Colin works as an engineer for a small company that designs and manufactures custom cycles for the physically disabled. He is also married, the father of three children under the age of 8 and has been working a four day (34 hour) work week for the past two years.
Before Colin could redesign his work he needed to have a clear understanding of all of the different aspects of his job. To help with this Colin undertook a number of exercises developed by ThirdPath to identify the range of tasks he was involved with and to indicate potential areas of flexibility. Through completing these exercises, Colin noticed that some of his activities could be undertaken more cost effectively by another staff member, especially if he systematized the work first; that many of his ‘highest priority’ tasks required his focused and uninterrupted attention for long periods of time; and that a better method was needed to prioritize the tasks he was responsible for. “In both areas of my work, R&D and process improvement, I had a list that was two miles long.”
Experiments with establishing uninterrupted work time and shifting work responsibilities requires support from management. At first Colin was uneasy to ask for this kind of support. However, because of his clarity about his life goals and conviction that the changes he was asking for would benefit the successful completion of his work, Colin approached his manager. As it turned out his general manager believed in the value of what Colin was asking for and was very positive about the whole idea. She then worked with Colin to create a collective list of priorities, shift some responsibilities to other members of staff and encouraged him to experiment with periods of ‘quiet time’ at work so he could focus on his priorities without being constantly interrupted by questions from colleagues.
In hindsight, Colin could now see how the process he had used helped him develop methods to improve how he was working. Colin was now better at creating quiet focused work time and asking, “What is my biggest priority, and at what rate do I need these tasks to get done?”
However, the positive outcomes weren’t just work related. The shift to a four-day work week was ultimately to create more time and energy for home. “It’s easy for me to see how my change to a 4 day work week has positively contributed to the overall health and communication in our family. When I’m home on Fridays, my wife can take off and do the things she wants to do without children in tow. I also like walking our kids to school and meeting their teachers and friends. It gives me an important way to relate to them the rest of the week.”