This month saw the biggest ever trial of the four-day work week begin in the UK. It’s really exciting for us to see this movement begin to gather pace around the world.
A year or so since we decided to move to the four-day week, this seems like a good time to reflect on things.
The Yes and No Camps
As ever and particularly on social media, issues like the four-day week can place people in a firm yes or no camp. It seems like these reasons can often be quite nuanced and directly relevant to a person’s business or individual circumstances. In comparison to say, Tesla, the decision we took at Punch seems a lot more straightforward: reduce our working week, pay people the same, create a happier working environment, enjoy life more.
We knew it would take a shift in mindset; if you always want more then you will always wonder what that extra day might have added to your year-end or what clients might you have won.
I have worked in a lot of different businesses (this is a bit of a family joke in fact) but one thing I found consistent was the never-ending chase for the arbitrary number. Sales targets, cost-cutting, output levels, deadlines and so on. The focus was always on how much. It was scary how often these numbers were plucked from the air. Going back to Tesla, it was disappointing to read about their internal memo, written by the world’s richest man, stating that everyone had to be back in the office for a minimum 40hrs a week – or go ‘pretend’ to work for someone else.
There is a lot of old-fashioned thinking around the workplace today. There are many reasons why we generally work a five-day week. My favourite relates to the 1920s: Henry Ford began shutting his factories on Saturday and Sunday. Many equate that decision, coupled with better pay, to provide his own workers the time and money to buy his product.
Many changes to working conditions came at a time of economic turmoil or social unrest. Our own thought process began during Covid, at the time the structure of our working week was thrown out of the window, so we thought ‘why not’.
We had discussed it previously and filed it away as a bit of a dream. But, what better time to define who you are than during a crisis? We wanted to try and create a positive from all the uncertainty and negativity. Actually, we brought in two significant changes at this time: the four-day week and a companywide profit share scheme. Perhaps we really did think the world was about to end…
When discussing the change, we considered all the clever metrics that other companies refer to around client engagement, output, efficiency, staff retention, talent acquisition and so on. Honestly speaking, I know for sure staff retention has improved (although ours was always good). Talent acquisition has majorly improved based on the number of applications we now receive for opportunities (despite a challenging recruitment landscape). We have even had quality people re-join the agency and others request to.
Our clients have also really supported the change. Can I say that every single client sticks to the four-day week? No. But did every client stick to the five-day week? Also no.
As for output and efficiency, I think we will need a little more distance post-Covid to really judge that. We ended 2021 as our biggest ever in terms of turnover and our pipeline for the year ahead suggests further growth in the region of 20%. Either way, the roof hasn’t fallen in just yet.
But regardless of the detail, the main objective behind our four-day week has undeniably been met: a fundamentally positive change to our work-life balance that we enjoy every single week. Create a happier work environment, enjoy life more.
To find out more about how the four-day-week fits in with our Leeds Agency’s values, visit our Culture webpage.