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The four-day week – does it really work?

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Our perspective on working routines has shifted over the last 18 months as the pandemic has brought unavoidable remote working. It’s forced many companies who were previously reluctant to employ different working routines to reassess and, in many cases, realise that it not only works but actually benefits the company.

The remote working during the pandemic highlighted the strain on overworked, stressed, and unhappy employees, pushing employers to look at how new ways of working can benefit both the business and its employees.

Iceland, Ireland and now Scotland have already announced they will be implementing a shorter working week across the country, and I genuinely believe England won’t be far behind.


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I personally implemented the four-day working week over three years ago and have found it to be an extremely rewarding way of working for employees, the business, and our clients.

I always receive a lot of interest and questions around how this works and what our experience has been like over the past couple of years. Of course, COVID-19 had a huge impact on the way we work, but overall, we have had a very positive experience with a shorter working week.

A four-day week is a huge change for many businesses who have always had a traditional nine-to-five setup. Getting the logistics correct is vital for it to run smoothly and ensure there is no disruption to the business.

To implement this new way of working, we extended the daily working hours, instead of nine-to-five Monday to Friday, our team is now in the office between 8am to 6pm for four days a week.

The first hiccup happened when we decided to give half the team a Monday and the other half a Friday, which switched every month.

However, as the team grew, we quickly realised this wasn’t feasible.

Instead, we gave the team the choice of which day they had off so there was a mix throughout the week. To figure out what works for you, consider a trial before making it permanent, permitting you to iron out any issues and allowing you to adjust your flexible work policy accordingly.

The most common question I get asked is about productivity. People always wonder would the longer daily hours mean staff are overworked and subsequently less productive? I’d say no, as a company we have undoubtably seen our productivity levels rocket since implementing the four-day working week.

Staff are genuinely happier with an improved work life balance and have said how much more relaxed they feel. I believe the happier your staff are, the more productive they will be. Don’t just take my word for it, there is substantial research to agree: data from previous trials of the shorter working week show that productivity can increase anywhere between 25% to 50%.

The correlation between client satisfaction and reducing the number of days your staff are contactable for can be a concern for many people.

However, we are finding that they’re benefiting from this change too. Not only because productivity it heightened, and content is better but also there is no loss in communication.

Our larger teams are broken down into sub-teams, meaning clients can always get responses even when other employees are out of office. A tip to consider for companies that want to onboard the four-day week, would be to make sure clients know that other team members are on the accounts too.

Although we never met this issue, some employees can be reluctant to embracing the new working week as they fear that working a day less will affect pay. However, this won’t be the case, for employees at VerriBerri.

As previously stated, they condense their hours by working 8am to 6pm. Overcoming this can easily be achieved by communicating with employees, as an employer we need to ask how our employees want to work. With 94% of employees having a positive sense of wellbeing when they feel employers care for them – it's worth bringing their thought into this too.

From a CEO’s point of view, I can see why you'd be worried about your business size and flexible working.

However, at VerriBerri we operate with 20 employees, and still successfully manage the four-day week.

We have managed to maintain our high standards and exceed targets. Knowing that a staggering 79% of British employees experiencing workplace stress, allowing for one extra day to recover from the previous week can help eradicate some of this pressure.

So, is the four-day working week right for your business?

There is no simple answer, but it’s definitely something to consider. What works well for one business may not be the best thing for another.

However, the world of work is changing, as both an employer and employee we need to remain open-minded if we want to keep an engaged and productive workforce.

 

By Sarah Kauter, CEO, VerriBerri digital