The benefits of a four-day working week are often touted – increased wellbeing, fewer sick days and more job applicants. Researchers in Iceland have even found that ‘productivity can, in many instances, be increased through working time reduction’. But it's not the right fit for every business. Amy Cowpe has instead implemented a system of working nine days out of 14 at her company CharlieHR. Here, she gives her top tips on finding a system that works for you.
1. Consider the options.
First and foremost, a four-day week won't work for all companies – realistically, many companies can't afford to cut their week by 20%. There are several shorter working-week options, so think about what works best for your company. Here are a few examples.
• A nine-day fortnight (usually five days one week, four days the next).
• A compressed week (usually four 10-hour days).
• No working hours, completely outcomes based.
(To find out more about these options, check out this explainer from art non-profit Fractured Atlas.)
2. Figure out when.
Are your team all going to be taking the same day off? Make sure you have people in place so that your service won't be impacted. Amy says: ‘For specific roles or functions, we've created a rota, so we're not neglecting customers on the fortnightly Friday off.’
3. Give it time.
Some departments and individuals will be more suited to flexible work schedules than others – customer-facing roles in particular might adapt slower than the back office. ‘It definitely takes a bit of adjusting to a four-day week to begin with. It might feel quite chaotic until the business has adapted to the new rhythm,’ says Amy.
4. Optimize your team's time.
If you want productivity levels to stay as high as before, you'll have to help your team out. Amy says: ‘We ask people to be decisive with their time – what meetings do they need to be in? And, at a company-level, what meetings can we cut or streamline to give people time to be their most effective?’ Consider a day in the week dedicated to ‘deep work’, with no meetings allowed.
5. Track, learn, iterate.
Get feedback from your team about how the new system is working and what could be improved. CharlieHR collects data like mental health days taken and key responsibilities. ‘Then, we ask team leads if they feel that the new working pattern has impacted their team's ability to get work done,’ says Amy.