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Trialling A 4-Day Working Week

Purple text on a beige background that reads: 'hello weekend'

The Brief

In June 2023, one of our clients – working in the property sector – contacted us to say that they wished to consider moving to a 4-day working week and needed our help.

They felt that this would be a good thing to offer employees and because some competitors within their sector had also started to look at trialling 4-day working weeks.

But how could they go about it?

HR Training

Date:

Categories:

Location:

South East

Type of Business:

Property

The Solution

We gave the Client two options:

  • Condensed working week (same contractual hours worked over four days rather than five days)
  • 4-5-5 pattern (four working days, five days’ pay, output equivalent to five days’ work)

After consultation with their employees, our client decided to trial the 4-5-5 working pattern.

They split the days off between a Wednesday and Friday for three months for three employees.

The employees then swapped their days off around for the following three months.

The client also had very good productivity data for the previous 12-month period with which to compare the employee output during the trial.

This was crucial to be able to assess if the trial had worked as planned or not.

The Result

Colleagues sat around a desk high-fiving each other.

 

This is what the employees and our client had to say when the trial finished at the end of December 2023.

How do you think the 4-day working week trial has gone?

“The trial was very beneficial on productivity and maintaining work/life balance. It was nice to have an additional day off in the week to get things done etc.”

“I have found the 4-day working week to be a positive thing. Work pressure has increased and ability to collaborate with colleagues decreased. However, the negatives are offset by the positives.”

“Overall, I think it’s been positive and would like to continue with it if possible. I think it would be helpful to see how things go once we have more capacity as a team with the new starters in January, as current workloads have skewed some of the experience in recent months.”

Have there been any specific drawbacks or benefits to working 4 days a week?

“It definitely focusses you to be more efficient on the four working days. Sometimes difficult to remember when everyone else is off.”

“Drawbacks are lack of face-to-face contact in the office, difficulty keeping tabs on where people are and when they are working, increased pressure/stress levels, but that may be due to staffing issues and increased demand for services. Benefits are significant in terms of work life balance when I am able to actually have a day off.”

“There’s been some minor inconvenience from not having the same days off as other people (only three days in the office with them for coordinating joint-work) but only really been a problem when people have been working away from the office during the week too and there’s been extended periods when you can’t have a face-to-face conversation.”

What has been your overall experience of the 4-day working week?

“Very positive, it was nicer to have a Friday off than a Wednesday in terms of work structure and having a long weekend, but this probably varies per person.”

“Definitely beneficial to mental health.”

What effect has a 4-day working week had on your productivity?

“I think it definitely improved productivity because it forces you to crack on with the work to get it completed in four days rather than five.”

“Probably neutral.”

“It feels like I am more efficient, but that’s probably because I am more aware of time spent faffing around because in the back of my mind. I am conscious that we are doing 4-day working weeks and I need to be efficient.”

If it is decided to continue with a 4-day working week on a permanent basis, would you prefer to pick a specific day and if yes, what day would that be?

“Friday. This is the day of the week when the least work is done, plus it elongates the weekend which is useful.”

“I much preferred having the Friday off (as per first half of the trial) rather than the Wednesday. I have found the Wednesday quite disruptive to my working pattern and have ended up working on many of the Wednesdays I’ve had ‘off.’”

“My preference would be to have Wednesday as my non-working day, as I feel like it benefited me more both in terms of giving me a bit more energy into the end of the week and having a day midweek to deal with any life admin etc.”

How would you feel about a different option e.g. 9 days every two weeks (i.e. every other Friday off)?

“I am firmly in favour of four days a week, Fridays off. I don’t think 4.5 days a week works. I don’t think a 9 day fortnight will work (people will still want to “swap” their day off. I don’t think people should be allowed to swap their Friday off for other days, it isn’t an extra day of leave to be traded around as this just causes confusion.”

“If we continue with the 4-day working week I would vote for Fridays off. Or close the office on Friday afternoons so I have the ability to finish outstanding work on Friday mornings if necessary (be that at home or in the office). As a third choice I’d say 9 days every two weeks (i.e. every other Friday off – perhaps alternated with half of us off one week and the other half off the next).”

“I feel it would be better to have all in the office through the week to aid collaboration particularly as we welcome two new starters in the new year. That being said, I understand others may have a preference for a mid-week day off so do not have a firm stance on all having the same day ‘off.’”

Any other comments/suggestions?

“It might be better to spread out the days off from Tuesday to Friday. This could help to avoid the office being empty on Fridays.”

“The difficulty I see is to get people onboard with the concept of personal responsibility for their professional lives. If the price of having the flexibility to have every Friday off is having to check your emails and respond to anything urgent once or twice in a day, or occasionally do a zoom call if you can’t manage your client to have the meeting on another day, then I think that is price worth paying.”

“One member of staff found the whole process too stressful and ended up working most of their non-working days. In the end they decided to come in an hour later on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead, which they were happy to do as a compromise.”

4-day working week response

 

Summary

If a change in working patterns is to work in the long-term, there has to be some perceived benefit for both employee and employer.

We asked the client some questions about how well they thought the new working pattern had worked.

4-day working week output – has it reduced, increased or stayed the same?

At the end of the six-month trial, productivity (i.e. professional fees) has increased by 2.5%. Most people feel that their productivity has stayed about the same as they tend to work longer hours on the 4 days that they are in the office to make sure jobs are completed.

Has the 4-day working week caused client service levels to drop at all?

Service levels haven’t dropped as people tend to be more focused on getting their work done in the four days they are in the office.

The only people (clients and professionals) who have been critical of the 4-day working week appear to be envious.

Have people being out of the office made any difference to the office atmosphere?

Some people have struggled with the lack of face-to-face contact due to people having different days off and not being in the office on the same days but overall, people found the work/life balance very beneficial.

Are you in favour of running the 4-day working week full-time?

It has been agreed to extend the trial for a further six months with a view to deciding whether or not it should be made permanent after this period.

Our client’s experience does not appear to be dissimilar to many other organisations that have trialled the four-day working week with five days’ pay.

The focus that is required by each member of the team to get their work completed seems to make up for the loss of working time to get tasks completed.

It will be interesting to see whether the company keeps the arrangement in place after the next three months.

If you would like more information on how your organisation could transition to a 4-day working week, then please contact Jon Rush at jon@hrsmartuk.com or call us on 01903 754107.

 

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