From Burnout to Balance: Rethinking Productivity & The Science of the 4 Day Workweek with Dr Dale Whelehan #087

Show Notes:

Are you struggling to manage your team’s productivity and keep up with the ever-increasing demand for work-life balance? Imagine a work environment where burnout is drastically reduced, and productivity soars—all within a four-day workweek.

Dr. Whelehan is a seasoned social entrepreneur and behavioural scientist, unveils how implementing a four-day week can significantly increase revenue, reduce staff turnover, and enhance work ability. The organization he leads, 4 Day Week Global, has been pivotal in pioneering studies that support this revolutionary work model. This episode not only delves into the benefits but also tackles the practical and psychological barriers to making this transition. Whether you’re a business leader or an employee, this discussion will open your eyes to the future of work.

Ready to transform your workweek and boost your team’s engagement and productivity? Tune into this enlightening conversation on the “Dealing with Goliath” podcast now.


Dr. Dale Whelehan is dedicated to creating a million new years of free time alongside a remarkable team of collaborators.

As a Social Entrepreneur, Behavior Scientist, and Chief Executive Officer with a degree from Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Dale has a diverse background spanning human capital, organizational behavior, management, change, culture, workforce experience, performance consulting, representation and rights, and quality assurance.

He leads the team at 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit organization committed to creating a million new years of free time. This group provides a platform for individuals passionate about advocating for the four-day workweek as a crucial part of the future of work. Under his leadership, the organization has supported international pilot studies to explore the feasibility of reduced working hours across various sectors and jurisdictions.

Recently, his team was recognized in the TIME 100 Most Influential Companies of 2023 and highlighted by Forbes as one of the most promising changes of the year. Dr. Dale and his team have discussed the advantages of a four-day workweek in leading publications, including The Atlantic, INSIDER, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Fast Company, BBC, Sky News, and the Wall Street Journal.

Topics explored:

  • Dr. Dale Whelehan discusses the transformative effects of a four-day workweek, including increased revenue, fewer resignations, and enhanced productivity.
  • It’s not working four days instead of five, it’s the methods to get five days work done in just four days.
  • Perpetual Guardian aims to create a million new years of free time in five years through reduced working hours.
  • The shift from time-based to outcome-based productivity is crucial along with overcoming fear of change.
  • Organizations are adopting the four-day week to boost productivity, reduce burnout, and promote a more equitable and sustainable world.
  • Defining productivity is key, with a focus on moving from arbitrary metrics to outcomes-based measurements.
  • Burnout is a significant issue across various industries, exacerbated by long hours and high turnover, impacting overall workplace culture.
  • Only 10% of workers in Ireland and the UK are engaged; trust, autonomy, and recovery are key to fuelling intrinsic motivation.
  • The importance of balancing work-life, with a compressed workweek allowing for increased focus, rest, and recovery.
  • The four-day workweek enhances workplace motivation, collaboration, and individual performance, fostering trust and respect within organizations.
  • Implementing a four-day workweek involves cultural adjustments and training to help employees manage performance and recovery during time off.


Al McBride 0:02
Welcome to the dealing with Goliath podcast. The mission of dealing with Goliath is to sharpen the psychological edge in negotiation, ethical influencing, and high impact conversation for business leaders who want to be more effective under pressure, uncover hidden value, and build greater connection all while increasing profitability. Now today, we’re doing the longer form podcast interview, because it’s a fascinating topic that I think, huge amount of both executives as well as business owners need to open their eyes to. And it is one of these things, one of these conversations that we have, I believe it will be one of those things you might look back on because this is seeing how things are going to develop in the coming years. So let me introduce with that little little drop of curiosity in there. Let’s let’s introduce the guests. So my guest today is Dr. Dale Whelan, social entrepreneur, behavior scientist and chief executive officer. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin, with a diverse range of experience comprising human capital, organizational behavior, management, change culture, workforce experience, performance consulting, representation and rights and quality assurance, a lot of a lot of different strands coming together. It’s very impressive. He leaves out the team at four day week global. This is a not for profit organization. We’re creating a million New Years of free time, they provide a platform for like minded people who are interested in supporting the idea of the four day week as part of the future of work. The company today has been involved in supporting international pilot studies exploring the feasibility of reduced work hours across different sectors and jurisdictions. And most recently, their team was named in time 100 most influential companies are 2023 and have been identified by Forbes as one of the most promising changes of 2023. They’ve discussed the benefits of four day week through all sorts of leading publications, including the Atlantic insider, The New York Times, Bloomberg Fast Company, BBC Sky News, and the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Dale Whelan, it is a pleasure to have you on the show.

Dr Dale Whelehan 2:20
Thank you so much for having me out.

Al McBride 2:22
Well, let’s just set this up with a few quick statistics, right, because you’ve been doing a lot of trials with an awful lot of different companies, both in the UK and Ireland, and also in Australia, and all sorts of different jurisdictions. And just to read a few of the stats for the audience, just to frame why this is internet inherently interesting. 36% increase in revenue 42% Decrease in employee resignations, that’s a big one for staff turnover. 68% reported reduction in burnout. And I know that’s a particular area of your expertise that you’re writing a book on will defend later, 54% increase in work ability, and 63% found it easier to attract talent. This is one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show today, as we talked about before, which was that this could indeed be a nice edge, if you will a differentiating factor for smaller businesses to attract talent. So with all that said, Talk us through it. So where did this come from? It sounds like a beautiful utopian vision that I’m sure most staff are going oh my God, get me into a company for a week. Can you clarify, first of all, what it is and what it’s not maybe to start with? And we’ll go from there.

Dr Dale Whelehan 3:40
Yeah, thank you so much, Alan, thanks for such a lovely introduction as well. So the four day week is modeled of principle called 180 100, which is the trademark principle of for a week global, which says 100% pay for 80% time for 100% output. So assuming you come from a work company that currently contracts, you’d work 40 hours, that would mean receiving the same amount of pay, but actually only doing 32 hours of work. And so the genesis of this idea came from an a pilot on a company called perpetual guardian, which is what the founders afforded we global are part of Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart. So perpetual Guardian is based out of Auckland in New Zealand and they basically said that there is an opportunity to look at improving the productivity of our workforce. A lot of some of the very preliminary basic science says the human productivity, particularly in the cognitive space is limited between 2.5 to three hours a day and actually rest is really important in order to try and improve that cognitive function. So Andrew trials and in perpetual garden brought in external academic expertise to evaluate the pilot. And from that, you know, a huge, hugely successful trial. Oh 40 We global was founded back in 2019, then the main activities of the organization was to essentially showcase the findings of the professional Guardian trial and try and make the business case for it in different organizations. And one of the key activities thereafter was the conduct of pilot studies, as you’ve mentioned, in different jurisdictions, understanding what is reduced working hours looked like not just in, you know, a white collar sector job like professional services, but also in, you know, a manufacturing secretary in health care in whatever sector it is. So we’ve been trying to understand different business models and understand what reduced working hours how produce working areas could be facilitated in those different contexts. We have published our initial trial findings from the US, Ireland, the UK and Australasia to date. And our aim is to be a truly global organization. And so we have pilots running in every continent at the moment, with the view, then to creating a million New Years of free time, as you mentioned, in the next five years. And how we actually facilitate that then is, is recognizing that with each individual that’s actually working on a reduced working hours schedule, they will create at least, you know, eight hours of free time a week, and when that grows for team and into an organization into a society, a million years is not that hard to achieve. When you look at what the exponential growth of this conversation of a four day week, has seen over the last 12 months.

Al McBride 6:34
It’s fascinating stuff. And I can imagine a lot of people are listening to it, and thinking, Oh, that sounds great. What? And that’s where they have all of these, quote, practical obstacles, barriers, and indeed fears. Both maybe they’re the business owner, they’re thinking, Oh, I’d love to do that. Not just for me, but for my staff as well. Other people who are maybe, you know, as you said, working for other people, and they would love to work for a company that does this or that takes this on. What are what are some of the things to get right now one of the things just to point out to everybody is that it’s not that you’re you’re cramming 40 or 50 hours of work into four days, it’s not that you’re doing 12 hour days, essentially is it is that it’s the same amount of hours. It’s the same in a work output for 20%. Last time in. Now, a lot of people are moving already to look, just pay me for the result. Why does it matter how much time it makes? So for some people in some industries, this already is like this makes perfect sense, right? So could you just talk to a few of those particular points? Like what are some of those key obstacles, both practical and indeed psychological?

Dr Dale Whelehan 7:52
Yeah, and you’ve really hit the nail on the head there out. This is about moving from time as this arbitrary metric of productivity to actually outcome based work on I think, a lot of sectors are transitioning to that. And if certain sectors aren’t, they’re recognizing that they need to start moving more into that sort of space. Now, certain sectors cannot do that in sectors where continuity of you know, patient care is required in a hospital setting, for example. So we need to be a little bit more innovative around looking at productivity in those settings as well. But when we look at say, we’ll take our traditional, when people think of a four day week, it’s Friday off, I’ll be at it’s not always a Friday off. So organizations will typically when they embark on one of our trials, they go through an eight week onboarding process, essentially of change intervention. So they start from the very basic question of why are you doing that for that week, so actually stopped change narrative in the first place, and being quite clear about it. We organizations come for many reasons. Some come from a recruitment and retention of talent point of view, some come from wanting to reduce the burn out of their workforce, even smarter ones are doing it because they know if they reduce the burnout, they can improve the productivity of the workforce, and others are coming from it, recognizing that businesses play a big role in creating a more equal and sustainable world. And we know that for the recaps to achieve some of those outcomes as well. So being quite clear on that change narrative is is is critical to establishing communication that’s going to appease and reassure the hesitancies of all your stakeholder groups, whether they be a board, whether they be your internal staff, whether they be your customers, then you actually decide well, what type of four day week am I going to do? And this is where the 180 100 principle allows flexibility because all it essentially is saying is that it 20% reduced time and 100% output. But that doesn’t mean that business needs to close one day a week. So if that’s not possible for your organization, you may wish to have some of your staff working Monday to Thursday, so I’m working Tuesday to Friday. I’ll be there working on a lowest like More skeletal staffing structure on two of those days in the week. But you might find that actually make sure that everyone gets well rested and performance is still maintained, if not improved, others may look at, well, we actually can’t give full time or we can’t give a four day week, this week or the next week, and we need people in full time. But actually across a month period, we will provide time in lieu so that 180 100 is being you know, achieved through a longer period of time. And then we look at those more complex sectors like healthcare, like service provision industries. And what they are doing is summer actually deciding, there was a famous kind of fish and chip shop example, in one of the pilots to actually close business when business is not performing. So well actually, if it’s costing you more time to keep the business open, then actually close the business down and keep it a full time during the peaks of your work. IE, you know, focusing on output as opposed to focusing on time. And a really famous example, then in healthcare, in the Icelandic public sector was, they realized, okay, we actually are going to have to hire more staff, in order to offset this reduced working hours schedule. But when we looked at the macro economic costs of that, we’re able to reduce our reliance on agency staff, we’re able to reduce our staff sick leave and absenteeism rates. And so actually, that is a net benefit, because we’ve created a more sustainably Minimum Viable staffing structure that’s actually able to just provide services without burning out track the process of providing that service. So all of those different models allow us to see how something like this is possible in many different business case, approaches. So deciding that for the week, and figuring out, you know, which one’s going to serve suit your business’s needs is what organizations will next do, then they will actually say, Well, we’re actually moving away from time now, it’s this arbitrary metric of, of productivity and moving towards outcomes. But that means actually organizations need to define what productivity looks like, in the organization in the first place. And many have done that. So they will start to establish, you know, OKRs, and, and metrics of assessment of performance. And once they’ve established them, they can work backwards and say, Okay, well, if we need to achieve these outcomes on Thursday, now, instead of a Friday, what are the key barriers in the workweek that is going to not allow that to be to occur? So that’s long meeting times, that’s ineffective processes, technology not being leveraged for, you know, productivity instead of, you know, parking, people’s productivity. And lastly, underpinning all of that is culture and leadership, as an enabler, as opposed to a barrier for effective high performance. So once you kind of get that roadmap, essentially, of okay, well, I know what the productivity looks like, Now, I know what the type of audit we want to do. How do I make sure that if we actually embark on this, that I can safeguard against failure. And that’s where you need to have things like amber and red flags within your organization’s trial to make sure that the business is not going to be completely derailed by this, or at least that your business is sensitive, sensitive enough to pick up when things are going wrong, and how to remedy them as quickly as possible. And so when undergoing all of these changes, is something that organizations have never really done for the first time or before. So you’re facilitating the development of a growth mindset within leaders as well. And what we have found is that why this works, relative to some other change management interventions around, you know, Lean Six Sigma and productivity interventions is that you are fundamentally building psychological contract with the worker, because you’re gifting them something in return for something else. And where Lean, and you know, agile ways of working currently fail, is that they demand of the individual more and more and more, but don’t give them anything in return. In fact, they give them more work,

Al McBride 14:12
oftentimes, you’re punished for being punished

Dr Dale Whelehan 14:16
for being productive. Yeah. And anyone who looks at any of the science or in high performance in any industry that like elite sport, or aviation, or all those sort of things, they all like preach about the importance of rest and recovery from periods of high performance. So that’s, that’s the fundamental cultural mindset shift that leaders will go through by embarking on this journey as well.

Al McBride 14:41
Yeah, and you kind of hit the nail on the head, I suppose. It’s all part and parcel, because one of the questions I asked you know, we were talking before was all around. I presume this needs a pretty advanced culture through a business to make this work on all sorts of levels. I mean, but the mere fact that someone in a leadership position would want to or is interested in instigating this in the first place probably is the type of organization that has the stuff largely in place anyway. But there is that sort of slightly more cynical voice in my head, which I can imagine some leaders jump to where they say, Well hold on a second, if you were able to get 30% increase in productivity by working 20%. Less. Like, why are you that? No, why are we inefficient? For that extra day? Why can we not be more efficient, and work the extra day and even more, as you say, in that mindset of greater productivity, you know, are there there’s some of those cynical? As I say, you have to sell it to the you know, it’s great to bring in the human side. But as I say, to a lot of negotiation clients, you often have to sell it to the psychopath in the room as well, just as he said, the cold hardy economics. And that’s the beauty of this. It does work on the cold heart stats and economics, but but is it the rest and recuperation, that that allows people to compress the work into that time, whereas if you add that extra day, it’s, as you said, people are only able to really focus and get proper output work about approximately three hours a day, anyway?

Dr Dale Whelehan 16:22
Yeah, yeah. So there’s a few things I think that are at play as to why it works, and why returning to a five day week and expecting the same results is probably not going to work. First of all, an outdated management philosophy that needs to be put to bed, is that humans are not machines. And that, you know, expecting someone to perform at a consistent pace and ratio of work. And based off an outdated nine to five working model that was based in the industrial revolution, is just an all evidence is pointing that it is creating a burned out workforce. And we know, even from a very crude, economic perspective, we know burnout is costing organizations huge amounts of money from absenteeism, and productivity and presenteeism, and all of that sort of stuff. So even if anything from a selfish point of view, if you want to make your if you want to improve productivity, you have a workforce reduce the burnout of your workforce. And if we know that longer working hours is increasing burnout, they reduce working hours, and you will reduce burnout. So that’s that’s one thing, a play. The second thing is that, contrary to humans, as machines, humans are fueled by motivation. And if you want to get the best out of your worker, you need to figure out how to motivate your worker. And this is where organizations really struggle to motivate their workforce. In fact, Gallup would say that only about 10% of the workforce in Ireland, the UK are engaged. So look at 90% have potential to be more engaged and to produce more as a result of engagement in work. And we know that when you put trust in workers, when you give them a sense of autonomy over their work, when you make them feel competent in the work that they do, then they actually fuels their levels of intrinsic motivation. But like any high performance industry, you need to be able to ramp up for success and equally ramp down after a really successful period, you wouldn’t expect someone to go out and run a marathon and then run the marathon again, you would you would expect them to rest and recuperate and go back and do better the next time from that recovery process. So that is what we’re trying to continue. So we’re trying while I’m trying to essentially advocate is that we need to move away from these outdated Taylorism principles around management, to actually a science of human performance, and integrating that into new management styles within workplaces. And realizing that you will gain so much more by leveraging the physiology and psychology of your worker to become optimal, instead of you know, an assumption that they are going to perform consistently at a consistent rate, irrespective of what levers you pull in work as a leader.

Al McBride 19:17
Absolutely. In the sporting analogy, I think that a lot of the points hit home there when you use that where you say, well, if someone who plays a football match a professional athlete or so a rugby match or whatever, you don’t expect them to do it again the next day. You expect recuperation. You expect the tactical side and then different types of work and levels of focus to then be on for game day. And people kind of intuitively get that but as you said in a and dare I use the word corporate at least in a business setting. They don’t so much. And it is an important point. I think that yeah. There were quite enough points there. had to pick up on but one of the big ones, and I know it’s an area of particular interest and expertise for you, is all around burnout. So let’s just explore that. Because I know for quite a few industries that almost where burnout has a badge of honor, where that kind of Oh, we’ve done the hard yards type of sporting analogy time, we’ve, you know, we’ve put that time and energy in, like, it used to be a big thing in a lot of the medical circles that young doctors would have to these horrendous hours. It’s, it’s big in a huge amount of different areas, particularly, you know, areas of particularly aggressive finance, areas of, of software development. And I know, because I have clients and software where there are a lot of culture there where you’re going to leave a sooner or later anyway, because it’s high turnover, and there’s people moving jobs, because they have tons of opportunity. So they go will point opera anyways. Because you’re gonna be gone anyway. So who cares? which just sounds cynical, but it also makes certain sense from one point of view with with the idea that they’re going to leave anyway. So it is a profound change, isn’t that getting the head around to how do we optimize for human performance? So let’s talk about burnout. Because you were saying this when we were talking about fatigue, not all fatigue is the same ideas of lack of sleep versus other forms of take? Can we dive into that for a few minutes? So I know you have an upcoming upcoming book on the topic. So what are some of the key points you think business owners should know about that? You want to get out? Into the public consciousness?

Dr Dale Whelehan 21:42
Yeah, so this, I mean, this is a hugely complex area of research. So much, so that I’ve been studying it for years, and oftentimes have to double check myself to make sure I understand it, I think the problem is, is that we actually use terms like fatigue, exhaustion, tiredness burned out interchangeably. But, but actually, in many instances, they’re caused by different things. It’s really interesting, many of the terms that we use to describe our emotional experiences of fatigue are actually machine like, metaphors. So we use burned out, we use grind to a halt, worn out, you know, we have internalized a metaphor of our bodies and our brains as machine like, and I think that is, I think, in reality, obviously, we aren’t like that. So there’s often that sort of mismatch between what I want to do versus what I’m capable of actually doing. And I think true high performance looks at understanding that you you you have a physiology and psychology that needs to be minded and taken care of. And once you understand how best to leverage it, that’s when you build high performance culture. So I’ll touch on burnout first. So burnout, right is an organizational issue. So it is not an individual’s problem. When we look at all the research around burnout, it said it’s called caused by three things. It’s caused by an individual experience exhaustion, an individual experiencing a sense of efficacy or, you know, non competency within their work, and experiencing cynicism towards their work. And in many instances, all of those three factors are caused by poor culture within workplaces, exhaustion, true overworking and ineffective working. inefficiency coming from you know, are ineffective than an efficacy coming from people feeling like they’re not doing a good job of being scolded by management is not being good enough. And cynicism, then emerging when people just become disk disengaged from their work, and therefore don’t feel any sort of, you know, sense of accomplishment in what they do. And so therefore want to completely detach away from that. So when you look at all those industries, like surgery, like law or finance, they, their minimum viable structure is yet getting young graduates who are highly motivated out of third level education, putting them through their paces, and not addressing some of these issues that we know are causing Bearnaise people then leaving that sector, maybe going into a smaller boutique firm, and the culture just perpetuates itself, then in different professions essentially get these reputations for themselves. And healthcare is also you know, has long standing issues around Bearnaise. An alternative and wouldn’t it be brilliant, if we looked at what would a positive experience for a young worker entering into one of these professions look like? So you are highly rewarded, you’re really looked after, and you don’t feel exhausted in your 20s and therefore, you actually might stay with the firm longer term. And you might actually then, you know, have greater institutional knowledge within the firm processes might improve because you’re in good At work, you want to reinvest in making the profession better. So that’s the sort of mindset shift, I think when you see a burned out workforce versus an engaged workforce, which are at opposite ends of the spectrum for one another. So burnout, organizational cultural issue. Fatigue is an emotional experience experienced by someone when they are essentially engaging in a task. And then there is a conflict of motivational demand in their, in their environment. So, I’m writing my book, and my mind is telling me go check Twitter, you know, you haven’t checked Twitter in the last half hour. And so I need to essentially evoke a higher level of effort in order to divert my attention back to the task at hand. And in doing so, my subjective level of fatigue will rise, because an increase in effort will lead to an increase in fatigue. A high performer will know when to dial up and when to dial down, so they will know, okay, I need to do this task. So I need to continue on with this task. And this level of fatigue is acceptable at the moment. And I know that once I finish this task, I need to factor in a small bit of time to recover afterwards, in order to try and stop the fatigue after effect from emerging. What often happens, though, in the world of work is that people sit down at their desks, nine to five, they take little breaks, they go from zoom call to zoom call. And they’re constantly experiencing these motivational, you know, conflicts, and they aren’t necessarily listening to what their mind is telling them to do. And then they’re going home at the end of the day, and they’re sitting down and they’re watching TV, and they’re exhausted. And they’re getting takeaway, because they’re just experiencing such a high level of fatigue after effect, not create the spiral effect. Because if you feel like that, you’re not going to do things that are actually going to help with active recovery in the evening, we know that when you go for a walk, or you engage, you know, in a new hobby, or you connect with friends, all of those things are better for recovery after a workday than sitting down and watching TV for the evening. So but if you don’t have the energy in the first place to do any of those things, it’s so easy to see how you can suddenly have a really, you know, busy workday, come home, the evening feel exhausted, not get any active recovery, then you don’t go to bed until about 11 or 12. Because you don’t feel tired. And then you wake up at six o’clock. Again, you’re sleep deprived. And the parameters of your performance have been lowered every day in a more, you know, exponential rate. So that’s where you start getting the blurriness between fatigue, and sleep deprivation and burnout, and all of these sort of things feeding into one another, but actually caused by very distinct, different, you know, issues, a different levels of organizations or within people.

Al McBride 27:59
Are there a few key things that, for example, a manager or a leader can do to to stop that, for example, be having greater gaps or having more awareness of what they call a manager or maker time so that you have additional admin time. So a few zoom calls in a row and then a big break. So people can actually get some work done, because this is often a problem where people are in meetings spread out where they can’t get deep into any work in between the meetings, and that frustration unfolds, the quote, kind of few guiding principles might you give leaders or managers and though,

Dr Dale Whelehan 28:37
so I think this is where 48 week actually comes into the entire conversation, because in a four day week, you have to be very deliberate about your time and how you structure your time in obviously a reduced working hours schedule. So when organizations redesign their work week and afford a week, they say what meetings are only taking place between this time and this time, and I am blocking out this amount of time to do deep focused work. And so that’s a very fundamental but simple change organizations can do is actually respecting people’s time to get the work the important work done. Also, moving meetings from an hour long down to 15 minutes is amazing how you can leverage the power of Parkinson’s Law. In in, you know, expand time will expand and work will expand with it or like work will expand within the amount of time given to complete a task. And when you shorten the timeframe, you’ll be surprised at work will actually also get done within that timeframe. So essentially, by gifting people back as much time and giving them as much autonomy over their work, and then training them in some of these performance management principles. You can really create a very different worker to the one that maybe is currently operating within your organization at the moment because your boat building their individual capability to look after their performance but you’re also providing organizational permission to to better regulate their own performance. For a week provide I’d say the latter. And then, you know, individual training and individual kind of personal development provides the former.

Al McBride 30:06
Amazing and as you said, cuz I was gonna mention Parkinson’s Law, which is obvious because it seems to, to be that continually that with greater awareness, you can actually fit the same outcome in a much shorter space of time, if you have the focus. And as you said, you use a really interesting phrase 30, you have the permission, I this is this is how we’ve decided we’re going to operate from now on, let’s move in that direction. It also sounds like when organizations a deep dive into the four day week, they give that element as you said, you know, people who are happy in their work tend to have a high level of autonomy, a high sense of purpose and what they’re doing, and a sense of connection, ie relationship value, to the colleagues and to the people in the work. And it seems to hit on all of those, like they feel respected, because they’re given the trust to, we trust you to get the same kind of work done and for, as you would in five days, you know, so I can see, rather than the obvious, I don’t have to work that extra, say Friday, or whatever it is that it sounds like the obvious appeal. But it’s actually more than that. It’s it’s the baseline trust and respect in the first place to give you that right.

Dr Dale Whelehan 31:20
Yeah, and this is why as a behavioral scientist, I’m really fascinating in this four day week, because at its very superficial level, it seems really easy, you know, in the sense that like, it’s all you’re doing is reducing working time. Well, that can be easy. For some people, that can also be an absolute nightmare for some. But actually, it’s all of those behavioral changes that are happening within leaders who are learning how to better motivate the workforce, within teams who are learning how to collaborate better, those building that relatedness component of self determination theory, and then individuals actually learning how to better manage their performance as well. So you are, you’re creating a new paradigm in the way of working, but you’re doing so under the auspices of a united goal to reduce working time. And that is what, that’s why I think all intervention studies around human resource transformation have failed, is that they have failed to get collective buy in of all stakeholders towards a common goal, and ultimately provide benefits of merit to all the stakeholders involved.

Al McBride 32:24
And it’s, it’s fascinating what you’re talking about there? Because it triggers the thought that are there certain nations or sort of national cultures. And I know there’s massive generalizations in that. Because in the one country, in different businesses, you’ll have radically different cultures even in the same sector. Yeah. But it sounded to me and again, apologies for the generalizations that some cultures would take to this maybe much easier and much faster than others. So, again, one would assume that many staff members would jump at the chance of working in a four day company, but have you What have you found in the trials have been pushed back from the staff where they nearly feel like they’re not being if they’re not being productive? They’re not doing the job? Or, you know, they some people are like, Oh, I have to do stuff. It’s like you have this afternoon off? Like, some of my clients, for example, had argued for one of them and argued for an AF Friday afternoon. I guess she never took us. Yeah, because she felt like, Oh, I knew Oh, if I’m not working, I’m not, you know, it’s not someone who she’s robbing from the company or these odd sort of money and labor beliefs way down in the in the background. So I’m just curious about that. Because you mentioned the behavioral side, could you talk to us about some of those insights?

Dr Dale Whelehan 33:38
Yeah, that’s, it’s, I’m really glad you brought that up. Because it’s, it’s a really fascinating point, it’s often missed for the conversation on a four day week, is that an organization provides permission. But ultimately, it’s the individual who asked to take the time off. And you know, that you can lead a horse to water, you can get the team to poke and prod at the horse to take, you know, the drink the water, but ultimately, it’s a horse of acid drinkers. And that is, I think that’s where we need to probably get better at actually training people in permission to detach and switch off. I actually think generally, as a society, one of the best skills we could learn is how to detach more, it’s why it’s why mindfulness movement has grown so exponentially is because we are all struggling so much in being able to just our anxieties and our stresses and actually using time off as a means to do what it is supposed to do, which is to recover so I suffer with this myself, you know, I I work with her to two hour work week. On Friday comes on, I’m thinking about work and I have to train myself to be like, stop doing this. Like isn’t you’re not doing yourself any good by thinking about what’s in your mailbox on Monday. So, organizations we have to go on to certain needs to read lies that as well. But you can’t get yourself to data unless you provide them permission in the first place. And I think that’s what the journey Many organizations are realizing is that you, you, you need to provide Yeah, the structural enablement. And then second to that, we need to get better at training people how to manage their own performance, and more importantly, manage their recovery. While people are doing their time off, though, thankfully, by and large, is doing active recovery strategies around taking up a new hobby engaging in volunteering, looking after elderly parents or being able to reduce childcare costs by you know, by looking after kids at home. So people are using that time and using it effectively, which is, which is great. I think we we haven’t to date seen huge variances in cultures across nations. But I’m sure as the sample size grows, we will start to see some of those. I was really interested when we signed with our Swedish partner. The conversation we talked about a four day week, it was very much well, we were going to close business on Friday. That is what’s going to happen like as in we were all unanimous in agreement that that’s what this business model will look like in Sweden, you would never dare suggest closing business on a Friday in the US. So it very much had to look like well, how can we keep our business services provided under you know, under reduce working our models, so I think as the conversation grows in new countries, we’ll see the the national rollout of the 40 week might look quite different depending on how advanced the compensation is around working hours.

Al McBride 36:36
It’s a fascinating one, because lead a horse to water, as you said, Somebody pointed out to me the full thing as a leader, what you can’t lead a horse to water and make a drink. But you can sort the oats, which is the fourth quote and I didn’t know that. And it’s that idea of of the persuasive. The tea is, you know, as you say, more so the carrot and the stick and that you create the thirst and the thirst, I think it’s the counter motor, that big motivator because a lot of people Oh, I’d love for date, but then oh, I need to fill in working. And as you said all of those. So it’s not just giving permission. But as you said, I’m fascinated to know about the more about the level of theory, say education for the staff, as to like rest recovery, or as you you say active recovery, that having the bottle of wine and sitting in front of Netflix with the takeaway might feel nice in the moment. But it’s not particularly after not setting you up for the next day or so. You know, what, how much emphasis is there on educating the workforce or the staff members of staff as to as to how to serve themselves best.

Dr Dale Whelehan 37:58
So I think that what we’ve seen the trials today, she’s probably the non more non traditional education approach. Because when we think about traditional training, run high performance and stuff, it might be like someone will come in and give a few webinars around how better to monitor performance. But while we’ve actually seen it how organizations have institutionalized for a week best is by individuals showcasing actually what they’re doing on their days off. And actually creating a peer support kind of network on supporting one another in in knowing what to do in their time off, how better to structure their workday, how better to learn how to detach from work. And when organizations come to our trials, they actually come on to an online platform, which we host with over 350 companies called notion and circle and on there, they’re actually learning from one another as well. So they’re learning how does, how do we do this in manufacturing in the US. And there’s only a manufacturing example in Germany, so they can connect with one another. So I think that peer support process of learning has has meant that we’ve seen results in our trials where people are reporting really higher levels of physical activity, higher levels of sleep, higher levels of hobbies, being taken up all of those sorts of things, because they’re, they’re learning from their peers and seeing actually, oh, that’s what I can do my time off to

Al McBride 39:24
big difference. And it’s also the show, not just tell, because they can be told, Oh, you have permission for this. But I suppose I know from a lot of clients where this they’re trying to do cultural change, where they’re like, oh, yeah, you tell us that now, but are you going to bite us in the ass about that later? You know, is there consequences and that i Where’s and they see? Oh, that’s how you do it. Oh, that’s all these people are doing it. They go okay, this is a thing that I can actually get behind with less fear or trepidation or anything like that.

Dr Dale Whelehan 39:54
Yeah. And that’s when we look at the signs of culture. You know, there’s a few things Is that happen, there’s stability, integration, Dept, elements to culture. So a culture will always try and absorb someone who’s not conforming to a culture. That’s typically how it happens. And when an individual enters into an organization, they will, first of all experience the very superficial aspects of culture. So they’ll see what’s on the mission statement and on the value system and all of that sort of stuff, then they’ll start testing the waters and see whether that’s actually the lived reality. And then they’ll form kind of micro cultures and subcultures within those systems, or maybe revolution that happening to what the desired goal of management is. And that’s where you start getting these pockets of resentment within organizations, I think would afford a weak, one of the key interventions to making sure that this is a an effective intervention and a safe intervention is it needs to be modeled by management. Modeling is one of the most powerful behavior change tools in organizations, there is no point in a CEO, saying, I give all my staff permission to work a four day a week, I’m going to continue to work my six days because that’s what success looks like. And you’re always going to then create this discourse between people feeling like they should be taking their time off, but also a competition to maybe stay on line because that’s actually what’s probably being rewarded.

Al McBride 41:28
Here. The parallels there between the remote working versus the people that come in, and oh, you’re you’re allowed to remote work, but you’re getting that feeling of the people in the office are talking to the boss and shown displaying more of the value and the other people are more and more distant and remote. Yeah, something we talked about before, which is the parallel of Florida we miss this idea of remote working and some of these other innovations that were experimented with at the moment.

Dr Dale Whelehan 41:54
I think this is where this becomes into an issue of equality, because we know that disproportionately people who work part time or women, we know that, particularly from hybrid settings, that it benefits those groups who have traditionally been marginalized within the workplace. And what we’re trying to do is move away from this performance metric of being seen, and, and being present as being somehow committed to the organization versus actually what I deliver based off my talent and my skill. And what one of the questions we often get asked is, well, what do you do with part time workers in a four day week? I think there’s, you’ve seen many different ways of being introduced on with reduced pro rata, you know, just don’t do a 3.25. I think one of the big questions you need to ask of your part time workers as well, are they producing the same level of output as your five day workers? And if so, you actually should consider increasing their salary equivalent to those five day workers? Because if that’s what we’re talking about, if we know that it’s business performance outcomes drives profitability, there is no justifiable reason for you not to renumeration for that level of performance, simply because someone can’t be in the office, or because someone can’t stay in work past 5pm.

Al McBride 43:20
So under negotiation front, what would you say would be the key arguments? Should a business leader want to step forward towards your organization towards the four day week and want to implement this? But there he he or she has key stakeholders who are heavily resistant or they think it’s a fad? Or just whatever objections they have? What would be the what do you find are the key most persuasive arguments to to step forward into the four day

Dr Dale Whelehan 43:54
week? Yeah, great question. I think it’s important to realize that actually, the genesis of us as an organization came not from, you know, the well being arguments, but actually from a very productivity, economic output based, you know, arguments. That’s where Andrew Barnes, when he was leading perpetual garden, he wanted his staff to be more productive. So we have always had that, you know, central to understanding that business leaders are key to the success of this movement. And so therefore, how do we persuade them that this is something worthwhile engaging in? I think when you look at organizational leaders, they tend to be risk averse. That’s typically what happens the more you get up in a hierarchy, the more risk averse you become, the more bureaucratic organizations become. And that is the kind of standards leadership model that we have accepted yet we know it doesn’t work for us in many instances. We also know that the changing environment now is going to require organizations to be a lot more flexible and less rigid in how they approach societal problems. And so I think that this is one of those interventions where it gives you the opportunity to start experimenting with something like that, because you’ve engaged in technology transformation, you’ve engaged in probably finance transformation. How? How much have you actually engaged in human human resource transformation over the last 20 or 30 years? And if you have engaged, what benefits have you seen to that? And is there a potential for you to do a lot more we know business is driven by people and people’s engagement in their work. So people are our greatest asset, and we get more by getting them more engaged in the work. So that is a very kind of, like rudimentary business argument. But then look at the economic costs of it literally put on the back of an envelope and say, what are the overhead costs for us as an organization now at the moment, from recruitment, retention, absenteeism, sick leave, all of these sort of things, I’m pretty sure you will find they have risen quite a lot. And what will be the cost of implementing a four day week, and then see what that balance sheet looks like. And I think you will find that when that some of those macroeconomic costs are taking into consideration, that actually, it’s not going to result in a huge cost for your organization, if any at all. So that’s, that’s a very nice argument to be able to frame this in a much more economic way, which can assuage some of the board and some of those stakeholders, I think, for clients and customers, which drives obviously a lot of businesses having an honest conversation with them. We have found consistently that when organizations, particularly those maybe in professional services that build by hour or something like that, clients have actually been much happier when they have been approached and feedback salt into the process, and actually said that they actually did want to move to a more output based model of work anyway, the billable hour model is flawed flocks where everyone fly for the worker who feels like they need to work longer hours flown for the client, because they probably are paying for work that’s not being they can’t see what’s been done on an hourly basis. So, you know, a new form of partnership with a client is established, which actually seems to be more sustainable. It also helps with Project creep, and all those sort of issues that we know exists within organizations and negotiations and stuff like that. So they’re kind of the main things that I would say, business leaders should consider if trying to embark on something like this.

Al McBride 47:41
That’s a very good case, nicely summed up excellent stuff. And just as a last thought, have you found that many smaller organizations or businesses have adopted by a point of differentiation, that as a way to attract talent, that maybe larger organizations as competition for that talent? Can’t really or haven’t jumped to that yet?

Dr Dale Whelehan 48:05
Yeah, so it’s been by and large, a small and medium enterprise led initiative in the pilot studies to date and you’re totally right, and seeing those organizations have a lot more flexibility in their benefits to be able to offer something like this particularly because, you know, they might not be able to offer huge health care packages for their staff. So they need something to help attract talent into their, into their spaces. And they can also be a lot more agile implementing something like this as well probably don’t need to go through as much, you know, sign offs and decision making or to get things up and going. So certainly, but what we have seen then, and you have to realize the first trial results only came out in February. We have seen huge, both public sector interest but also private, large private sector interest in the last kind of six or seven months. Scotland has launched a public sector for a week trial, starting in 24. Belgium has committed to one in next year as well. The Australian work and Senate care committee has recommended one as well as another Australian committee. The US currently has a 32 Hour Work Act. bill on the floor of the House of Representatives, congressman or senator Bernie Sanders is bringing it up in the Senate, like it has kind of grown exponentially from a political point of view. We have also seen trade union bodies and I break making this as part of their future trade negotiation or our worker negotiations IG Matt Hall, which represents a large group and Germany and the UAW, which represents Ford and the US coincidentally, Ford was the founder or by many considered the founder of the five day work week. So we’re seeing coming from that angle. I’m from large private enterprise then we are seeing just announced yesterday Medibank we worked with Medibank, which is the largest private health insurance company in Australia, they’ve launched a four day week trial, we’ve seen, we’ve seen Microsoft and Japan, we are seeing the big four and currently piloting this, albeit not fully, publicly at the moment. And what we will find is that in two to three years time, this is my view on the future of work. Once it’s all trying to balance itself out, as well, but it is that flexible, hybrid and reduce working, you’re going to become the norm. So actually, the future differentiators are going to look at how well those policies are implemented. And that’s what that’s what you know, the future future worker is going to be looking at is, yes, you have these policies, but how are they actually implemented? And do you live by these policies and practice? Or do you just say them to attract the right talent? And I think that’s going to be a really fascinating time to watch in the future workspace.

Al McBride 50:56
Absolutely. You said a fascinating thing there, it was just a lovely historical reference of for creating the five day work, because an awful lot of people might be thinking, oh, yeah, but this is a lovely idea, but it’ll never happen. Well, when my father was growing up, everybody went to work in school on Saturday morning until lunchtime. That was the norm. And we forget this, you know, that we’ve got reduced back to five. So what’s stopping us being reduced down to four?

Dr Dale Whelehan 51:24
Yeah, and that’s a really critical point, because work has fundamentally not really changed over the last 100 years, despite our working hours, despite the fact that work has radically changed. Pre Industrial Revolution time, it was normal to work seven days a week in an agrarian society, people who were producing, you know, product to for their own benefit, in order to feed themselves or shelter themselves, the industrial revolution came along separated the worker from the means. And as a result, remuneration came into play. So people were, you know, financially rewarded for producing a certain level of output of work. But work in the Industrial Revolution was largely repetitive, and physical and manual, and all of those sort of things. And the human body, I physical fatigue, it that that peak is reached at a much later stage and cognitive fatigue, so we can, we can go and run a marathon. And if we do a bit of training, you know, and in fact, we might hit a wall on our brain would tell us, we can’t do it, but our legs will keep moving. Whereas we have never seen anyone been able to do five hours of full concentration, you know, in full optimal mode of concentration. And that’s, that mismatch that we’re currently happening in the world of work is we’re expecting a model of physical fatigue, to be applied to what is now a largely very cognitive and emotional work. I play workforce. And that is what’s exhausting the workforce so much is because we were never built to work this many hours with the type of work that we are currently doing.

Al McBride 53:06
That’s a fabulous point to finish us. Thank you so much. So thank you so much for such a great interview. It’s fascinating. And I, as I said at the start, it feels like we’re tapping into what will relatively quickly become the norm. Just before we finish, and actually realize that, weirdly, in so many interviews in the last few months, which don’t seem to have anything to do with the people inevitably bring up AI, and it didn’t come up at all. In our conversation, would you say anything that will not just aid the the efficiency of gaining that 100% output for 80%? Time? Like, I presume it can just help that?

Dr Dale Whelehan 53:51
Yeah, so I think the AI one is going to be critical in in the 40, we conversation, because the great promise of reduced working hours came in the early 2000s, with the implementation of technology. And actually, what we saw instead was, you know, an increased use of technology or a no change in working hours. It’s important now at this point that we, we, we leverage AI in order to help us reduce working hours instead of it becoming something that’s just going to continue to grow and grow and grow into, you know, an unsustainable model for us as a people. Burnout rates are at a at the highest level that they’ve ever been, and it’s unsustainable to keep them going at the way that is going. So what do I think of AI it needs to play a role in helping us to automate as much of the laborious, repetitive work. It needs to allow us to free up as much time for us to do what humans can do best, which is creativity and innovation and collaboration. And in doing so we can create new products, new interventions, new offerings, which are going to be tailored towards the individual. I think this is where AI is struggling at the moment is that it is producing stuff, and it isn’t not, it’s not hating the human impact. And I know a lot of conversation talks around, you know how AI will take away a lot of jobs from the future of work, but doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it presents us with an opportunity to allow humans to have more time to relax. And once we relax, we can think more broadly, and we can create better, you know, more customer centric products that people actually want. An AI will never be able to provide us with the level of emotional human connection that we can provide with one another. So we need to leverage that in the future of work, and allow AI to do the things that currently stops us from doing that.

Al McBride 55:49
Sounds like it’s exactly that it’s Yeah, take away the $10 an hour tasks are automated. And let us add value where we add unique, personalized value where there’s a sense of connection. Absolutely. Absolutely. Look, Dr. Dale Whelan, thank you so much for your time. Thank you out it was a perfect, people want to learn more about the movement? Get in touch with you. Where can they find you?

Dr Dale Whelehan 56:15
Yeah, so if you want to check out our website for a week global, we are interested in hiring people of all walks of life involved in our movement we are where obviously, we offer a pilot program intervention, if your organization wants to join a pilot, we now have a foundation program if you simply wants to learn more information about a four day week and have a good work, we also have consulting for large organizations who you know, might require a bit more bespoke additional support. And lastly, we’ll be aiming to create a million New Years of free time so we need as many people on board to help us to achieve that goal. So please do reach out if you want to become an advocate or support us and not from a philanthropic point of view as well.

Al McBride 56:55
Excellent. I wish you the very best in looking after that million. Thanks, everyone. Thank you so much. Cheers. No problem. Bye bye

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