Tim Ferris sold more than 1.3 million copies of the Four-Hour Work Week, though whilst it’s a popular concept, the average business is still struggling with the idea of a four-day work week, never mind four hours!
Whilst the idea of a four-day week has gained prominence over the past year, so far only a small number of businesses have taken the plunge. I know we aren’t the first business to adopt a four-day work week but finally after a lot of procrastination on my part we now shut shop on Fridays (rather than allocating random days off across the team).
There is a growing body of evidence pointing to it being a good thing, including improved productivity, better morale, and a healthier work/life balance. These are all good reasons to make the switch but my trigger to finally implement it came when one of my colleagues returned from paternity leave and approached me with the idea of not working Wednesdays in lieu of a pay-rise. Why not? We’d managed to cover his absence over the previous 3 months, Wednesdays would be a doddle.
During subsequent one-to-one meetings with the rest of the team it was clear that others found the option of a four-day week attractive, though some had reservations. Most (especially working mums) said juggling work and home was challenging, weekends were spent catching up domestic chores rather than having proper down time. Even I had noticed that lunchbreaks were less about lunch and more about trips to the post office or similar.
Whilst the idea of a four-day week has gained prominence over the past year, so far only a small number of businesses have taken the plunge.
Obvious concerns came from those who thought we were trying to cram five days into four days and didn’t know how they could do that alongside their children’s school hours. I needed to be more clear, this wasn’t about the number of hours in the office (remember the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”) it was about achieving the same level of productivity or better. I was confident that having covered one person on paternity leave for 3 months we could lose a day each week without the wheels falling off.
Then last November we quietly adopted a four-day working week with no announcements or fanfare and albeit it’s only been a few months, 99% of our clients haven’t noticed. The days are still essentially 9 to 5, nobody has had a pay cut (another potential concern) and everything is running smoothly. The work still gets done (a bit quicker I think) and no-one is stressing out.
Our advice is based on long term decisions derived from financial planning and although we give investment advice, we don’t position ourselves as investment managers. We don’t need to be available to trade whenever markets are open. In the 14 years I’ve been running this business there’s never been an investment reason for anyone to be available on a Friday. However, we are here to service our clients, so when clients must see an adviser on a Friday (it happens) we’ll accommodate that, but it doesn’t need the rest of the team to be there.
The knock-on effect in my team is that the whole team now looks at productivity through a new lens, treats time more preciously and appear to have greater focus and clarity. From a recruitment perspective the four-day week has attracted hitherto immovable (and very talented) people to consider jumping ship. Recruitment has always been challenging, this might be the golden key that unlocks the door.
Whilst I wasn’t having cold feet, on the day we moved to a four-day week I was encouraged to read a news item from Japan (a country notorious for long working hours) about Microsoft who tested a four-day work week and productivity jumped by 40%. The experiment was done in August and led to more efficient meetings and happier workers who took less time off.
I’m really enjoying my Fridays and, though it’s only been a few months, it would be difficult to even consider going back to how it was.
Dennis Hall is CEO and Chartered financial Planner at Yellowtail Financial Planning
This article originally appeared on Professional Adviser on 9 January 2020.