Four day week? These companies say they have hit the nail on the head with the new work model

When Alice Will and her team at Edinburgh-based food and drink marketing agency Lux decided to test a four-day workweek in January 2020, they chose not to tell clients as a way to test its effectiveness.

“If our customers don’t notice, that’s a great measure of whether it’s working…none of our customers did, which was great,” the co-founder told CNBC in a recent video interview.

That was one of the key performance indicators that Lux used to measure the success of his test, in addition to productivity. To keep up with client workloads, Lux implemented an alternate shift pattern with some people working Monday through Thursday while other employees worked Tuesday through Friday.

The agency made the four-day week a permanent feature, writing it into employee contracts, starting in January 2022.

Since the agency began the trial, Lux’s earnings have increased 30%, while productivity has increased 24%. Lux used time-tracking software to measure productivity and found that even though employees were working fewer hours, the company was actually making more profit.

For Will, moving to a four-day week has shown that “it’s not about how many hours you put in…it’s about focusing on results.”

‘Big difference’

The concept of a four-day work week was considered quite radical just a few years ago. However, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for this work model seems to have recovered.

Furthermore, there is clearly a historical precedent for this kind of revolutionary shift in working hours, such as Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, who wrote a book on productivity and shorter working hours (“Shorter: Work Better, Smarter and Less – Here’s How”). , he pointed out in a report published in January.

As early as 1922, the Ford Motor Company experimented with reducing the workweek from six days to five, and it became a permanent policy four years later in 1926.

And while it’s just getting off the ground, the four-day workweek has already met with success in testing. Iceland’s long-term test of shorter working hours between 2015 and 2019 was hailed as an “overwhelming success”. The country implemented a permanent plan for its public sector employees in 2021, and one report in the same year it found that 86% of Iceland’s workforce work shorter weeks or will be entitled to do so.

Hinterhaus Productions | digital vision | fake images

Big-name companies have also run smaller four-day-a-week tests, with the consumer goods giant Unilever testing it in New Zealand, and Microsoft testing it in Japan.

It was reading about one of those four-day-a-week success stories that convinced Dean Tempest and his co-founders at London-based board game maker Big Potato Games to give it a try with their own company. Big Potato has seen a 350% increase in sales since it began testing a four-day workweek in 2019, signing it up for contracts the following year.

However, Tempest noted that employees understand that some flexibility is needed for certain roles within the company. For example, Big Potato’s customer service team works contract hours, rather than a four-day work week. Tempest said Big Potato needed to make sure its customers always had access to that equipment, “so it’s never going to work with a four-day week.”

Additionally, Tempest said there is an “unwritten understanding” among all Big Potato staff that they may sometimes need to work on a Friday if there’s a deadline, event or photo shoot, but added that time off tends to level off. year.

And, unsurprisingly, having a third day off a week has been a hit with Big Potato employees. Account manager Hannah Cornish said a four-day week has made a “big difference” to having an extra day to do chores and enjoying the rest of her weekend.

Neither LUX nor Big Potato Games reduced employee pay with the change to a shorter work week.

Reduce carbon emissions and depletion

The environmental benefit of people traveling less is another argument for a four-day work week. A report published in May 2021 by the 4 Day Week campaign together with environmental and social justice collective Platform London, found that switching to a four-day week by 2025 could reduce the UK’s annual carbon footprint by 127 metric tons. That’s the equivalent of 27 million cars off the road, which is the same as the entire UK private car fleet.

So, it seemed like an appropriate model for the Legacy Events sustainable event business. The Oxford-based company has operated on a four-day week since 2018, along with a company rebrand. And with the events industry burning out, Legacy Events founder Abena Fairweather said she wanted to make sure a true work-life balance was built into her company culture.

“You have to give people almost as much free time as they have at work,” he said.

At the same time, Fairweather has had trouble getting employees to take vacations.

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“They don’t feel like they need to take two or three weeks off work to recharge, but we all need more time off work,” he said.

Their comments underscore that a shift in mindset may still be needed in the workplace, even among those employees who may enjoy this increased flexibility. But it seems that, for the most part, the benefits have outweighed the costs for these companies.

Libby Hughes, account director for Legacy Events, said a three-day weekend has given her more time to volunteer and visit with friends and family.

“It’s wonderful to have that extra day to go visit my friends and family, but also to relax mentally, and I feel really refreshed for Tuesday and ready to go,” she said.

Legacy Events is also paying employees the equivalent of what they would earn in the industry if they were working five days a week.

‘game changer’

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