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Midway through UK’s biggest four-day week trial, here’s how agencies are getting on

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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

September 12, 2022 | 6 min read

12 weeks into the biggest test run of its kind, are reduced hours making a difference to productivity or team morale?

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The trial is the largest of its kind, according to organizers 4 Day Week Global/ Image via Unsplash

Back in June, 3,300 workers at 70 British firms began to trial a four-day week with no loss to their pay.

Organized by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global alongside London-based thinktank Autonomy plus researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College, the six-month trial will analyze how employees respond to the shorter week, including areas of key concern such as stress, burnout and mental health.

A number of businesses in the advertising and marketing industry have already been implementing a four-day week for some time, some reporting higher productivity and less staff turnover. So, how are the agencies involved in the current experiment getting on?

When asked why Nottingham-based media agency Adzooma had chosen to take part in the trial, HR manager Jennifer Lecomber-Peace tells The Drum: “I suppose the better question is ’why not?’

“We’d done a lot of research on the four-day week and how it had benefitted other companies and their employees. We wanted to give back to our team and we wanted that to be something that would add value to their lives outside of work. And as a tech company, we face the same recruitment and retention struggles that many others have in recent times – the four-day week seemed like a great solution to address both of those things.”

Content and digital marketing agency Literal Humans is also taking part. Its co-founder and chief exec Paul David Perry says he has seen some benefits in the 12 weeks it has participated. “Team morale seems to be stronger, our revenue has grown and we work less.”

At Leeds-based digital marketing agency Trio Media, chief executive Claire Daniels tells The Drum: “The team generally all seem more relaxed, and our performance has improved. In our second month of the trial, we had our best ever month on record, performing 44% better than our next ever highest month, even with people working 20% less. Productivity, performance and wellbeing are at an all-time high.”

However, there have been some bumps in the road. Lecomber-Peace says most of Adzooma’s team work Monday to Thursday. “However, we do require some team members to work Tuesday to Friday. This has on occasion meant the right people haven’t been around to answer questions when needed. However, this is a hiccup that we are able to address by having greater planning around which skill sets need to be in the business and when.”

Meanwhile, Perry says the biggest challenge since the start of the trial has been helping the team “optimize“ their time. “In other words, how are people supported to maintain and even increase productivity over the same workload with fewer days?”

Daniels says that, at Trio Media, it has been challenging not knowing what sits at the other end of the trial. ”It's difficult to set realistic expectations while you’re recruiting that the trial may or may not continue. We’ve also found speaking to the press about this has led to our comments being misconstrued – it has been hard managing the truth of how it’s actually going.”

But staff feedback has (perhaps unsurprisingly) been positive. “The team all love it,” continues Daniels. “Some of them were cautious about it, to begin with, but everyone has really embraced it and their wellbeing has improved as a result. I’ve noticed a difference that most people now seem a lot more relaxed.”

Perry also maintains that the trial has been “so far, so good“. “People like the change and the extra time in their lives, but are also keen to have more supports to help them maintain productivity over the four working days.”

When asked if likely to implement the shorter working week permanently, Lecomber-Peace says it is too early to tell but that, so far, “all the positive indicators are there”.

Daniels meanwhile says: “If I had to make a decision right now, I would definitely continue it. I think that, ultimately, more time is needed to make a decision, so I will probably extend the trial to cover a full 12 months and then make a decision at the end of that as to whether it will be permanent.”

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