The four-day week: How do you do it?
Lessons on how to implement a four-day working week – from business leaders that have done it.
Even before Covid-19 struck, the idea of a four-day week was gathering steam, backed by companies who say it boosts productivity and results in happier staff.
Now the concept has gained even more ground. The pandemic has opened the floodgates to flexible working and forced companies to look for new ways to keep their staff motivated and engaged.
We spoke to business leaders that have introduced the four-day week. Here’s their advice:
Champion the change: Don’t let your actions undermine your intentions. “If employees see me firing off emails on a Friday, they’ll feel like they’re expected to work on their day off, too. That defeats the point,” says John Readman, founder of Leeds-based digital marketing and software firm Modo25. “As a leader, you have to believe in it and do it.”
Involve staff in the set-up: While the four-day week is driven at the top, it happens from below. Engage employees in designing new working routines; they know how they get their work done better than you do. When Jenny Kitchen, CEO at creative digital agency Yoyo, decided to implement the four-day week last year, she drew up a list of all the points that needed to be considered, such as holidays and handovers, and divided them up between the teams. “This wasn’t just me saying, ‘This is how things should be done.’ This was a real collaboration and it gave everyone ownership of the idea,” she says.
Be ruthless with time. You’ll need to design a tighter, more structured working day. Start by banning or shortening internal meetings, and allow staff to continually challenge their frequency, duration and purpose. Kitchen encourages staff to have quick 15-minute catch ups or collaborate on Google Sheets instead. Train your team to work more efficiently. At Modo25, employees have regular “brain training” sessions with Tougher Minds founder Dr Jon Finn.
Set clear expectations: “We’re an entrepreneurial, get-stuff-done business,” says Readman. “We’ve made it clear that everyone has to perform at their best and deliver results four days a week in order to earn the fifth day off.” Communicate that this is an agreement, so, on the odd occasion when there’s an urgent deadline or a last-minute client demand, employees know they may have to work on their day off or be available on their mobile.
Make the most of it: Encourage employees to learn a new skill, give back by volunteering with a charity, spend time with their families or simply recharge. “I’ve used the extra time off to look into launching a podcast and our head of development has fallen in love with coding again,” says Yoyo’s Kitchen. Readman says he holds a town hall meeting every Thursday, when staff can share what they’re doing on their day off so it becomes ingrained in the culture and something to celebrate.
Trust your staff: Measure people by the value of their work, not the hours they put in. “Once you’ve given people additional time off, you have to trust them and let them get on with it,” says Kevin Gibbons, founder and CEO of Re:signal, an SEO and content marketing agency. “You can’t keep peering over their shoulders. Hold your employees to account in a positive way, give them autonomy – and they will step up.”