Have you heard of the global 4-day workweek movement? A recent 4-day week trial, which took place across multiple countries, including the UK and the USA, is currently making global headlines. So, we’re thrilled to have Charlotte Lockhart, co-founder and managing director of 4 Day Week Global and pioneer of the movement, on this week’s episode of the On Work and Revolution podcast.
Charlotte and Debbie discuss findings from the 4-day week trial: in short, it proved to be a massive success! For example, employee absenteeism dropped by 65%. That’s massive! Dig into this episode to hear how the 4-day week is increasing productivity, boosting well-being, and helping companies attract amazing talent.
Debbie & Charlotte discuss:
✓ The real benefits of a 4-day workweek
✓ Reducing work hours while gaining productivity
✓ How to implement a 4-Day Workweek Program
About our guest, Charlotte Lockhart:
Charlotte Lockhart is an award-winning speaker, presenter and business leader, and additionally, an investor and philanthropist with more than 30 years experience in multiple industries in New Zealand, the Middle East, and globally.
As co-founder and managing director for 4 Day Week Global, she works promoting internationally the benefits of a productivity-focused and reduced-hour workplace. Through this, she is on the board of the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University. In her role, she is a co-founding member of the World Wellbeing Movement alongside a number of leading global partners. In addition, Charlotte is working with a number of central and regional governments to help create an equitable method to transition to reducing work hours across an entire economy.
Today, Charlotte is considered the pioneer of the global four-day week movement. As co-founder of 4 Day Week Global with her partner, Andrew Barnes, they are conducting the largest-ever trials, currently taking place across the UK, US, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. More than 250 companies around the world with over 100,000 staff are taking part in the trials to change their workplaces combined with a global research programme involving academics from leading universities, including Boston College, Cambridge, Oxford, and many more.
As an experienced speaker, she encourages organisations to look at what they can change to become future workplaces and ready for the 21st century and beyond. Forbes Magazine recently recognised her as one of the Future of Work 50. Charlotte is focused on changing the way we work today to a better, more inclusive experience for everyone and every economy.
In her free time, Charlotte collaborates with art and cultural organisations and spearheads a number of sponsorships to increase opportunities across the region.
Open for Full Episode Transcript
Open for Full Episode Transcript
Thu, Apr 13, 2023 2:05PM • 30:08
Debbie Goodman 00:04
Welcome to On Work and Revolution, where we talk about what’s shaking up in the world of work right now, and also how to make work life suck a little less. I’m your host, Debbie Goodman, and today we have as our guest, Charlotte Lockhart. So Charlotte is an award winning speaker, business leader and investor philanthropist, but what she’s most prominently known for nowadays, is her role as pioneer of the global four day week movement. As co founder of Four Day Week Global with her partner Andrew Barnes, they’ve been conducting the largest ever four day week trials currently taking place across the UK, US, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand. Charlotte is on the board of the Wellbeing Research Center at Oxford University, and co-founding member of the World Wellbeing Movement. And Forbes magazine has recently recognized her as the future of work 50. And today, we’ll be speaking to Charlotte about you guessed it, the four day week, but more specifically, the incredible outcomes of the recent four day week trial, which made media headlines, in my view, pretty much everywhere in the world. So welcome, Charlotte.
Charlotte Lockhart 01:21
Thank you. It’s so nice to be with you.
Debbie Goodman 01:23
You’ve had a 30 year career or more spanning various industries globally, what brought you to this work?
Charlotte Lockhart 01:31
While we actually launched a four day week in our own business in New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian, and anybody who has been following the story will probably have, we’re the world’s most famous trustee company now. We did that back in 2018, to really a massive success that even we didn’t anticipate. And it got quite a bit of media at the time, because we had academic researchers follow our journey. So it wasn’t just about us saying, hey, this has been quite good. It was actually independently verified. And so that gave us a view that there were just so many people that wanted to talk about this, whether they be media or businesses, academics, and governments. And so we set up Four Day Week Global really as a place to sort of house those conversations. And over that intervening time, that probably the best way for us to be able to help people was to run our global pilot programs. And so that’s what we do.
Debbie Goodman 02:35
Just to be clear, because people hear this phrase four days a week, the underlying premise, or the central idea is that essentially, there would be a shortening of the hours worked during the week, but for no loss in pay. What else? What else about the philosophy around this?
Charlotte Lockhart 02:54
So we have a principle called the 180-100 rule. And what we say with this is that we pay remains the same 100% pay, but we’re looking to reduce work time by 80%. But there is an agreement with your employer that you are going to produce 100% of what you were doing now. So their business doesn’t suffer and the employee doesn’t suffer. So the financial side of things stay the same, but we’re looking to try and reduce work time. And so we develop the principle because it’s not necessarily about a three day weekend, it’s not necessarily about having a whole day off. It’s about actually the principle, reducing work time, and understanding that we are working too much. And the impact on our society and our environment is quite well documented. But obviously, from a business perspective, we don’t want to lose money either. And we need our economy to continue ticking over. So it’s about finding that balance between and what we find, of course, is that when businesses engage with their people and say, hey guys, how about if we can work out how to keep productivity the same in less time, you guys can go home early, or have an extra day off? Then you’d be very surprised how many employees find it quite possible to do their jobs in less time.
Charlotte Lockhart 03:12
All employers are looking to how do we increase productivity? To have this as one of the solutions where we could actually increase productivity by reducing the number of work hours is a bit of an equation that has not necessarily clicked for all that many. But let’s go into the findings of this massive pilot program. So the largest pilot program that’s ever been conducted in the UK because there are lot of listeners who won’t necessarily have understood the nitty gritty of it, and I’d love to know what were the headlines.
Charlotte Lockhart 04:45
So 92% of the companies in the pilot are going to stick with reducing work time. 96% of the employees want to keep the reduced work time. But the headlines really come into the things that really have impacted. It’s easy to know how it will be good for people – you don’t actually have to be a rocket scientist to understand that reducing work time is good for people. But actually, what we want to talk about is how has this actually ended up being good for business as well. So one of the highlights of the research is that absenteeism in these businesses dropped by 65%. So if you think about it, it’s easy to go, Okay, well, I can see how that is that I mean, absenteeism costs businesses money. When someone rings up, Hello, boss, I’m not coming in today, there is an economic impact to that business. And there is also, you know, an increased workload for the people who have to pick that up. And depending on the business, the financial cost of having somebody not in on that day, it can be quite material. For example, if you have a healthcare environment and one of your nurses rings and then you have to pay agency staff to come in and cover that shift, and they’re expensive. So it’s, you know, that sort of thing. But also, then when you look at, if people are feeling like they need to ring in sick less or be absent, because we’re absent for all sorts of reasons, not just sickness, it means that they’re actually they’ve got their lives together better, they’re healthier, they’re better rested, and that, you know, their lives are put together better as well. It’s that sort of thing. One of the other interesting statistics, which feeds into the absentee figure is that fatigue and stress levels went down, as did insomnia levels go down. And so you know, if you think about…
Debbie Goodman 06:41
All of these data points were being measured?
Charlotte Lockhart 06:44
All of these data points are being are being measured. And so if you think about it, we talk about donut economics, and this is my own version of donut economics. I have a good workplace that values what I do, they, I’m clear about what my productivity is, I’m empowered to do the productive outcome that the business wants. And so I get to the end of the day, and I go home early, my partner says to me, darling, how was your day and I go, I have a really good day! Here I am being nice to my partner, then I might even be nice to the children. And so we have a nice evening, I am less stressed, I go to bed, I sleep, I sleep better. You wake up in the morning, your partner says to you darling, how did you sleep? Oh, I had a great night’s sleep, I’m being nice to them again. And then I might even be nice to the children. And then I bring all of that much more settled home life, I bring that to work. And I bring a happier person into work, I feel engaged. I feel like I’m part of a team that is doing something meaningful. And it circles itself round. And so one of the things that people do when they reduce work time is they pick up hobbies, so then I’m picking up my hobby, and then I’m feeling fulfilled because I’m doing something that I enjoy. And so then that is the person I bring to work. So it’s not hard to see how it’s not just about the well being at home, but it’s actually what is that the impact of that coming into work as well.
Debbie Goodman 08:18
Like the virtuous circle of the whole person. And the fact that you know, we can’t I mean, the idea, it’s a very bizarre idea that we might be able to segment our personal lives and our work lives, we know that that’s impossible, and we bring the one into the other. And when one is working well it will impact positively the other and continue the feeling of well being. I mean, imagine – I’m just thinking about having a workforce, which fortunately, I do actually have an amazing team of people who for the most part, I don’t think they really moan about work. They seem to really enjoy their autonomy. And they do have a lot of that. We don’t have a four day week, but certainly the emphasis on well being and the whole person. But I coach and you know, our executive search firm is constantly speaking to executives, who for the most part, if you say to them, how’s your day, how’s your week going? Their answer will be hectic, I’m totally stressed, exhausted. It’s too much. I mean, that’s usually the answer that most people give you at all levels of the organization. To get into a little bit more of the the nitty gritty, you know, some people may think that this four day week means that you work from Monday to Thursday, and then Fridays off, but my understanding is that there are actually several different types of models and you know, the devils in the details some people look at this and go sounds like a good idea, but we could never do it. It’s not for us. We could never offer that kind of structure.
Charlotte Lockhart 09:44
We couldn’t close our offices on a Friday so we can’t do it and I’m like don’t try. In our four day week space we call ourselves four day week global because it’s just a concept that people actually understand, but realistically, we’re talking about reducing work time. And some of the most successful models are when you have a fully flexible model that allows your people to reduce work time in a meaningful way, in a way that suits them. So, for working parents, that might be that they work five days, but they come in at 10 o’clock in the morning having sorted the children, or they leave earlier in the day having to sort the children, for people who are studying because you know that AI is going to steal all of our jobs, so we will need to have better different skills, then the course that you are doing might actually be something that the University puts on on a Tuesday. So have Tuesday’s off, do your course and do your coursework and be able to focus in on that. So having an environment where your people can be a bit flexible in terms of what they do. The reason also that the 180 100 rule is so good is it is inclusive of people who are working part time, because we’re just talking about reducing work. And it’s inclusive of people who are working hyper time, that to your CEOs and business leaders, they’re working long hours. And so they’re like, I could never get down to 32 hours because I’m working 60. But actually, how about you got down to 50 or 45. And so it’s about actually understanding how you can reduce that. The other thing that happens when we’re coaching and supporting business leaders, is that actually a lot of what they’re doing is busyness not productive outcome. And so they’re often highly trained people who understand time management, they just don’t necessarily apply it. I mean, I read a time management book the other day is written by a person that I know and I found it on my bookshelf. I was like, Oh, yes, I know that. Why don’t I do that? Oh, yes. Oh, yes, that’s another good tip, yes I know that we all know what these things are. But we just get too busy to apply them. The types of things that tend to get in the way for business leaders, are meetings – too many meetings. Meetings are too long, too many people in the meetings and meetings without agreed outcomes, or agendas, or anything that is focusing in on good meeting behavior. And then, and then it also comes down to often, it’s about the autonomy that your people have. So a classic example is a large media organization here in the UK, and one of their divisions did a four day week. And that because and they were looking to try and create a more equitable workplace. But actually, the main reason behind it was that they were a creative bunch, who found that work was killing their creativity and they didn’t feel like they had enough time to breathe and be the creative people that were. And the boss of this division, see, most of her day was spent dealing with people and she was saying she did the actual technical part of her job role on the train home at night and in the evenings. And what she found when they brought in the four day week, and they had a true conversation with people about what was productivity, and empowered their people to get on with what they were doing. Then she got disturbed less during the day, because her people knew what they needed to do, they were validated by getting the job done rather than coming and seeing you and going, Okay, now I’ve just done this and you’re patting them on the back like a child, you know, or, you know, they’re coming to you with a problem. Because they don’t know how to solve it for themselves. But when you give them that autonomy in their work life, to be able to get on with it. And she was like, I get my whole job done at work. And I’m not having to do a thing. Because when people respect their own time, they respect your time.
Debbie Goodman 13:53
96% Of the companies that participated in this pilot want to continue. But what are the predictors of success because as you’re speaking to me, I’m thinking that for an organization to a) want to do this and b) for this to actually be successful, surely there must be some other key underpinnings that are inherent in the way in which that organization is already being run, such as an approach to an organizational culture, a culture which lends itself towards a belief that people actually are to be trusted, and can be given autonomy. I mean, the whole world has been talking about flexibility for the last several years with the pandemic and yet still many organizations just find that they don’t trust their employees to use their time well. What are the predictors of this being a program that is likely to be successful and sustained?
Debbie Goodman 14:48
Did they eventually go back to four days?
Charlotte Lockhart 14:48
Yes, so the trust thing is very interesting. I mean, obviously you need it. You should be working towards having it or have a great culture which would also include trust. And trust isn’t just about whether I can trust you to do your jobs whether I trust you at all. And that’s works from the employees side of things as well. So if you don’t have high trust from your employees for management, then telling them, look, we’re going to reduce work time, and we’re going to keep your pay the same, they’re going to go mmmmm, I just think redundancies are on the way. So to a certain extent, people don’t like change. And so therefore, you need a trust environment, or be on a journey with trust, or at least include trust in the way that trust building in terms of the way you run your pilot program. So that starts to feed on each other. But also part of it is the process that we go through on the pilot programs is to establish what those measures are. So I know that your outputs for your job are reflecting what I’m paying you for rather than just the time that you’re warming a seat no matter whether you’re working remotely, flexibly or in the office. And so therefore, there’s more structure around what does success look like? So that’s one thing. Another indicator of success is how agile thinking the business leader is, because as you said, you know, people go, aaah I like the idea, that would never work in my business. Well, you know, as Henry Ford is attributed saying, whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right! That is, you know, mindset. So people say, well that will never work in hospitality. And yet there were restaurants doing one of the most successful four day week advocates in Spain and Madrid, as a restaurant owner, just for restaurants, and hospitality business. People say, well that will never work on law, and yet there are law firms doing it. So it comes down to whether the leadership is prepared to allow a process that might shake up the way they’ve always viewed things. And so leadership mental agility is key. And then the other thing that you’d need to be involved is to be prepared to try some different things. So, you know, we suggest to companies that we’ve run the pilot programs, generally for six months. You’ll spend a couple of months getting ready, designing what productivity looks like, getting involved in the research so you’ve got benchmarking of where you are. And, you know, you’ll look at what might be some of the things that you might change, behaviors you might change, or systems that you might use more of. So many of our businesses, I mean, just think about something like Microsoft Office, how much of Microsoft Office do you actually use, we’re only using a fraction of the time saving things, or the energy saving and various other things, the resources that we have. So two months to work out what that’s going to look like. And then you run a pilot program, where you might start, for example, with having whole days off, but then you might go, okay, well, that’s not quite working. So then it’s like, well, how about we do it this way, and actually be prepared to give it a go and try some different things. And as a business leader, realizing that you have to sit on your hands a little bit and empower your people to just try things, find ways and feed into it. So businesses that allow a voice from their employees and allow their people to innovate within the business, are the ones that tend to be successful. If you and some of the, you know, like the really early adopters of four day weeks, very well meaning business leaders, but they go right, this is what it’s going to look like guys, I decided that we’re going to do a four day week. We’re going to have Friday’s off, it’s great. It’s like there’s all this you know, Jabber, Jabber, Jabber. And then something changes. A new customer or a lost customer or a pandemic. And because you haven’t run a program that’s looking at how do we improve the business and manage the business and cope with change, then when change comes the natural reaction is to just go back to five days. As an example I have of this, is a woman in the UK here who – I love the way she described it – She said I invited my people to come on to a four day week and so I mean, law, legislation, lots of countries doesn’t allow you really to force it on people anyway. But anyway, she invited them in and was very successful and was humming along nicely. And they, you know, along the way, they adapted some things and changed some things. And then they lost their biggest client. Now, the interesting thing is, of course, in days of yore business has been around for quite some time. When something like this happens. They just fired a whole pile of people, right? That’s the natural thing of cost saves get rid of people. What she did was she invited her people to come back five days a week, and pivot the business. They digitized so much more of their service, they looked at things like they all came in and hunted out new clients. And they’ve actually, instead of firing everybody and chasing this, they used the agile thinking that they developed through their pilot program to make their business more resilient. And now they’ve got…
Charlotte Lockhart 20:15
They only came in for a couple of months, only stopped doing it for a couple of months, so that they could pivot the business and redesign the products and digital stuff and things. Now they have a much more resilient and much more sustainable business, because people took ownership of the solution.
Debbie Goodman 20:56
Sounds to me as well, that, you know, people may think, oh, four day week sounds like a great idea. Let’s take this idea and start. Sounds like there’s a lot of pre work, a lot of organizational analysis in order to actually get an organization a company ready to do this with a likelihood of success? Do you select the companies? Or did they select you?
Charlotte Lockhart 21:20
It depends on the complexity of the business. For smaller businesses, it’s not actually that hard at all. And we help them and take them on a journey to get them we’ve got all the resources to help them get there. For larger businesses that have you know, a sales team, a call center, a manufacturing plant or logistics distribution, then what we tend to do is we bite the business off in chunks. And so each division works on its own pathway to how it does and its own timetable for that. So it can be as much work or as little work as you want. But one of the biggest pieces of feedback that I get from from business leaders, it was actually, it was much easier than I thought, because don’t forget, you’re not doing the work your people are, you are collaborating, this is not the boss’s and this traditional combative thing that we do, an us and them, this is all about how are we going to make this work? And so the division of labor to do it, is is all in the experiment. So you know, getting prepared, there is some work, but what you’re doing, what are you actually preparing your business for? You are preparing to make your business better. You’re preparing to have better productivity measures, you’re preparing to have a staff, you’re engaging with your staff, so they care about productivity measures, they care about your business, they are just as just as keen for the business to succeed as you are, because you’re going to let them go home.
Debbie Goodman 23:03
Talk to me, Charlotte, about pilot programs that have been conducted in the US because since relocating from South Africa, to the US, I feel sometimes like I’m working in a completely different planet, culturally, overall, when it comes to work. This is a country that is pretty hardcore. And, you know, it can be really brutal on people.
Charlotte Lockhart 23:29
Yes, we’ve run a couple of pilot programs. We’ve had 60 companies do. So it’s interesting – it’s the same number as the UK but the UK research got all the media and that’s really funny. Every time we release something about the UK, even though we’ve released stuff about the US, I get all the US media ringing me going: And so you’re going to do something like that here? Where were you when I did my US program because it’s such a big market. And it’s such a noisy market that actually, the best way for me to get attention from US media was to have the Telegraph and The Guardian, print something and then New York Times Washington Post, Financial Times, they all just ring me then. But we’ve also got a North American pilot starting in the middle of this year. So we will be talking about that shortly. So your listeners should keep an eye out for that. And the details of it will be on our website shortly. And so we will run that to the end of the year. Now. But interestingly, with the US markets, you’ve got Senator Mark Takano put up a bill for a 32 hour work week, which is a Federal piece of legislation. Maybe it’s successful, maybe it’s not but that conversation is being had at a Federal level. Yeah, the states of New York and Maryland and now Hawaii, are looking at bills around running pilot programs and then we are having conversations with a number of other organizations including a call that I will be doing after this in the US so the conversation is being had at a legislative or at a governance level for the states. But it is also being had for businesses. And you know, one of the things that so many people struggle with is being able to compete for the right staff. And, you know, one of the things we quite often say is, is your risk is not whether you do this or not, it’s whether your biggest competitor, does it. And, you know, we are having conversations with organizations, from up here to down here, we are ambivalent around size, if you’re a two person business, we can help you, if you’re a 200,000 person, we can help you. But you know, how will you do that? And the support that you need from us varies across across set program suites. That, you know, globally, this is something that is coming, the conversation is being had. We’re running a pilot program with 86 companies, for Portugal, you know, it’s really small European country, where the government, we’re running a pilot for the government, we are having more and more conversations with Public Service employees and unions around how we can actually fit this into their world. So the conversation is really starting to snowball globally, but we are certainly seeing it’s a smaller snowball in the US, it’s certainly a larger ball than it was when pro offers skis, I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But at some point, we’re gonna start seeing a few stars off their skis.
Debbie Goodman 26:42
All large snowballs start small, I guess. And, you know, just as the data is unequivocal, the amount of media attention that that got certainly is making more and more companies and leaders wonder about whether it’s something that they could try. And certainly, I’m going to take this challenge to my company, and ask my team, whether they’d be interested in exploring this, I’m going to take this little this session as a little personal challenge for my organization. I’ve been intrigued by the four day week for a long time.
Charlotte Lockhart 27:18
Yeah, and we can pop you on the, you know, the pilot that starting in the middle of the year, and you know, and we can follow your journey, you can share your experience with your listeners.
Debbie Goodman 27:28
Well, that would be exciting. I’m going to include your details. Listeners, I will be including the four day week global details in the show notes and their pilot programs, you know, all over the world right now. So Charlotte, congratulations on really pushing for this type of wellbeing in the workplace. I’m excited to see what happens in the year ahead. And just, you know, kudos to you and for pioneering this type of innovation, which can be so impactful to so many people who finally find the balance that they might always have wanted, in order to have a wonderful work and personal life coexisting together, which I think feels like a bit of a far off unicorn like dream for many people. But it sounds like it’s really landing and becoming a reality.
Charlotte Lockhart 28:20
What our pilot programs are showing is that you can have both, and one of the things we’re also doing is research that follows businesses who’ve been doing it for a while. And so what does it look like on a sustainable and long term basis. And so that’s one of the criticisms is Oh, I can see how you could do it for six months, but how do you do it sustainably. And so that’s one of the things that we’re doing. We have a community that our pilot program people become part of, and anybody else that has done a four day week can, you know, can be part of our community. And then people share ideas and things. We’re gonna do a conference in September of next year, in Lisbon and Portugal. So come on over everybody. But the and the idea is to really get all of the thought leaders together and be able to create that. But at its heart, this is what you want to say to your listeners who are business leaders. We need to remember that as leaders, we borrow our people from their lives. And when you think of it like that, it’s not hard to see how we need to make a change.
Debbie Goodman 29:28
On that very profound note. I’m going to say thank you, and goodbye, and all the very best. I’m excited to follow the journey. And it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much, Charlotte.
Charlotte Lockhart 29:41
My pleasure. Thank you very much.
Debbie Goodman 29:46
Thanks for hanging around all the way to the end. It would mean the world if you would rate and review On Work and Revolution on your favorite listening app. It helps people know that the show is worth listening to. And so I will really appreciate that. And thank you so much
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