My company has had success with a 4-day work week. Here are 6 lessons we'd share with other businesses considering it.
- Earlier this year, more than 70 companies in the UK began one of the largest-ever trials of a 4-day work week.
- Simon Ursell is managing director at one of the participating firms, an environmental consultancy called Tyler Grange. He says the schedule has helped workers be happier and less stressed without losing productivity.
This as-told-to essay is based on remarks from Simon Ursell, managing director of environmental consultancy Tyler Grange, which is one of more than 70 companies in the UK that began a trial of a 4-day work week this summer. It has been edited for length and clarity.
1. Preparation is vital
We started talking about a four-day week more than four years ago. During that time, we did a great deal of work and made significant investment in technology and systems to ensure we were ready long before we went live.
We also spoke to companies that were doing a four-day week and took their advice. For six months or so before starting the trial, we made our Fridays less busy to streamline the transition and prepare us and our clients.
The four-day week isn't a compressed work schedule but rather reduced hours, with the objective of being more productive, happier, and more focused. This just can't be switched on overnight.
2. Talk to your clients
We talked to our clients about how we were preparing and what it would mean for them.
The most common concern was 'What if we need you on a Friday?' but, otherwise, their response was overwhelmingly positive.
We set up an emergency phone line that's manned by one of our six directors each Friday. We only received two calls in the first few weeks. On both occasions, colleagues did have to log on to catch up on what we'd missed, and we reacted rapidly to ensure our clients wouldn't have to call us on a Friday again.
We also added a page to our website, advising clients on what to do if they have a project emergency.
3. Talk to your team and accept that it isn't for everyone
A couple of our tribe didn't take to our new ways of working, and we supported them to find roles elsewhere.
There were also colleagues who were openly very anxious about the change at first. Some of our most high-performing team members couldn't understand how it would be possible to fit five days' work into four when they already work so very hard.
But once the pilot began, and we became more accustomed to our new systems and way of working, which removed lots of lengthy administrative work and unnecessary meetings and reporting from our day, they soon got their heads around it.
4. Take different roles and departments into consideration
Due to how some of our team works and the fact that summer was the busiest time for many of us, we believed it was unfair to add to the workload and pressure by introducing all of the new systems at the same time.
For teams that were very busy during summertime, we delayed some new processes until autumn.
You need to give people time to learn how to work differently – and it may not be the same for everyone.
5. Have one companywide day off
Some companies try to mitigate the potential impact of the four-day week by covering all days but with reduced colleagues. We wouldn't recommend this.
In reality, it means your team is at full capacity for less of the time – potentially working together, collaboratively, for just 60% of the working week. Those companies often report confusion on handover days from staff taking different days off. It's far harder to manage than a single-day reduction for everyone.
Yes, some sociability has been lost from our office network as we are more focused, but lots of us are getting together on Fridays to keep in touch and do the things we love.
6. Accept that it can sometimes be more intense and tiring
Most jobs are intense from time to time, and working four days versus five can exacerbate this on occasion.
We developed an alertness app in the run-up to the pilot that's doing a great job at monitoring employees' self-reported wellbeing and happiness and predicting our colleagues' risks from fatigue by collating their daily inputs. This means we can get a real handle on any tiredness early and can react straight away.
- Elon Musk calls on all Twitter designers, engineers doing software to sit on his floor of HQ for 'dense and intense' work
- It’s not just Mercedes, even bank deposits are competing with equities
- A former Facebook exec says an employee at a 'large tech company' once complained to the CEO in an all-hands meeting about the quality of company toilet paper
- India will succeed in handling inflation better: Sitharaman
- India's GDP growth comes in at 6.3% in Q2: manufacturing, mining witness negative growth
- Dharmaj Crop Guard IPO subscribed by a whole 35.49 times on last day
- Sensex, Nifty50 rewrite all-time highs yet again – RIL, HDFC twins most active, ICICI Bank touches new 52-week high
- Bollywood films failing is a phase, our films will bounce back strongly: Kajol