Working a four-day week while still be paid for five days would be a dream come true for many. Being able to have three days off each week means more time for… you, family, friends, hobbies – whatever you may want. Brilliant surely?
But as a small or medium-sized business how can it be affordable?
We are asked this question on a regular basis – how can we afford it – “our salary bill is already high and with the recent increases in national insurance”, “losing a day’s productivity from each member of staff doesn’t make sense”.
It is a difficult question to answer. So, my response is normally to explain how we work.
Previously an office of eight people, we started working from home about five years ago. At first it was challenging, and we didn’t always get it right. We also quickly discovered that some people like the idea of working from home but not the reality and initially some people were working more hours than less, which had always been our main objective. Work smarter not harder. The first 12-months were a steep learning curve as we approached working from home in the same way we used to work from the office. That’s the first step to getting it wrong.
After the slog of those first 12-months, we revisited our initial decision – is that still what was best for our business? The answer was yes, so instead of trying to make “working from home” look like “working from the office” – we re-designed the way we worked.
The starting point was to realise that it’s not the number of hours that someone works per se, it’s their output that is critical to a successful business. So, we looked at everyone’s role and with them and decided what outputs they needed to achieve to keep the business functioning efficiently. We have core working hours where we ask everyone to be available but apart from that my colleagues can work the hours that suit their lifestyle. And for some of our younger team members, we removed core hours entirely.
We have weekly meetings, but you’ll find most of us chatting via Teams every day. The senior team schedule 3 to 4 hours each week for a strategy session that enables us to work on our business as opposed to in the business. And when new people join us they have a dedicated buddy to support them for the first three months – although we have high expectations of our line managers to ensure their line reports are well settled and established with the correct support.
Communication is key to our success – we share ideas, problems and encourage general conversation on a daily basis – that way we keep each other informed about what we are doing, learning and most importantly, what is causing any worry or stress.
We also introduced new ways of learning – our book club focuses on business-related short books which help to expand our knowledge base; we often share news articles and tribunal decisions amongst the group so we’re staying abreast of recent decisions as well as discussing our opinions; and, our younger team often share TikTok’s back-and-forth generating ideas for business, for blogs and discussing their opinions. We also enjoy meeting for lunch, although “work” isn’t the primary motivator we often end up discussing elements of our workloads, so we always make sure to interject fun.
Looking back, we have made it work – all of us have worked to make it work. Our full-time staff work approximately four days a week but we still achieve our goals and objectives. We are more efficient, more responsive and more productive – providing our clients with an excellent service.
Our way of working isn’t for everyone but it’s surprising how, with an open mind, businesses can introduce small incremental changes to the way their employees work benefiting everyone in the end.
We are a great place to work, we know it because our team say so.