A Year of Four-Day Work Weeks at 448 Studio
We first decided to trial a four-day week last February for three months… and 15 months later, we’ve never looked back. I thought it timely to write this as Cambridge Uni has released their findings on the success of the first-ever UK trial, with 90% of companies who took part choosing to keep it on.
Taking the Plunge
What do I mean by a four-day week (4DW)? A four-day week is defined as 100-80-100 = 100% of salary, 80% of time, 100% productivity.
We first started discussing a 4DW in 2021 as a way to juggle work commitments with caring duties and welfare throughout the pandemic. We only officially took the plunge in February 2022. Now the benefit of being a small company and a tech start-up allowed me to simply send an email out stating that all full-time staff were to now take every Friday off. This approach may not work for you, but it did for us!
Here were my objectives:
Staff who are sharp and ready to work with a fresh mind every week
Personal development and growth outside of work - it would be great to brainstorm ways we can care for each other’s mental well-being
Positive work mindset - with transparency of tasks, work and personally related, throughout the week
Task-oriented weekly and monthly goals set by the leadership team that are measured and streamlined throughout the process
Continued high standard of client engagement and attention to detailed work.
And just like that, we were off… Our out-of-office set every Friday stated we were trialling a 4DW, and if it was urgent to call or if not, we would respond on Monday. We even wrote a blog about it (if anything, it helps with marketing your company as a great place to work).
I wish I could say that was it, no hiccups, and everyone was happy as can be… they had one less day to work right? Though the overwhelming response was positive, there were some teething problems that we didn’t account for.
What about bank holidays and normal holiday days?
What if I’m already working part-time?
How are you measuring productivity?
What if I have to work on a Friday?
What if I work late one day to get all my tasks completed before the end of the week?
We work four days a week even if there is a bank holiday
Part-time employees will now be full-time if they already work four days
If you work on a Friday - or late evenings - because you didn’t get your task list completed, then more motivation for next week. If it continues to happen, let's look at your workload
These were all bits and pieces that came up for our team; when/if you implement your own 4DW there will be lots of different issues that come up, so just be ready.
Clients and Projects
But all our clients work a five-day week! Yes, most of them do, and most of them want to work a four-day week. So be ready for some wistful conversations when you tell them you don’t work Fridays. However, if there is an urgent need on a Friday, you are still available. You’ll very quickly find out that Friday needs moved to Monday needs.
Positives and Negatives
If you like lists, this is for you.
Reduction of occupational stress - increased rest, decreased employee absences
Great recruitment tool - attract top talent!
Increase in employee productivity and motivation
Environmental - less commuting
Work-life balance focus
Helps with childcare responsibilities
Reduced meeting times - 30 mins = 20 mins, 60 mins = 40 mins
Focussed meetings - agenda-led (even if it’s just a brief emailed agenda)
Embracing technology - Focus time booked in shared calendars, task management tools (like Asana)
Getting bogged down in the details (bank holidays, task lists)
Status quo - keeping people enthused and motivated so 4 days continues to be seen as a privilege and not just the norm
Keeping on top of productivity - means a bit of extra work by management to ensure tasks are being set and completed
Increase in staff costs for part-time to full-time if they’re already working 4 days
Up skilling staff on task management technology - can often be quite time-consuming to begin with but this will pay off in the long run
Where are we now?
So, is this blue-sky way of working achievable? I’ll be honest, not always, but it definitely shifted the entire mindset in our company to being more empathetic and aware of each individual’s personal needs and mental wellbeing. As long as you are able to get your staff to take ownership of a working pattern that fits their needs but doesn’t diminish output, you’re already on the right track.
Breaking Free from the Traditional Mindset
We’ve been ingrained with asking for permission for everything since our school days, and over the years that has been a big mental block when it comes to work. For some reason, everyone defaults to being ‘in school’ when they’re at work. We inherently feel like we always need permission for personal tasks if it overlaps the traditional working day. Why do we still feel that little pang of guilt when we need to pop to the shops, pick kids up from school early, get a haircut, or take a walk because it's sunny out?
We need to get out of the habit of thinking we need permission for everything. Instead, take ownership of the tasks we need to accomplish for work and dedicate the time that’s needed to each one. No more sitting at your desk watching the clock tick to 5 so you can go home… instead, we should be providing incentives to staff for being efficient.
Ultimately, a four-day workweek might not be for every company or every employee, but in our experience at 448 Studio, it's been a valuable change. It has improved our work-life balance, our productivity, and our overall happiness.
In the end, the four-day workweek might just be the future of work. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a step in the right direction, and we're excited to continue exploring this new way of working.