Why employers should adopt a four-day working week

New research has revealed that 78 per cent of staff who work a four-day week for five days' pay enjoyed better work-life balance and were more productive and engaged in their jobs.

Anna Ross, Founder and CEO of ethical nail polish brand, Kester Black, is one of the pioneers of this arrangement, offering it to her staff for the last four years. Here, she explains what motivated her decision and how it's beneficial to her business.

'When I was younger, I worked for a company in the fashion industry and was regularly doing 80 hours a week for a paltry wage of just $35,000 a year. I had the worst year of my life in that job. I would work all day and then come home at 10.30pm only to start again on the work my boss had asked me to take home. I cried all the time, ate badly and was so stressed.

'That experience stuck with me and I decided I never wanted anyone to experience that kind of bad work environment. So, when I started my own company I made sure to have flexible working arrangements available to all of my staff.'

Feeling inspired

'About four years ago we started doing a four-day working week. At the time, it was just me and another staff member and we had just moved into our first office. I had seen an article about Google adopting the four-day week and so I took the idea from there and decided to implement it in my company.

'One day, I called a meeting and I asked my colleague if she wanted to work four days a week. She said yes, so we started having every Wednesday off. Then, about three months into it, I thought, 'Why are we doing Wednesdays?' So we changed it to three-day weekends and now my company has six full-time staff and runs from Monday through to Thursday every week.

'I chose Friday instead of Monday as a day off because it suits the needs of the business. Monday's are a busy day with all of our customers and wholesalers and we want to be available to them. This also works for the e-commerce side of the business, fulfilling orders and sending parcels, because all of our packing and dispatch is done on by the Thursday of each week. This means our products are getting to the customers faster, rather than only getting picked up on a Friday and sitting in a mail sorting office for the weekend.'

Perfect for productivity

'Staff know because of the short week, there’s less time to hang around and as a result, everybody gets in and does their work. Working four days a week makes us really efficient - making sure every minute in the office counts. We’ve never had to do overtime, so that’s proof it actually works. We all work a maximum of 38 hours a week, so I'm not cheating by getting my staff to work 12-hour days to have the Friday off. 

'We all have KPIs and I feel like the best we stick to the four-day working week, the easier it is for everyone to meet their targets. It requires a lot of prioritising and organisation, but we've worked at it and it benefits us as a company. '

Fostering creativity

'Taking time out to do the things we enjoy really does pay dividends. I get to be really creative in my business, but when I don’t come in on Fridays, I get to spend the day doing really cool, fun things that inspire me. A lot of the girls who work for me are also creatives, so they are able to work on other projects, too. For example, our graphic designer gets to do freelance work for other clients and keep her work really varied.

'I think this fosters the creative process as they’re not always working on the same job. I note that when my staff come to the office on Mondays after they’ve had a day off doing other things, it brings new creative ideas, which only further benefits the brand.'

The new 'normal'

'It really is about creating a different mindset around working. It's been proven that your staff are more invested if you care for them and as a result, they stay longer. Not only is it good for my employees and their wellbeing, it doubles as a retention strategy.

'There’s no impact on sick or annual leave, either. We discuss the way we work and a salary with each person individually when they join the company, then work out a flexible working arrangement that suits their lifestyle. Some of my staff start early and finish early, or begin their working day at 9 a.m. Annual leave is worked out on the hours you choose to work, and it’s easy to get other errands done on the day you aren’t in the office.

'Something I also do believe in is helping staff grow, so I've started an educational allowance. Employees accrue the allowance just like annual leave during their first year and can spend it either on personal development (I just paid for a staff member to complete a yoga teaching course) or things that are related to their work, like my marketing manager, who just completed a digital marketing course. 

'I am not one of those bosses who think their job is everything. There are so many employers that expect workers to live and breathe their work, but I don't think this is realistic. We're all on the same page at Kester Black, and it works for us.'

'So far, everyone I’ve encountered respects our working arrangement. We’ve never had one customer complain that we don’t work on a Friday. We write it all over our website and most people respond positively saying, ‘Oh, I’d love that’ instead of being upset that we aren’t answering their email enquiry!'

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