Q&A: Four business leaders on their 4-day workweek pilot plans

Seventy small businesses in the UK are now trying out a four-day workweek as part of a six-month trial coordinated by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global and think tank Autonomy. Leaders at four of the firms explain what they're doing and why.

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What are your criteria for success? What would convince you to continue a four-day week once the trial period ends, and what might deter you from doing this long term? "The major aspect that we'll be looking at is the happiness of employees. If I see at the end of the six-month period that they are happier, more relaxed, more productive and more efficient then that will be a plus. What I don't want to do is create additional stress for them, because you are reducing your workweek by 20%; one working day. Unless you learn to how to work efficiently in that manner, you will fall behind with your workload.

"From the operational and business perspective, if the company remains as it is, with profit and turnover on the same level as they are at the moment, while spending 20% less time working and employees becoming happier then that is a huge success.

"Turnover is important but it's also important to make sure that employees are happy, productive and not stressed. If they're not stressed, they think better and come up with so many more ideas. If you're stressed your brain isn't as efficient as it should be. For me personally, if we managed to achieve the same level [of revenue and profit] as we are at the moment, I would be happy."

Paddy Lambros, head of people and talent at Sensat

Why is Sensat trialling a four-day week? What benefits do you anticipate for the business and for employees? "We have opted in for the trial due to the research and experimentation we have observed in other countries and organizations delivering positive outcomes. Working fewer hours has been proven to lower stress, and improve productivity and engagement. These factors reduce attrition levels within an organization and attract talent into the ranks.

Paddy Lambros headshot Sensat

Paddy Lambros, head of people and talent at Sensat.

"At Sensat, we believe in putting our people first, and that 'work' should benefit everyone. A healthy work/life balance provided by the four-day week should benefit our employees, but also the success of the company. Since remote work became a reality due to the pandemic, talented professionals expect more flexibility and autonomy from their employers. Companies that wish to retain and obtain great people need to rise to this challenge and be willing to adapt."

How will a four-day week be structured for staff? How will you ensure you can meet customer/client expectations when adopting a shorter workweek?  "Sensat is technically closed on Fridays. However we have some members of our customer success team working on a rota to cover Fridays, and we have an on-call system in case there are any customer challenges. These safeguards ensure that no customer will be negatively impacted by Sensat HQ being closed."

\What concerns do you have about shifting to a four-day week? What potential hurdles do you anticipate? "Initially, there were lots of concerns and worries, but we took a step back and realized the trepidation sounded surprisingly similar to the things people used to say about remote working, and those things didn't happen either. We have chosen to take the view that this is an experiment worth trialling because the potential benefits outweigh the concerns. So far, we are optimistic as things are going well."

What are your criteria for success? What would convince you to continue a four-day week once the trial period ends, and what might deter you long term? "We are looking to see if the four-day week positively impacts our employee engagement (as measured by engagement surveys and weekly sentiment scores), and our employee attrition. We are currently tracking at 7% for the year, so to maintain under 15% for the year would be regarded as a success.For the trial to be considered successful, we'd need to ensure that our revenues are not negatively affected and that Sensat's adoption of the four-day week cannot have a negative impact on our customers. If we get to the end of the trial and our customers are satisfied, our revenues are growing, and our team is happy, then the trial will have been a success."

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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