The 4 day work week: is less really more?
Find out how UK B Corps are approaching a fundamental shift in the way we work.
A one-stop solution that would deliver improvements to productivity, wellbeing, environmental impact and social equality? Or an initiative that would disproportionately benefit white-collar professions and leave some sectors with staff shortages, work intensification and higher costs? The four-day work week is garnering international attention and scientific research, but the practicalities still divide opinion - it’s clear there's a long way to go before we have a solution that works for everyone.
With a trial set to begin in June in the UK, we put a call out on the B Hive to understand perspectives from the B Corp Community. The majority of replies came from consulting and professional service firms across the UK, but our conversations revealed a variety of approaches and pointers for anyone considering this new work style. Here’s what we found out:
Which B Corps are embracing the change – and why?
Cyd Connects, a women-led sustainability consultancy in London, has been working a four-day week since February 2022.
Jenn, Co-founder and CEO: “It’s one of the best decisions we’ve made in the business. We live in a world where working five days a week can be a medal of honour, but this doesn’t have to be the case. At the beginning, we didn’t know how we’d get all our work done, but by giving our brains space we’ve found that we’re all much more efficient. Ultimately, we wanted to give the team more flexibility and the time to do more of what matters to them, and I’m glad that these principles are baked into the business now as we grow”.
Kid-A, a Hampshire-based consultancy & managed services business, has been evolving its approach to the four-day work week since September 2021.
Andy Silcock, Co-founder: “For us, it was key to shift away from a four-day mentality to a flexible 32 hours. We work to what we call "Big Kid Rules", which are all about trusting people to do what they need to do to fulfil their role and enjoy their work. Even though it’s taken some getting used to, we’ve seen an improvement in our service, efficiency, quality of work and eNPS. Our partners wouldn’t know that we’re on a 32 hour week!”
Bikmo, a cycling insurance company based in Chester, and are about to move into a consultation phase with the whole team where the focus will be on listening, learning and planning.
David George, CEO: “For me, this is all about fostering an excellent culture where people can work well together. Having kids has changed my perspective around the importance of flexibility, and the positive impact that time off has on your mental health. I fully expect there to be no drop off in output once the trial launches. Not all time at work is productive time, and this is a great opportunity for the team to evaluate priorities and lean into more efficient software-based solutions”.
Big Lemon, an app development and web design firm based in Caerphilly, Wales, have been trailing a four-day work week since February 2022, with a view to implementing it permanently. Perceived benefits range from wellbeing-related to the environmental;
Sam Wheeler, Founder: “Countries with shorter working hours typically have a smaller carbon footprint so reducing the work week from five to four days could have an environmental benefit”.
So, why is there hesitancy?
The four-day work week might not be for everyone. Employer concerns centre around lower productivity, challenges of scheduling and team cohesion, extra costs and not to mention the risk of stress of five days of work are being crammed into four. For some B Corps, like consultancy Pulse brands, working four days doesn’t suit the need to be available for clients.
Meanwhile, Manchester-based real estate business igloo Regeneration is taking a careful approach:
Chris Brown, Executive Chair: ”A substantial part of our business model is charging for time. There’s a dilemma: either you reduce pay to make up the drop in time charged, or you increase your day rates. For the latter, we’d need our clients to buy into the idea that our people are more productive working four days, otherwise it’s unlikely they’d see our increased prices as competitive. There’s also the question of how any arrangement would work for people on different types of contract. How would this impact someone already working a three-day week? We don’t have the answers yet, but we have a team of people coming up with a plan”.
Some pointers if you’re considering this within your organisation
- Don’t get caught up on the name: the term ‘four-day work week’ obscures many different possibilities. Whether this is a set or rotating extra day off, a 32 hour week, a more flexible approach to time management - there’s no one-size fits all approach, so don’t go in with a rigid idea of what could work for your organisation.
- Plan & test: Give yourself time to consider different options in depth and incorporate your colleagues’ feedback into plans.
- It’s all about trust: Trust your people! Let them know they’re in a safe place. Encourage them to create and think differently, and you’ll be surprised by the results.
- Check your mindset: Why do we work five days a week? Who set this up? Challenge your assumptions about the way we work. Once you change the norm, it becomes the norm, but you have to take that step forward.
Are you considering the four-day work week? We encourage you to be open about your experiences to foster dialogue and understanding around how this could work for different sectors. We’re keen to hear from you - get in touch with us.