We tested out the 4-day working week so that you don’t have to
The 4-day work week has become a bit of a buzzword in recruitment as we all struggle to achieve the ever mystical work-life balance.
Companies and countries all over are trying the latest working trend out, mostly with great results!
But does a 4-day week work for B2B companies? Does it work for startups?
We trialled a 4-day week for 3 months this summer to find out if it could work for us. In case you don’t know us yet, we’re a recruitment platform, so we work with employers and job hunters.
At first glance, you might think that a recruitment team probably couldn’t navigate a 4-day week without annoying their clients. But we’ve never been very traditional about the way we do things!
Why we trialled a 4-day work week
Our new working trial was laid out like a real experiment, with hypotheses and everything!
1 – We can make DigitalGrads ‘work’ while each person works 4 days per week instead of the standard 5 days per week.
The first hypothesis is simple: in an ideal world, everything will continue as before with everyone working slightly fewer hours.
2 – This will improve work-life balance and it is more important to prioritise days away from work rather than reduced hours. This is especially true with remote working.
Remote teams tend to be more productive, which is great, but it comes at a cost. The average person who works from home tends to work more hours than those based in the office as the lines between work and life blur.
It’s harder to turn off the laptop or stop checking emails when your end of day commute is a few steps to the sofa.
The leadership team at DigitalGrads saw this and decided that an early finish policy probably wouldn’t work.
So instead of encouraging everyone to log off earlier each day, we were encouraging people to not log on to begin with.
3 – Everyone will be more productive and that this will mean the reduction in working hours doesn’t mean we get any less done. Either because we get more done in the time or because it focuses us on the most important things.
Studies have found that a 4-day week encourages employees to be more productive. More work gets done despite the reduced hours which is every bosses dream!
4 – Members of the team being routinely away in the working week will highlight areas where we’re relying too much on one person and help to make the business more robust.
We’re a six-person team and each of us is in a completely different business function. So if one of us suddenly became too sick to work, we would probably struggle to pick up the slack.
The trial helped us address this issue before it became one.
The nitty gritty
At the time of the trial, we had five team members taking part. They were:
- Lucy, our Founder and CEO
- Mike, our CTO
- Vidhi and Daisy, two Marketing Execs
- And Selina, our intern
Two people opted out, both of whom work part-time flexible hours that they prefer to spread over five days.
- Lucy and Mike split those taking part into 3 groups and created a rota for our 3-month trial to keep things organised. The days off would be Wednesday – Friday, and each group would alternate between the days to keep things fair.
- They made sure that no two people from the same team (eg marketing or management) would be off at the same time.
- We were all employed for 35 hours a week Monday – Friday, 7 hours a day. Opting into the trial meant working 8 hours a day for 4 days a week in July, August and September.
- Pay stayed the same and the company remained flexible.
- The trial was completely optional and we could opt-out anytime.
How our 4-day work week trial went
July began with everyone trying to settle into their new working patterns.
At first, I doubted if I could get the same amount of work done in a week. In my head I was missing an entire day of work, which meant 7 hours of productivity gone.
But in reality, as we were adding an hour onto every working day we only lost 3 hours each week. So the difference wasn’t really noticeable!
We did discover that trying to remember what you did last Thursday in a Monday morning standup was nearly impossible!
By August we had settled into our new schedule.
Working only 4 days made it so much easier to book an appointment or a long weekend away.
I remember having a chat with Lucy in one of our weekly meetings about how the 4-day week was going. We both agreed that going back to a standard 5-day week would be silly when we could get everything done and get an extra day off!
I actually took on an intern in August who was working five days a week, which at first I thought might cause problems. But I quickly realised that giving my intern some time away from me to get on with work was a great thing!
And by September we were happy and comfortable.
In this last month of the trial I found it really handy to work a flexible 4-day week. I could move my day off if I wanted to for plans in the week, or work 5 days one week and 3 the next.
September finished with our monthly company meeting, where we decided whether to end the trial and go back to normal or keep with the shorter workweek.
Final thoughts on the 4-day work week
“A 4-day week is a great way to balance your work and life. It helps my productivity and increases efficiency in my work patterns. I’ve found that having a good social life can help boost motivation at work.
“It was not hard to step away from work but it’s very essential to plan your week and day accordingly. Time off can make you put off important things or make things skip from your mind.
“Going back to 5 days could be a struggle initially as we have enjoyed having a day off to put aside our work and know now that it doesn’t lower efficiency.” – Vidhi, Marketing Executive
“A 4-day working week is a great step forward to a more flexible future and a better work-life balance. Combined with hybrid and remote working it is a huge stride in the direction of allowing carers and parents in particular protection against presenteeism and the recognition that a job can be done well while not in the office from dawn to dusk.” – Anne, Client Liaison Manager
Needless to say, everyone that participated in the trial has decided to continue working 4 days a week!
Does a 4-day week work for B2B companies?
Although our two most client-facing team members didn’t take part in the trial, it wasn’t because that wouldn’t work for them and their clients. It was due to their other commitments.
Working a 4-day week would be as simple as putting on your out of office and catching up on what you missed when you’re back.
Does a 4-day week work for startups?
We realised that a 4-day week works really well for startups for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps you find the weak spots in your team. If your business struggles to run when one team member is off, you can address this problem.
Secondly, it’s a really attractive benefit. If you’re struggling to match the industry standard for salary or haven’t had time to craft a great benefits list, a 4-day week could be the answer to your problems. Many candidates value work-life balance over salary or shiny benefits like an on-site gym!