While several companies have been trialling the trendy four-day working week, HR company CharlieHR has been running a nine-day fortnight, alternating between a five and four-day working week, to test whether adjusting traditional working patterns can boost wellbeing and productivity.
CharlieHR launched the trial nine months ago to help improve the wellbeing of its team and allow them to devote more energy to other important areas of their lives outside of work. The scheme encouraged the team to boldly look at how they could increase their ability to focus on becoming more efficient.
The trial ran from October 2021 to June 2022, and unsurprisingly, when it comes to improvements in wellbeing, the results were positive. The research shows a 24% decrease in work-related stress and a 14% increase in the ability to disengage from work.
However, as the company did not know whether the reduction in working hours would impact productivity levels, the 11% increase in self-reported productivity was the biggest surprise of the trial.
To retain talents
The new policy is also proving popular when it comes to hiring, motivating and retaining a bright and diverse team, especially in these times of shortage. Of note, 40% of job applicants (as of May 2022) included the nine-day fortnight in their top three reasons for wanting to join CharlieHR.
Along with other policies such as mental health days off and the nomadic work policy, the nine-day fortnight was designed to support CharlieHR’s wider ambition to be at the forefront of progressive approaches that ‘make work better.
The trial’s positive results mean that the nine-day fortnight will now be rolled out as a permanent adaptive working week policy across the company. The new policy includes ‘Deep Work Wednesdays’, which involve keeping meetings to a minimum to increase productivity and achieve results.
Ben Gateley, CEO and co-founder of CharlieHR, said: “The aim of the nine-day fortnight was to continue our investment in the wellbeing of our team.
“I have always believed that our working lives are intimately connected to everything we do, and this idea was an extension of that. It was based on the simple and obvious premise that if team members have more time to enjoy themselves outside of work, they will be happier and therefore likely to do a better job.
“What wasn’t clear when we started the trial was whether the increase in personal energy and bounce would make up for lost time and mean we wouldn’t lose out in terms of productivity. It seems not, and productivity increased by 11%.
“Reducing working time seems to improve the focus of team members – we just need to make sure it stays that way. An inspiration for positive focus, not stressful pressure to get the same amount of work done in a shorter time.”
CharlieHR’s trial comes when many other companies have adopted the four-day week in a trial conducted by Oxbridge and Boston College in the US. The spirit of the four-day week, testing new and better ways of working, was in line with CharlieHR’s intentions, but it was felt that a four-day week would not suit the CharlieHR team.
Commenting on his decision to experiment with the nine-day fortnight rather than the four-day week, Ben Gateley said: “Companies and employees should not imagine that the four-day week is some kind of ‘quick fix. Companies operate with all sorts of structures. Some will be able to cope with a shorter working week, while for others, it would be totally inappropriate.
“Those with customer-facing roles or who have to deliver technology products all the time will find the four-day week far from practical. And for those it might work, there are wellbeing implications to consider, which fly in the face of the seemingly work-life friendly offer to cut your hours by 20%.”
He continued: “Employees whose working week is already exhausted will find a directive that removes an entire working day each week stressful, meaning they will have to work longer hours to make up the shortfall. We have chosen not to see the four-day week as a mandate. Instead, we embraced its spirit and looked for a solution that would work for us and actually improve productivity, engagement and wellbeing.
“Work policies should be as diverse as the products and services offered by different companies. Only then will we find solutions that really work on a professional and personal level.”
In this article, you learned that:
The nine-day fortnight trial led to:
- 24% decrease in work-related stress across the company
- 14% increase in team members’ ability to disengage from work
- 11% increase in productivity
- 40% of prospective employees (as of May 2022) identified the nine-day fortnight as one of the top three reasons for joining the company