Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 79:

Would a 4-day work week work for you?

With special guest Lisa Boyle, Bid & Major Projects Manager, Atec Engineering

✔ The impact of moving to a 4-day work week

✔ Why a 4-day work week is good for business health

✔ How to trial if a 4-day work week is right for you

Transcript

Welcome to episode 79 of the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

I’m your host, Michael Lonnon.

As if to prove how eclectic some of the topics on this podcast are, I’ve a real treat in store for you in this edition.

I spent 10 minutes chatting with Atec Engineering’s Bid & Major Projects Manager, Lisa Boyle about why the business moved to a 4-day week. Yes, you heard it, a 4-day week.

We discussed why they did it, what the impact is, and some tips for others considering it.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show – unless you’re from Atec Engineering and you’re listening to this this on a Friday – what are you doing!? You should be at the gym, or in bed!

Michael Lonnon
Monday or Friday.

Lisa Boyle
In my world Friday

Michael Lonnon
Oh, why is that Lisa do tell me …

Lisa Boyle
That might be because I don't work any Fridays anymore.

Michael Lonnon
Neither does anybody at Atec, which leads us seamlessly into this wonderful topic. I'm really pleased to be talking about this. So, Lisa, can you give me a little bit of context about what we're going to be talking about today, because it's a lovely topic.

Lisa Boyle
Yes. So Atec are running a trial, since September, of working a four-day week. We previously did work five days, but we worked half a day on a Friday. So, it's not a drastic change, which is even better than a lot of most people I understand anyway, but yeah, we dropped the Friday back in September and we've been running for 4 days up to now and it's going really well.

Michael Lonnon
Why was that decision made and how did it come about?

Lisa Boyle
There are a few reasons why Atec decided to do this. It's been requested over the years on and off, you know, from a workforce perspective, but it was never deemed we could do it. So, we looked at a few other companies around us doing it and trialling it, and in September, our financial year is August to July, the company looked at wage increases and what the market was like, and one of the things we couldn't do was offer the great big pay rises that was needed to go with inflation. So, one of the things that was suggested was to give back Friday, so we've not actually had any salary changes at this point, and we just don't work the Fridays, but we do more hours through the week.

Michael Lonnon
I was going to say how does the organisation compensate for this time they've lost on the Friday; how does it work across the week?

Lisa Boyle
We've lost four hours on a Friday. So, we’ve taken two hours into Monday to Thursday
and two hours we've been given back. So that's why the salaries haven't changed. It's almost like getting a bonus. So, we've got two hours for nothing and then the two hours, which everyone was given a choice, you can either do it at the beginning of the day during at the end of the day. So basically, every day, everybody does an extra half an hour a day. Me personally, I do it in the morning, all of it. Some people do quarter of an hour in the morning, quarter of an hour at night. So, core hours are 7am Until 4:45pm.

Michael Lonnon
What changes have your customers seen, if any?

Lisa Boyle
What we have had to do is myself in my role, the customer account manager, John and one or two others, we are available. So even though the business is not officially open or working, we are available to be contacted in the case of emergencies. All our customers are now quite used to it. They have got used to it quite quickly. Some of them already do it themselves, so it wasn't a major impact but some of our customers work in the oil and gas industry as well as defence, they are 24/7. So, it's not that it's not new to us that we would we get contacted, but they are only in a case of emergency. The type of industry that we're in, it works. Okay. I would imagine in FMCG, that kind of a business, it will be a lot more difficult, but it's certainly working for us at the moment.

Michael Lonnon
Are your customers or anyone else seeing what Atec is doing and doing something similar as a result?

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Lisa Boyle
We've seen other companies, not specifically our customers, that are keen and interested as yourself as to how it's going and how we think it might pan out. But have they seen a change? No. that we're aware of. Like I have said we're contactable outside of working hours anyway, just because of the type of industry that we are. But you know, the kind of roles that when you work in a in a sales type role, you kind of expect that almost.

Michael Lonnon
I remember when I first spoke to you about this topic, you were elated and I was wondering, has it been universally accepted across Atec.

Lisa Boyle
Yeah. So, prior to this podcast, I did put an email out just to some random people within the business just to try and get a rounded input from everybody so, you weren't just hearing from me, you know, the benefits and in the negatives, some of the benefits, I mean, the obvious ones, from a business perspective, it does reduce the carbon footprint. We're not having to open up the business, we've got quite a few people, myself included, that travel a fair distance to get here. So, we're not using our cars, enhancing mental health, people spending more time with the family, even people that have got school aged children that Friday means that they've got me time that you wouldn't normally have, people going to the gym. I mean, one of the main ones were people saying the lie in, they were getting an extra lie in, getting the shopping done. It's been accepted very well across the business. It does mean that Monday to Thursday, productivity has to increase because you are one less day, it's took a bit of adjustment, because Thursday is your last day and you've got to prep for Monday, and it's quite a big break. So, the adjustment is about being prepared, being ready for the following week and not letting tasks run. I know a few people John, and a few others have struggled with it in terms of I don't work Friday. I'm not working Friday. Oh, look at this, I'm working on a Friday. So, they had to make the change, but it is happening.

Michael Lonnon
I was going to say is it is the change, not necessarily enforced, but if something comes up, and you've just got to deal with it, you're given the freedom just to deal with it as they come up. Even today.

Lisa Boyle
Yeah, absolutely. We've monitored it, through a number of KPIs in the business, so we can check that we're still achieving, we're not seeing things slipping. We might be a small business, but we do have a lot of KPIs that go right down into departmental level. So, we can monitor how things are managed so we would see slippage. The only things we've had outside of working hours is particularly like from my perspective, I'm working in bids. So, if it used to be submitted on a Friday, my focus will be to get that in on a Thursday, but I know I've got the grace of the Friday if I need it. Then that's where the flexibility comes in, you know, I might need an extra hour over here to you know, if I've worked that Friday, so that's the side we're still looking at, how can we know what is the impact? How much extra is anyone having to do, and do we have to make any adjustments? So based on that, we've extended the trial for another three months, just so we can see what the bigger impacts are.

Michael Lonnon
When is the trial due to end?

Lisa Boyle
It's just been extended to March.

Michael Lonnon
So effectively that's what a nine-month trial, something like that. I was going to ask you, how is success of this trial measured? You answered some of it there but is there going to be almost a soft measure as well, whether work life balance is improving as a result of this, is that also going to measure this part?

Lisa Boyle
Atec have a good culture where it's not just a decision made by management then cascaded down. It's something that is discussed across the board. And they tend to get people's feedback. Initially when we came up with the idea it was discussed with people's, which is why we decided to do the trial. So, the next stage will be let's get some feedback and input from people, how they've adjusted with it, some people might struggle with it, we've not heard anything like that. It is openly discussed but for now it seems to be working.

Michael Lonnon
Was there a reason behind why you went down to one day or even half a day?

Lisa Boyle
When you're only working a half day on a Friday, your mentality is different than what it will be working a full day Monday to Thursday. So, I will probably say that productivity was less on a Friday because you do have a I’m leaving at half 11, I'm leaving at 12. Majority of people were using the Friday to wrap up things through the week and prep for the start at the beginning of the week after. So it was that I think that's why we decided to trial it, because if you need that, it's pointless having a four-day week and then working from home on a Friday to do that. So, they're the kind of things we've looked at, but then again, the other driver was about giving people that time back and the bonus side of it is almost like a pay rise.

Michael Lonnon
It's the first time I've heard of it looked at quite like their organisations are giving pay rises and they're providing value and benefits and other ways. This is really nice example. Now, final question for you in the providing value have been a success and do you want it to stay after the trial?

Lisa Boyle
Yes, I do think it's been a success. I do think we still need to make a couple of changes on how we manage certain customers, because ultimately, it's the customers that drive the business, and it's not always about the staff and the wellbeing if it wasn't for the customers, we wouldn't be here. So that is our focal point now, which is why we've extended it but yeah, certainly we just need to make sure that we can tick those boxes for all customers. Do I want it to stay? Yes, I do, definitely, yeah, we do benefit from it. You do feel like you've had a nice long weekend. You can use your Friday to do shopping, cleaning, gym whatever you want. Then you still got two days to do what you want with its great.

Summary
Moving to a 4-day week is a BIG deal and should done in consultation with staff in the business as it requires a dramatic cultural shift.

You need to measure the benefits vs the negatives. And you can do as Atec did and trial it for a time to see what the impact is.

Moving to a 4-day week isn’t for every organisation but advances in Microsoft technology has improved efficiency and productivity to such a point where it is now a possibility.

And if it helps improve the work life balance for staff without impacting customer service and satisfaction, it’s well worth a ponder.

Unfortunately though there really will be no excuse not to get to the gym.
Thanks for listening, until next time, take care of yourselves.

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