Author: Victoria Hammond

How we launched a 4 day working week during a global pandemic.

Here’s PCN’s story on launching a 4 day workweek during a global pandemic.

After the initial questions, misbeliefs, and curiosities, the first question that typically comes to people’s minds when hearing about PCNs 4 Day Work Week is, why? Why would a company willingly introduce something like this, and what’s the benefit? 

The idea naturally came into the conversation back in 2018 on the back of our CEO, Jordan Lawrence discovering some companies that were already paving the way for the 4 Day Week. We typically share many big ideas, thoughts and innovations for inspiration, always keeping an eye on what’s working for other companies and how we can continue to improve things at PCN. I’ll be honest some ideas stick, and many others don’t! The 4 Day Week was one that seemed to continue to float around in the back of our minds, coming up in conversations here and there. 

Since Robert Owen scripted a goal of the eight-hour day and coined the slogan: ‘Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest’ in 1817, many businesses today haven’t deviated much from this notion. The truth is, technology, our lives, and goals have changed during this time and we must be adaptive to the changes in society to create a better working environment and balance in our lives today. 

Fast forward to our offsite in January 2020, we had each done our research and fact-finding, and the conversation of the 4 Day Week shifted from could we? to why shouldn’t we? 

Fortunately, we had already been preparing ourselves for this transition, and the arguments and benefits of introducing the initiative were stacking up.  As a business, we continually invest in new technology, automation and data-driven tools to help every employee maximise their time and efficiency – Aiming to deliver better results for our clients or provide better support and structures internally. 

On an equally important note, employees’ health and well-being are a top priority. We have increasingly considered our mental health approach within the workplace, including the debilitating and detrimental effects of stress, depression, and anxiety (and to think, this was pre-pandemic). We did extensive research on how to provide the best possible working environments for our teams. 

Our homes have become offices

Multiple studies have shown that working a 4 days on and 3 days off cycle can provide massive ongoing benefits in wellness, energy levels, happiness, and stress reduction.  Most studies have shown significant productivity gains (as much as 20-30% + in some cases) as a direct result of embracing this initiative. 

Happier employees are generally more focused, work harder and suffer less illness and absenteeism. As there are fewer working days, employees will likely be much more efficient with their time, therefore subsequently increasing both output and productivity. This means better results for employees, for businesses and giving people more time to focus on the other things they love outside of work. Keen to read more about the benefits and research? Check out the below articles: 

And then covid came…

Without knowing what was merely weeks away, we excitedly launched the 4 Day Week in March of 2020 as a trial until the end of 2020. Within weeks we were hit with the first round of lockdowns and found ourselves on the brink of a global pandemic, whilst having just switched from 5 days a week in the office to 4 days and fully remote work. To say the conditions were not ideal was an understatement, but we had trust and faith in our teams, and we’re committed to seeing this through. 

This is what we learnt. 

Before we started, we knew it was essential to identify the key metrics we wanted to measure (both quantitative and qualitative) and also had to understand how we were performing against these under the 5 day week so we could use these as a benchmark to measure the success of the 4 Day Week. 

Every piece of research we read and every person we spoke to about the 4 Day Week said the same thing; you will typically see a sharp rise in productivity due to initial excitement, then you will notice a drop as people trial and error with different ways of working. Typically after 4 – 6 months, things will plateau out to the new normal levels, as employees find their new way of working and further adjust.

This was one of the compelling reasons for us to stick to an extended trial period (recommended between 9 – 12 months minimum) to allow some time for people to adjust and find what works for them continuously. We were absolutely no exception to this rule and saw a very similar pattern unfold, noticing that around the 5 month mark we were seeing productivity levels and even sales at a level either on par with or higher than the average of a 5 day week.  

We reported on the metrics each month in our company wide meetings and didn’t shy away from putting the facts out there as they were. We reminded ourselves and everyone in the company that we believed in the success of the 4 Day week but we needed each and every person to put in in order for it to work. We ran bi-monthly surveys to measure the more qualitative aspects of the trial such as the benefits of the 4 day week on mental health, well being, work life balance, engagement and other measures. 

And the results were in  

As December of 2020 rolled around it was time to review our findings, productivity measures & qualitative metrics and make the decision as to whether or not this was the new way of working for PCN. Below are some of our key findings:

Some thoughts from Team PCN regarding the 4-Day week

 For us it was a no-brainer, the findings highlighted what we already knew and painted a compelling argument for the benefits of permanently introducing the 4 day work week. Working in the recruitment industry where employee retention, burnout and work related stress are some of the biggest issues facing these businesses, we are committed to challenging the status quo and providing world class employment conditions for our employees.

5 things to consider before launching a 4 day work week

  1. The 4 day week might not work for all businesses, industries and roles so really consider whether or not it’s something that could work for your company. 
  2. Don’t get too caught up in the what ifs, logistics and potential barriers as there’s always going to be roadblocks to any big changes. Don’t shy away from these, make note of them and really think about whether or not it’s actually an impediment or a change that needs to be made. Play the scenario out, imagining you HAD to launch the 4 Day Week and there was no other choice, what would you do? How would you go about making sure it worked? That can really help with stimulating creativity and coming up with solutions.
  3. Do your own research and investigations and give people time to come around to the idea.
     
  4. Make sure you understand what makes your business successful, this truly is a shift in the way of working from time/output focused to productivity and results focused. You’re looking to give people the autonomy and power the shape the way they’re working but objectives and deliverables still need to be very clear and everyone needs to know what their measures are for success. 
  5. Make sure you inform your key stakeholders and clients. We made sure that everyone we worked with knew what the changes were and how it would change our working relationship. As long as the communication is there and you have an established relationship you’ll find clients are receptive, we found ours were overwhelmingly supportive of the initiative with some even considering it for their own companies. 

Final Thoughts 

With all the chaos of 2020, it would have been easy for the 4 day week to be written off as poor timing and left as a trial. However our teams showed their tenacity, resourcefulness, application and accountability and we’re still able to achieve the targets we laid out at the beginning of 2020. The results and activity levels we measured were on par, if not higher than the same output during the 5 Day Week. Of course there were some bumps in the road but we anticipated this and didn’t let it steer us off course. In the end, our employees proved what we already knew and anticipated – we can work smarter, more efficiently and achieve more in less time. To be able to have achieved all of this in the year that was 2020 makes us excited to see what’s to come in 2021. 

PCN is committed to providing world class recruitment services to all of our clients. In our mission to continue to deliver these results, it’s equally as important to provide world class employment environments across the PCN Capital group and to all of our employees. 
If you’re interested to find out more about the 4 Day Week we would love to hear from you [email protected].

We’ve adapted – here’s how

Annual Leave – we adjusted this from 25 days to 20 days due to each employee effectively getting an extra 47+ days off a year. 

Fridays – It’s up to employees what they do with their Fridays. Some people decided to continue to work on a Friday. Others kept an eye on emails and calls on a Friday. The real benefit for people is that they had the choice of what to do. 

There are of course situations that pop up where people need to be responsive to a client, candidate or colleague on a Friday. We asked in these instances to still make yourself available on a Friday should these specific scenarios come up. Our belief was that people would always act within the within the best needs of the company

Bank Holidays – it’s no surprise that a 3 day week is a little too short. We decided that in situations where a bank holiday fell (not a Friday) then employees will work the Friday of that week 

Salary & Benefits – We didn’t change the salaries or benefits. Yes, that’s right everyone continued to get paid exactly the same.

KPIs & Targets – KPIs and targets also did not change. With the development of automation tools and working in a smarter, more efficient way, we set people up with the best possible change to reach their objectives. 

It was up to each individual to set themselves up for success each week and to ensure they were able to continue to deliver the output necessary to reach their objectives. 

Social – We’re all guilty of sometimes taking the foot off the accelerator on a Friday while we’re sipping back a beer at 4. We were very clear that Thursday’s couldn’t become the new Friday however it was also really important for us to still make time for social get-togethers. You can easily run the risk of losing this aspect of your culture when you no longer work on a Friday. We just tried to find a nice balance, bearing in mind we’ve also been remote the whole year so a lot of our typical social gatherings look very different than usual anyway!  

 

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