A flexible approach to working hours is not new to Clarkson and Woods. The seasonal nature of our business means that at certain times of the year we work long hours into the night, or start before dawn. Staff have always been encouraged to balance long days with shorter ones to avoid burn out. Traditionally in the winter we tend to have less survey work so try to catch up on some R&R. However in the last few years, we have experienced busy workloads year round, even through the winter months. This prompted us to consider how we could better support the wellbeing of our staff.
When the idea of a 4 day working week was proposed it was met with a great deal of interest but also a dash of scepticism. The main question being “How can I fit all the work I have to get done into 4 days instead of 5?” So we decided to trial the idea to see if it would work for our company. Full time staff went from working 7.5 hours a day for five days (37.5) to working four 8 hour days (32 hours), but for the same pay. Part time staff kept to their existing work pattern but were compensated by a combination of additional pay and additional annual leave.
As explained in the 4 day week global trial there are many different approaches to the 4 day week. Some companies implement the same day off a week, others stagger it through the week, some full timers take more flexible hours, particularly useful for childcare or dependant responsibilities. After trying out several of these ideas we have stuck with most full timers taking Fridays off. There is some flexibility with this to allow for training, appointments etc but we are finding this works very well for us. Friday is not a complete shutdown as some part timers choose to work on a Friday which means there’s someone to answer client queries Monday to Friday.
We undertook staff surveys at the beginning, mid-way and end points of the trial. These were then followed up with collaborative workshops during which we shared and discussed the results. It was interesting to see that although several people found the initial month or so difficult in terms of workload, over the course of the 6 months they adapted to the new working pattern and have found it very beneficial. Some use the extra time to volunteer, go birdwatching, exercise, care for dependents or just catch up on general life admin.
We analysed the financial impact of the 4 day week and concluded that although there is a cost to the business of working a 4 day week this is outweighed by the significant improvement in our staff’s wellbeing. At Clarkson & Woods the 4 day week is just one part of our ongoing focus on health and wellbeing. Other initiatives that are proving effective are an Employee Assistance program which provides support and confidential counselling, period and menopause policies and monthly massages for staff.
We needed to start our trial earlier than the 4 day week global trial but were grateful for being able to benefit from some advice especially at the early stages of our trial. We are delighted to see that other companies have decided to adopt the 4 day week permanently. More on the global 4 day week trial here.