The concept of a four day working week is not a new one. Indeed, it has become the norm in Netherlands and piloted earlier this year by New Zealand based Perpetual Guardian, a financial services company, who claim a 20% rise in productivity in their workforce, increased profits and improved staff well being. So with such positive indicators in these early days of trialling, is this something you should be considering in your small business?
We know UK workers work significantly longer hours than their European peers. One company in the UK, VerriBerri, a marketing and PR firm, has taken the lead in the UK and encouraged, rather than enforced, their staff to work a four-day week. CEO Sarah Kauter, who has always been open to fresh ideas and approaches to new ways of working with staff, has said a measured approach to the change in working patterns is required before taking the leap to a four-day working week.
Kauter explains that a change in working patterns is akin to shift in culture at a business, and there may be some resistance to change by staff, especially if a good working structure is already in place, like flexible working. A four day week does not necessarily translate to four day’s work and there is a good chance that behind the scenes additional work may need to be completed remotely to keep on top of your workload.
But with a track record in place in the Netherlands and a heightened awareness of staff well-being in the work place you may well believe, as we do, that the approach of working less for a better work-life balance is a concept that needs to be taken seriously. If you’re a small business owner and keen to look after your staff well, where do you start if you want to implement a 4 day work week in your business?
It’s good to talk
The first step in the process is to to hold a meeting with your staff and personally explain what you are proposing and outline exactly the benefits and any teething problems you anticipate relevant to your business and business sector. By having an open forum to discuss the concept with affected staff, you will be able to provide your vision of the positive change you expect from the change in working pattern, and work through any concerns together to find a working solution that is right for your staff and your business.
It is important that your staff are not made to feel pressured into doing anything they don’t want to do and vital they are given as much detail as possible about how the change in working pattern can affect them. We would also strongly suggest you give staff the option to remain on a 5 day working week if they so choose, as you may have staff already happy with their existing working pattern.
The implementation of a 4 day working pattern in your business will require thorough planning and consideration of work rotas and holidays. Ideally, you will not want to reduce productivity or the number of hours of each member of staff, rather enact a scenario where staff work slightly longer days in the 4 day work week. This also means that there will be no change in salary for staff members, so staff feel the benefit two fold – remaining on the same salary but with a better work life balance.
For example, there is a good chance that the majority of staff will want either a Friday or Monday off to enjoy a long weekend, which would mean longer working days from 8am to 6pm on the 4 work days they are in.
The additional administration required by the business could potentially increase, however, as a review of annual leave entitlement due to change in working hours and working patterns. Careful consideration and planning will clearly resolve this issue, but the monitoring of staff holidays will need to be kept a close eye on, so staff are not short changed inadvertently.
Consideration also needs to be given to the staff rota so that your business is not outwardly perceived as being ‘closed for business’ on certain days due to lack or no staff. Therefore we suggest that careful planning is required to ensure that the business is manned as usual during the 5 day working week so there is always a presence in the team and your clients or customers do not suffer.
Which brings us to the impact on your clients or customers and ultimately your bottom line. As we have seen with the New Zealand based firm, the client and profit impact has actually been positive. It was found that because staff were working longer days, there was more time in the working day where the focus was on other tasks that staff would otherwise not get the chance to complete during core hours, when their focus maybe on client meetings or calls. This is an optimum time for staff to ramp up their productivity as distractions are at a minimum.
Clearly, the change to a 4 day working week is a major step change for any business and will have differing degrees of success depending on the industry and sector of a business. Initial findings have shown there are lots of positives to the health & well being of the workforce as well as the productivity levels allowing for increased profit margins.
By working in collaboration with your staff and working in an environment of trust and care can bring huge positive change to all. As the lifeline of your business, taking the time to think and work innovatively for the benefit of your staff can only be a good thing.
Overall, the four-day week will always divide peoples’ opinions as some companies prefer to stick to the tried and tested whereas this new innovative way of thinking does require a lot of trust in your staff to perform so that productivity isn’t affected. That being said the benefits of having happier staff who feel appreciated are huge when it comes to retaining customers and ensuring the quality of work is of a great standard.
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Written by Shaima Todd.