There were 3 bank holidays in May thanks to the Kings’ coronation, giving a little excitement to workers across the country when they woke up and realised that they have an extra day off and only have to work 4 days.
This feeling will be enjoyed every week now for staff at Eight Asset Management as they embark on a new regime of a 4 day working week. You will have no doubt heard of this relatively new concept of paying people the same amount of money but asking them to work 20% less hours. It’s a radical idea that has been tested across hundreds of companies in multiple different sectors in the UK.
Resisting the idea that the 4 day week must be a “one-size fits all”, these trial companies designed a policy tailored to its particular industry, organisational challenges, departmental structures and work culture. A range of 4 day weeks were therefore developed, from classic “Friday off” models, to “staggered”, “decentralised, “annualised, and “conditional” structures.
Some of the most extensive benefits of shorter working hours were found in employees’ well-being. ‘Before and after’ data shows that
- 71% had reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Likewise, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.
- Measures of work-life balance also improved across the trial period. Employees also found it easier to balance their work with both family and social commitments – for 54%, it was easier to balance work with household jobs – and employees were also more satisfied with their household finances, relationships and how their time was being managed.
- 60% of employees found an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62% reported it easier to combine work with social life.
- However, other key business metrics also showed signs of positive effects from shorter working hours. Companies’ revenue, for instance, stayed broadly the same over the trial period, rising by 1.4% on average, weighted by company size, across respondent organisations. When compared to a similar period from previous years, organisations reported revenue increases of 35% on average – which indicates healthy growth during this period of working time reduction.
- The number of staff leaving participating companies decreased significantly, dropping by 57% over the trial period. For many, the positive effects of a four-day week were worth more than their weight in money. 15% of employees said that no amount of money would induce them to accept a five-day schedule over the four-day week to which they were now accustomed.
Eight Asset Management were the first company in their industry to implement such a scheme and it wasn’t a decision that was easy to make or taken lightly.
Eight CEO Craig Stevens explains: “We loved the idea of a 4 day working week as soon as we heard about it. Our company is all about the people who work hard every day in this stressful industry. We wanted nothing more than to give everyone an extra 48 days a year off work. Obviously we had to buy into the concept that employees can achieve the same amount of work in 4 days with extra motivation and a more organised work schedule.”
“Once we were comfortable with this and we’d read the feedback from the nationwide trial we had to think hard about whether it could work in a service industry; and what our clients would think about it”
“I think it’s obviously less risky for a business to do this in a sales environment, doing this in a service industry is a lot more radical but so far, so very good in all the metrics we are measuring”.
“What I’ve found, which really did pleasantly surprise me, is how each department head has had to think hard about how to square this circle. For example our head of Health and Safety had the issue of delivering the same amount of revenue at month end as he always had to – but by having his staff go out 4 days instead of 5. This change prompted him to focus on technology upgrades, and now our team spend 20% less time on their inspections and reports as they did before. The revenue remains the same and the staff get to enjoy 172 days off per year in that team, the same as the rest of the company. If we hadn’t switched to a 4 day week we would be doing our reports the same old way, delivering the same revenue but in a 5 day environment. This has been a great thing to see play out in front of my eyes.”
One of the potential issues of moving to a 4 day week in the property management space is what the clients would think of it all. Eight AM held numerous focus groups with different types of clients. “The obvious initial reaction was negative as the Property Manager would be at their desk less” explains Craig. “However we told them that they were only at their desks 37.5 hours out of the 168 hours in a week, so were unlikely to be there when something went wrong anyway. We also explained about the team structure that we have put in place to ensure continued levels of great service, and most importantly we explained that the number one reason people were frustrated in this industry was the turnover of staff. Once given the question would you prefer a less stressed, equally as productive PM to last 10 years with us, or a highly stressed PM working 5 days a week who will likely leave in year 3? The answers were unanimous and obvious.”
Craig concludes “Even though we are early adopters in this initiative, and we are attracting huge interest from the best in the industry, I would genuinely encourage all our competitors to follow suit. There are really no negatives and the hundreds of hard working, great people out there in this industry that has been so kind to me deserve this. Seriously put this on the agenda at your next board meeting”