“I would never go back,” Olivia Messer, a graphic designer at digital marketing agency Literal Humans says about the move from a standard five-day workweek to a four-day workweek.
“I absolutely love it. I definitely find that I have a lot more motivation and energy to work on the days I am working,” Messer said. “It’s a much better work-life balance.”
Instead of going to work on Fridays, Messer said she now goes swimming and uses the extra day to take care of personal admin, including trips to the bank.
Her employer, Literal Humans, is taking part in the biggest ever four-day workweek trial that has been running in the U.K. for the past three months.
It is being run by the 4 Day Week Global campaign, which has also started a trial in New Zealand and Australia and will be launching more in the U.S., Canada and Europe later this year and in early 2023.
The premise is simple. Workers get 100% of their pay for 80% of their working hours while trying to keep their output and productivity at the same level as before.
So far, this is working for Literal Humans, says William Gadsby Peet, the agency’s co-founder and chief strategy officer.
Keeping clients happy
“More often than not, our external clients and external stakeholders don’t really notice any change in their service,” Gadsby Peet said. “They really, really don’t see any drop in sort of our deliverables or productivity.”
There is, however, always someone “on-call” on Friday for client emergencies. The team also adjusts its schedule if necessary, Gadsby Peet said. For example, it may work on a Friday and take the following Monday off.
Keeping clients and external stakeholders happy is not just a concern for Literal Humans.
I’d far rather lose 5% of productivity and increase the happiness of my workforce by 50% and really bring in a lot more talent.
William Gadsby Peet
Chief strategy officer at Literal Humans
Simon Ursell, managing director at environmental consultancy Tyler Grange, told CNBC that his company surveyed and spoke to their 100 biggest clients ahead of time to mitigate any concerns.
“Most had concerns, most were curious and interested and were a bit concerned about what might happen, but we had one who was definitely anti, said, ‘no, if you do that, I’m not going to use you.’ But that client quite interestingly now does use us a heck of a lot,” he said.
Ursell said communicating frequently with clients and proving to them that their needs will still be met was key to keeping them on board.
‘War on admin’
It wasn’t just clients that Tyler Grange spent months preparing for the change before committing to the trial. Some of their employees were also skeptical about how they would get the same amount of work done in less time. Automating processes was the solution for Tyler Grange.
“We kind of declared war on admin. You shouldn’t have to upload and download things. You shouldn’t have to format things. You shouldn’t have to do lots of processing for invoicing.” Ursell said, noting that eradicating these small tasks freed up a lot of time overall.
At Literal Humans, some employees initially worked overtime between Monday and Thursday to make up for the lost day – they were happy to do so in exchange for the long weekend, but quickly realized this just added stress and therefore defeated the purpose of the four-day workweek.
“The whole idea of the trial is not to have to compensate for the extra day off. So for me, my first step was reducing the amount of time you work for by working extra in the amount of time you do work and reducing distractions in your environment,” said Aditya Narayan, content strategist at Literal Humans.
Being away from his personal phone, only listening to instrumental music and working in a co-working space rather than a cafe helped him become more efficient.
Like Literal Humans’ Messer, many employees told CNBC that they enjoyed the better work-life balance the four-day workweek gives them.
But while they may have gained time to take up new hobbies, take care of personal admin, and socialize outside of work, employees at software company Sensat said they missed chatting with colleagues on coffee breaks and having office socials on Fridays.
“That’s probably been the overwhelming thing that came out initially is like, we’re losing our social element by trying to be too efficient,” said Sophie Martin, senior people partner at Sensat. “So, we’re just kind of changing the way we used to do it and kind of adapting some new ways.”
The company now has monthly all-hands days that mix socializing with work rather than weekly happy hours and tries to plan social activities during working hours further in advance to allow employees to plan their work around them.
Benefits seem to outweigh teething problems
Literal Humans, Tyler Grange and Sensat all said they were hopeful about continuing with the four-day week after the trial ends. They acknowledged that there have been hurdles and challenges, but they put this down to solvable “teething issues.”
And even if productivity and output aren’t exactly the same as before, Literal Humans’ Gadsby Peet said that he believes the trade-off works.
“I’d far rather lose 5% of productivity and increase the happiness of my workforce by 50% and really bring in a lot more talent. We’ve gone in very open-eyed about downsides and we’ve worked our asses off to mitigate those. But the benefits massively, massively outweigh the cons.”