When starting talks about a potential 4-day week at Thrive HQ, there was a lot of optimism about how this approach to flexible working could be implemented into our team. We like to pride ourselves on our commitment to smart working in such a small but busy law firm to ensure mental health and wellbeing is prioritised amongst employees. As you can read in our 4 Day Week initial thoughts blog, there are different ways in which companies implement a 4 day week. One would be where employees would work 4 days in a week and have a day off on normal hours, effectively losing a day a week of salary and hours. The other is a condensed model where you work 4 days a week and add the hours from the day you have off to the other days. We opted for the latter. We appreciated the workload on a small team and the impact on money would have on each employee losing a day’s wage a week.
In this report, we will share the feedback from the Thrive Tribe on how the 4-day week trial went, what we got up to and whether we want to implement this more permanently in our workplace.
When planning the 4-day week, we made sure that everyone got their certain day off a week but that the office was never empty. This can be a challenge when you already have employees who work flexibly and are in and out of the office all the time. We already operate extremely flexibly and encourage home working. This was something we had to think about if we wanted to make a 4-day week a thing we do at Thrive. As the trial drew closer, it was great to see everyone planning the days they had off and what they would share on Thrive’s social media. Since this was a trial, we had to make sure we were documenting it along the way. You can see a more visual diary of what we got up to on our 4 Day Week highlight on Instagram.
As for our productivity, we found this stayed at a steady pace as we were still working our regular hours. On a normal 4-day week, as you can imagine, productivity increases as you know you need to get your workload complete in time before your day off.
Alicia Collinson, a solicitor at Thrive said this when asked if her productivity improved: “I actually didn’t. I hoped I would. I think my productivity broadly stayed the same.”
This shows that although we had an open mind about being more efficient with workload, we were surprised with how our productivity stayed the same. It’s also reassuring to see that our productivity didn’t decrease as the days drag on as this is another thing to consider when working longer days which was something we thought may happen.
What we got up to:
As mentioned earlier, when planning the 4-day week trial, one of the first things that came to mind was: “What am I going to do with my day off?” Many of us had days out as well as chill days at home but we all made sure that we documented it to show you don’t always have to have something big planned to make some time for yourself. Here are some of the things we got up to:
Alicia: “I thought my favourite day would be going to Windsor, but the Friday before that I had quite a simple day where I got up early for breakfast, did some yoga, had some time to myself on the Courtyard with a book… Just a really good mindful day!”
Khaleeqa: “I went on days out with family and friends. I went out to London for the day”
From this, we learnt that not only are the team avid fans of London, but also that even though we planned our days according to when we would be off, we made sure we weren’t busy all week and enjoyed the time we had to practice mindfulness too.
Mental Health and Wellbeing:
When asked if we saw our mental health and wellbeing improve over the month, all participants answered yes. This is a great result to see that our longer hours and change in routine didn’t affect our wellbeing in a bad way. Throughout the 4-day week, morale was boosted in the office as there is always a buzz when we were trying something new that can potentially affect our workplace culture for the better and it was great to hear how everyone had been spending their week. It also got us talking more which can significantly improve your mental health.
The BBC reported that: “workers were less stressed and had a better work-life balance when they had an extra day off in the week, but were paid for five days.” Whether this was scientifically proven in our workplace or it was just a placebo, the attitude to work and over all positivity was at an all-time high at Thrive HQ throughout this trial.
On the High Street:
An unexpected benefit which we identified was that a nation-wide four-day week could give an advantage to the high street. Alicia Collinson, Solicitor, noted: “I went to coffee shops and wandered around town on the weekdays, and it was almost empty. I got to thinking about the advantages if everyone went on a four-day week – the high street would have a much-needed boost!”
Our advice for you:
Now that we have trialled our 4-day week, we would like to give our advice to any employers wanting to implement or trial this in their workplaces. When asked what advice we would single handedly give, here is what the team said:
Alicia: “I found the extra hours hard. I wonder whether a better solution might be to introduce a flexi-time policy, where we do extra hours and are able to use those in lieu of days off. I found it hard to fill extra hours when I didn’t have urgent work to complete, but when there was stuff to do it was nice to be rewarded for the extra hours once it was complete.”
This shows that maybe introducing a smart or flexible rewards system in the workplace for holidays might be a good idea for individuals. It is worth thinking about rewarding employees like this for working extra as opposed to the standard overtime we have in place in most organisations, however, could be administratively difficult when it comes to working out pay and holidays. You would need to have a clear policy in place.
Khaleeqa: “That I enjoyed it because of the time we did it. Because my family were on holiday and I had things to do. It was also light outside when I left and came home. If it was in winter, I might not have enjoyed it as much.”
Jodie Hill, Managing Director of Thrive Law said “overall the 4-day week went well and was a positive move for us. From an employer’s perspective, the admin relating to holidays, hours and pay due to it only being for a month were something we hadn’t thought about was a little confusing, but something we quickly overcame. Employers considering a 4 day week should do so by asking the staff what they think they would like to do, consider disabilities and whether the longer days would suit these, whether reasonable adjustments are needed and stick to one day a week off for each employee rather than rotating each week. Varying the days was difficult as I wasn’t sure who was in when and running a small business that was more difficult than having a fixed day off. The winter months will mean travelling in the dark for more vulnerable or disabled employees so consider if this is something you want to run all year round or not and what, if any measures you need to put in place to facilitate this. In short, I would consider having this on a permanent basis in the future and would like to run it over Summer each year for those who want to take part, with much more planning and clear policies I think it would work well. Next summer we will do the condensed model but allow the extra hours to be worked more flexibly with time sheets to help with the admin side. I would love to work 4 days a week and I was disappointed that the demands of the small firm meant I was unable to take part fully. I did one week though and went to York with my family and really felt the benefits for the rest of the week.”
Here is a good example of why the 4-day week might work better on a short-term basis. We did the trial during summer where our families and friends would most likely be off work and planning days off was easier. Some of your employees might suffer from seasonal affective disorder, (we wrote a blog all about SAD if you would like to learn more) this means that they might not want to do longer days during the winter period due to it getting dark earlier.
Overall, our 4 day week trial was a success in many ways. We saw a boost in mental health and employee morale, we got to spend days with our friends and family as well as needed alone time (during the week!) We also over all enjoyed documenting this process as a guide for other workplaces on how they can successfully trial the 4-day week too! We won’t be implementing this as a permanent working week due to the demands and routine of a busy law firm, however we definitely enjoy new ways of flexible and smart working and anything to do with improving employee wellbeing!
Written by Khaleeqa Bostan.