment as economies emerge from years of COVID-induced disruption.
One of Robert’s keynote speeches looked at the potential of Hybrid Working, and also the 4 Day Week, to provide paths to a better work-life balance. Much of this article is either taken from or inspired by Robert’s presentation, in which he challenged attendees to ask:
How you can anticipate and leverage these trends to your advantage as you continue to serve your clients and employees, grow your businesses, and set the stage for future opportunities?
Making a case for the 4 Day Week
What began as a fringe movement a few years ago has become a mainstream topic of conversation since COVID, as positive results from an increasing number of trials gain publicity. That publicity has been magnified by the efforts of advocates like 4 Day Week Global Foundation, who promote an 80/100 model:
- 80% of the hours (e.g. 32/4 hours/days rather than 40/5)
- 100% of the pay & conditions
- 100% of the productivity
Their headline claims of benefits can be summarized as:
- PRODUCTIVITY: Measured based on results rather than hours worked.
- WELLBEING: Better physical and mental health, reduced levels of burnout, stress, sick leave, and absenteeism.
78% of employees with 4 day weeks are happier and less stressed
- ENGAGEMENT: A more energized, efficient, empowered, and motivated workforce, resulting in happier employees, with higher levels of job satisfaction and brand loyalty.
- RECRUITMENT: A competitive edge for attracting and retaining the best talent.
63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent
- SUSTAINABILITY: Through reduced commuting and energy use.
- GENDER EQUALITY: Enabling a better distribution of caring responsibilities, reduced barriers to women achieving senior positions, reduced childcare costs.
- INNOVATION: Being an early adapter will establish you as an innovative, progressive, forward-thinking business that stands out from your competition.
Some of Robert’s Takeaways:
- The key is cutting out the least productive activities.
- Minimize interruptions (e.g. fewer and shorter meetings and phone calls).
- It’s not for everyone! (See RLA case study below.)
Hybrid Work Models
Let’s start with Robert’s definition of Hybrid Working:
A flexible workplace practice that empowers employees to work where and when they want, usually by balancing their time between office work and remote work.
This is, quite simply, the new reality of the post-COVID world. While most businesses are choosing to ignore the noise about 4-day weeks, there is hardly a (formerly) office-based business on the planet that has the same luxury when it comes to hybrid working.
Even Elon Musk is not immune to this reality, as evidenced by his much-publicized Twitter backflip.
The question, therefore, becomes how, rather than if, to implement it.
Here are some of Robert’s takeaways, many of which were sourced from this excellent Harvard Business Review article called “How to Do Hybrid Right”:
- RECRUITMENT & RETENTION: Surveys show many employees would quit their job rather than return to the office full-time, or refuse a job offer that doesn’t include remote work.
- LOWER COSTS: Empty offices today will mean less floor space needed in the future.
- HAPPIER EMPLOYEES: Reduced commute time and cost, plus wellbeing benefits similar to those for the 4 Day Week.
- SYSTEMS SOFTWARE: Secure remote working creates technical challenges, but many mainstream tools (e.g. VPNs and Office 365) are already well-positioned to help you manage this.
- FINDING THE BALANCE: Hybrid working is a spectrum, with true ‘anywhere, anytime’ being at the far end. Your approach must be tailored to meet the specific needs of your business and employees.
Key Steps & Criteria:
- ROLE SPECIFIC: Identify productivity & performance drivers for key roles, and tailor the approach accordingly.
- ENGAGE EMPLOYEES: Make sure you understand what they want and need. Don’t assume you know what’s best for them. Keep communication flowing.
- BE CREATIVE: See this as an opportunity to eliminate duplicated and unproductive work.
- LEADERSHIP: Invest in tools and training to ensure your leaders can tailor their management styles to the new ways of working.
Case Study - The RLA Experience
As an IT-focused, service-oriented business, it’s likely that many Sage Business Partners would identify with the RLA experience.
Robert Lavery & Associates (RLA) started operations over 25 years ago. They initially planned to establish a physical office, but it quickly become apparent that staff valued the flexibility and lifestyle of working from home, and wanted no part of a daily commute.
RLA chose to forego the office, making it well ahead of its time when it came to embedding a remote/hybrid working culture.
They achieved this by:
- Educating clients that they were paying for expertise and service delivery, not an on-the-ground presence.
- Trusting consultants to provide quality, timely service without being micro-managed.
- Using monthly consultancy billings, plus client feedback, as the measures of productivity, rather than hours worked.
- Regular scheduled (virtual) meetings to foster socialization and collaboration.
The 4 Day Week, on the other hand, is a work in progress! This remains an aspiration, but the barriers facing RLA are likely to be shared by many service companies.
Barriers to the 4 Day Week include:
- The expectation of 24/7 availability for client support.
- Clients spread across multiple countries and time zones.
- Business travel for workshops and conferences, which often overlap with weekends.
- A reluctance to sacrifice the personal, ‘high touch’ client service that has been key to their success.
RLA have, however, taken steps to achieve some of the benefits normally associated with a 4-Day week. including:
- Free Fridays – avoiding meetings and client presentations where possible
- A relaxed attitude to staff conducting personal activities during the week, as long as productivity is maintained.
- Increased use of online knowledgebases, and video content, to encourage client self-service for common support issues.
How Orchid’s Sage Add-ons can help
Robert Lavery was a special guest at our November 2022 Orchid Webinar, the video of which you can watch from the link below. In the first half of the video you will see:
- A short recap of the Rejuvenate 2022 virtual conference
- Robert presenting a shortened version of his keynote speech
In the second half of the video, Steve showcases a selection of Sage 300 Add-ons from Orchid Systems that are particularly well suited to remote or hybrid working. These include:
- Notes & Document Management: All users, regardless of their location, can share dynamic, context-sensitive notes, plus links to relevant electronic documents, attached to Sage 300 screens.
- Extender: Alert remote workers when exception events occur, or use Extender Workflow to coordinate approvals and other critical processes involving staff at different locations.
- Process Scheduler can automatically execute recurring processes, e.g. backups or day-ends, without staff needing to be on-site.
- Report Runner makes it easy to execute key reports and distribute them by email to remote staff.
- EFT Processing creates EFT Files ready for upload to your bank, removing the need for paper cheques, physical signatures, and trips to the post office.