Posted by Dave Newick, CEO of Legal Futures Associate Arken.legal
I was six days into the Camino Portuguese, revelling in the simplicity of walking every day, cathartically clearing my head of long held baggage, when it happened.
The sun was shining, I was walking alone down a beautiful, wooded pathway when I felt something I didn’t recognise. A lightness of being and a feeling of great balance and peace. An excitement and eagerness for the world around me and the adventure ahead.
The feeling was so strange that I struggled to identify it. What was this intense, unusual feeling?
With a shock I realised that I was happy. Joyous. Living the way humans are created to be.
It had been so long since I had felt this way that I had reset my compass. Life had become so busy, so full of things to be done, that the simplicity of being happy had been forgotten.
In chasing success and driving myself to be the best I can be, I had forgotten that the best success indicator is happiness. Joy.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t unhappy or depressed. I am proud of my successes, the awards and the accolades. The business and financial success. The loving relationship I have with the people in my life and the things I have provided them.
But living a joyous life? Making the number one priority in my life to bring happiness and joy to myself and others?
No. I failed at that. I simply didn’t prioritise it.
It took stripping everything back to identify and reconnect with joy.
How can we achieve the balance of living a joyous life and still achieve at a high level?
The balance is not easy, but at the technology company I run, we have discovered that time and space and alignment with purpose are critical.
Time and space
The world is a chaotic place today. The blurring of the lines between work and home is now at an all-time high and intensifying.
Staff bear the brunt of this, and it impacts on mental health and productivity as time and space become compressed, sometimes to the point of being non-existent. This is not sustainable and works against a business which wants to work fast and achieve big through the efforts of its people.
Working a four-day working week, as reported recently by Legal Futures, has helped with creating time to live for Arken staff.
We implemented the policy in October 2020, during the second Covid lockdown in the UK, initially as a method primarily to preserve everyone’s mental health during what was an incredibly challenging time.
However, the four-day week quickly became a vehicle where the company could receive the same or higher level of productivity while everyone has the flexibility to spend time with family and friends, pursuing life interests, learning or simply getting life organised so that weekend days were spent on things that matter.
This time and space, creates freedom of thought and focus and is reflected in better designs, higher energy levels and more ability to withstand the pressures and challenges of a fast-growing business.
To go fast and achieve big, you need alignment in collective purpose. Why does the company do what we do? Why does this matter? Above KPIs and financial outcomes, what is the higher purpose for the company’s existence?
There is an inextricable link between purpose and the four-day week. Our purpose at Arken is to help each other and the client community we serve globally to live better lives. We achieve this by designing and delivering software which creates time and efficiencies.
In sharing the four-day week together, everyone at Arken lives better lives in line with our purpose. In doing this, we tap into the high-performance energy that comes from everyone working together towards a common purpose.
The four-day week forces conversations about alignment and productivity, and creates a framework where this is measured. The question we need to ask is ‘What is productivity?’
A company needs to fulfil its vision and achieve its financial targets. How those things are achieved is important. Should we measure productivity by KPIs alone? There needs to be measurement of productivity, and this will be different in every business.
However, much like the aging paradigm of having to work a five-day week, measuring by KPIs alone is also aging.
It is my experience that it is when people are invested in a collective purpose that they will self-manage productivity and deliver what they need to, because they don’t want to let the group down or detract from the purpose of the company.
In a high-performing culture, it is this that will determine success or not.
The connection between joy and the four-day week are hard to measure but the Arken experience is that it definitely exists.
Arken achieved 80% better growth in working four days a week than in working five. This is down to a number of things, but amongst them is adopting the four-day week, which created joy.
We need to adjust our thinking to consider that the world is changing, and the long-promised benefits of technology are here. We need to adopt our human behaviours and the paradigms we work in, to leverage the solutions in front of us, to create time and space for ourselves and the people in our companies.
Our genetic predisposition as humans is to chase joy. Reconnecting at a Homo sapiens level to this is possibly the most powerful thing an organisation can give to its people in today’s world.
Connect yourself and your team with joy. Consider the four-day week.