You may be aware that since August 2018 we have been trialling a four day work week. The origins of this are mainly in David’s quest for work:life balance, and a TEDx talk we heard by Kirsty Wark, which motivated us to try the concept.
After a year long trial, we have officially adopted this as our standard working practice, meaning the office will be closed every Thursday!
Read on for some information on the thinking behind this and our experience during the trial.
From August to December 2018, we closed the office on a Thursday and worked ‘compressed hours’. This means taking one day off per week, and working the same total hours per week, over four longer days. The long, cold, dark winter days were a bit miserable, and productivity and morale (metrics which generally improve under shortened working conditions) were not as high as I’d hoped they’d be…! I feel obliged to explain in this short blog that the decision to work longer days was democratic and came from a desire among the staff to ensure they were able to get through their work – what a team! This model was not what was originally envisioned, and so we decided to change it.
From 1 January 2019, we continued our trial and agreed to review it periodically. However, from this point on we would work a true four day week. The office continued to be closed on a Thursday, but all staff now worked for 30 hours per week, and were paid for 37.5.
I encouraged staff to be disciplined in not working the Thursday if they could avoid it, and aside from unavoidable client commitments we have kept to this. The office is closed, and our email autoreplies are set each week – as you’ll know if you’ve contacted one of us on a Thursday…
During and for the remainder of the trial, which at its completion spanned 12 months, I monitored some basic statistics and the general mood in the office and we discussed the trial regularly. Our statistics are not ‘significant’ since we are a small team, however they demonstrated that our business could develop commercially, we could convert our work in progress and achieve client deadlines, improving personal morale and mindset – all while working 20% less each week.
If you’d like to know more about our experience during the trial, please contact me.
Footnote – Almost every time the subject of four day week comes up in conversation with someone for the first time, one question dominates the discussion early.
For anyone still wondering, our reasons are:
1. As much as we plan and pre-empt, Friday is often a deadline for much of the work we do, or assist clients with. It would be impractical and unhelpful to our clients to be unavailable on this day
2. The law of diminishing returns. The objective is to make the working week shorter, rather than make the weekend longer. We already get two days off at the weekend, adding a third in a row would not be as beneficial as it first appears
3. The double Friday principle. Everyone clears their desks on Friday. We now clear ours twice a week – on Wednesdays, knowing we won’t be in the following day, and again on Fridays as normal