- by Joanna
4-day working week
In the spirit of challenging the norm, we've got some exciting news to share. This morning our CEO, Becky Simms shared the following email with our clients:
"There is a lot of buzz at Reflect Digital HQ today.
Last night, during a company update presentation, we announced to staff that they would have the option to move to a 4-day working week!
In light of this, I wanted to tell you about some of the changes as soon as possible.
I am really excited to announce we are offering all Reflect Digital staff the option to move to a 4-day working week!
Now you may be thinking what impact will this have on your business and have a million questions for us - so let me run you through it...
Firstly, we will most definitely still be open Monday to Friday.
So what made us do this?
We like to challenge the norm, working in an agency is a really high pressured environment, with every deadline comes another deadline and truth be known that is what agency staff thrive on, so it’s a good thing. But it does mean the team don’t always get the right balance of between work and play. We wanted to switch things up a bit to offer more flexibility, so we started to look at options. We considered much more flexible working with work from home options, but actually, this does not line up well with our values, as we are very collaborative and whilst technology makes this easier, it is not as simple, so we ruled that out.
Another buzz at the moment is unlimited holiday, but actually, there are studies showing this stops staff taking holiday, as because they have to get their team members to agree to cover their work, they end up feeling guilty and therefore not booking as much. Holiday is a right and should be something the team can enjoy without any concerns, so this was a no-go for us.
So then we got round to the idea of a 4 day week, inspired by friends of ours at Lab, an agency in London. We have been planning this for the last three months and consulting with heads within the business to ensure this was something that would work. But why the 4 day week? We want to emulate that bank holiday feeling whereby the team come in refreshed and energised every week. Staff well being is so important, having healthy, happy, well-rested staff will produce better work! Mental health is a very open topic now and we feel this move will see us helping to support our staff in getting the downtime we all need to be at our most effective.
Our industry is tough to recruit in, with our proximity to London we lose some of the talented staff to the bright lights and there is a bit of a drought on talent in the digital sector, as what we do is not pushed through school education enough, which is another topic - look out for our conference Aspiration Digital launching soon! So, therefore, we need to innovate in our ways of working to attract the best talent and to retain our awesome staff, we believe the 4 day week along with other initiatives will help do this.
So how is it going to work?
- Full-time staff still work a 37.5 hour week, just spread across 4 days.
- The only days off are Monday or Friday, split across the team to ensure we are always open and always have experts in each field.
- Staff get paid the same, there is no change there.
- Staff will aim to stick to their day off, so you should be aware of what day your account manager has off.
- Clients come first though - so if a meeting is needed and it is due to be that team members day off they will either switch their day or revert to a 5 day week for that week.
- The change will start on 1st October.
We are so excited about these changes, we truly believe that by increasing the happiness of our staff we will increase their levels of productivity and the quality of their work. As a team, we will be fresher to face the challenges our 4 day week throws at us and will always ensure our clients have the cover they need.
This is such a topical conversation at the moment, so keep your eyes peeled, we will be being featured on Sky News, ITV Meridian, KMFM, KMTV and the KM newspaper. We are leading the way that we believe more businesses should look to adopt, so feel welcome to join us on this journey!
If you have any questions, please let me know and we can set up a call to discuss.
All the best and thank you for your continued support of Reflect Digital,
Our COO, Paul Simms has also provided some further insights into the decision to make these changes and answered some burning questions:
"At Reflect Digital we believe in doing things differently, and fundamentally better, this has always been a focus for how we approach our client's projects but we've recognised there is room for improvement for how we run the agency. We believe in a work hard, play hard attitude but feel the play hard gets lost with the current work/life balance and why do we really work 5 days out of 7?
The mental well-being of our staff is of paramount importance and will ultimately impact on our performance as an agency. We like to innovate but a 4-day working week isn't a new idea, we're not the first to introduce it and hopefully won't be the last. We believe, and recent studies have shown, that moving to a 4-day working week can improve productivity, reduce stress and improve team motivation as well as overall well-being. We believe this will also be a great thing for our clients as happier, more motivated staff will produce better results.
We've been looking in ways we can improve the work-life balance at Reflect Digital such as flexible or remote working and unlimited holidays but we found some of these changes are better in theory than in practice.
Unlimited holiday sounds like a great idea, something that employees would love. However from speaking with many different businesses who have implemented this and reviewing reports on the topic it doesn't seem so great in reality. The majority of businesses report that staff end up taking less holiday than they previously would have and there is often a feeling of guilt when taking the holiday as it is normally centred around making sure your teammates can cover your workload. This subtle psychological difference between what you have earnt as your holiday entitlement vs. taking whatever time you what off seems to make a big difference and does not always provide the intended staff benefit.
Flexible working is great, I mean, why should we care when the work is done as long as it is done? The problem with this comes when collaboration is needed. As a digital agency, we have a really strong team culture, so much of what we do is a team effort. With people working different, potentially unstructured hours, or remote working collaboration becomes more difficult. Working flexible hours over a 5 day week still means that staff are working 5 days a week, for this reason, the work/ life balance still wouldn't be improved. We believe a more radical change was needed, hence our move to a 4-day working week."
Do you think it will help with staff well being?
There have been a number of recent reports, either relating to the marketing and advertising industry or millennials in general, highlighting staff burnout resulting in employees wanting to change companies or industries.
We know getting the right work/life balance is a really important factor for staff well being. By moving to a 4-day week staff will have more time to spend doing the things they love, such as spending time with friends and family, reading, playing sports, gardening etc or simply chilling out and relaxing.
Do you not think it will stress staff out more - squeezing in the hours into 4 days?
We want our team to work smarter not harder. Parkinson's law is the adage that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". The aim will be to have a more productive team. They will still have the same number of working hours each week just in 4 days rather than 5. Recent reports of companies making similar changes to their working week have actually shown decreased staff stress levels. It also comes back to the work hard play hard mentality, everyone will need to continue to work hard, as they already do, but will be rewarded with a 3 day weekend every week, we believe this improved work/life balance will reduce stress levels in the team and contribute to better mental well-being.
Do you think companies in the UK should be breaking the traditional boundaries of a 5 day week?
We really need to think about why we currently work 5 days a week and I would encourage all UK businesses to challenge the status quo. Why do we work so much more than we play? Working a 4 day week is not a new concept, countries like the Netherlands have been doing this for years and their economy is thriving. Other Scandinavian countries also promote a non-traditional working week with lower hours aimed at improving productivity and more positive work/life balance. We'd love to see more UK businesses challenging normal working practices in order to improve working environments and promoting better mental health.