Since November 2011, our UK team have worked to a 4 Day Week (4DW). At that time, we were one of only a handful of companies in the world to consciously ditch the 5-day work week in favour of a permanent 3-day weekend. There’s now a lot of talk about the idea of a 4DW, and it’s even talked about by some of the main political parties. We get asked a lot by our clients and other curious folk about how we structure our weeks, and whether this is something we’d recommend to other people. So here goes…
Why did we shift to a 4DW?
The move was led by our two directors, Graham Allcott (founder) and Elena Kerrigan (MD). They had seen various studies that looked at the law of diminishing returns in knowledge work (basically, in jobs where you work with your brain rather than your hands, you get tired after 30 hours, verses in jobs where you work with your hands, it’s closer to 40 hours). We ran a 1 month trial. We measured productivity and stress levels via staff surveys. As predicted, people are obviously much happier, more well-rested and less stressed, but they also naturally start thinking more about the impact of what they focus on at work (better quality productivity).
How did it affect pay and hours?
We didn’t cut holidays. We didn’t cut pay. When we first switched, didn’t technically cut hours, either. We asked everyone to work slightly longer days Monday to Thursday and then work one Friday in every four, so everyone still completed the same hours per year as someone on a 5DW. Since then we’ve ditched the slightly longer days part (without reducing pay). We still ask everyone to work one Friday in every four. and it also gives us a nice secret “overflow” day with no meetings to catch up on project work.
Has there been a downside to the four day week?
Honestly? No. When we switched, we were very clear that we didn’t want clients to notice, or to feel like we were ‘abandoning them’ on Fridays. However, Fridays are a slower day anyway (precisely because most client we work with are working a five day week and so everyone we work with is tired by Friday!).
What do people do with permanent Fridays off?
You’ll know from bank holiday weekends, that three days of rest feels infinitely longer than two. We think the reason is that there’s always a day or so of ‘life admin’ to do every weekend (washing, tidying, childcare, mortgage applications, etc etc) so the time to get beyond this and actually relax increases by 100% (from one full day of relaxation to two).
What are the benefits?
The wellbeing impact is obvious. Put simply, we have a better quality of life!
The productivity impact is transformational. Psychologically, knowing that every day is a quarter of your entire week ensures a sharper focus and we think it significantly reduces procrastination.
Coming into work more rested and less stressed also makes us better decision-makers and more open to opportunities and ideas.
Being happier employees, proud of where we work and empowered with the freedom and responsibility to focus on the higher-impact work, we would also definitely describe ourselves as super-engaged!
Would we ever go back to a five day week?
Never! There have been times where we’ve done it temporarily (through Covid lockdowns, for example, the regular schedules were thrown out the window by home-schooling, etc), but we’re proud of the long-running success of our 4DW. It’s just part of our culture now, and it would take a lot for us to give it up.