The four-day week trial

Chris Todhunter

My passion for all things tech started with programming a ZX81 as a kid and hasn't wavered during the 25+ years of working in the sector. Being at the helm of an agency (with my amazing partner, Jack de Wolf) has meant that we have been able build something we are truly proud of. A brilliant team of committed, passionate individuals with a common aim - to use our skills and our 9-5 to use in making a positive difference through the work we do with our amazing charity clients.

Chris Todhunter, Founder and Technical Director

After months of research, planning and insight gathering, we have ironed out the creases and are happy to finally say that from January 2022, Studio Republic is trialling a four-day working week.

There are a number of reasons why we’ve made the change and hopefully breaking those decisions down here will provide assurance to clients, and some inspiration to other business leaders. 


Why a four-day week?

It’s impossible to answer this question without mentioning the ‘c’ word and how the pandemic has forced us to look at flexible working in a new way.

Taking Saturday and Sunday off has only been a reality since the 30’s at which point, having two days off was proven to significantly increase productivity, lower employee stress and increase team retention. Since then, a few brave companies pushed the idea further and the concept of a 4 day working week was born. In light of this information, our reply to this question would be; “why not?”

The research

Work-life balance and health:
Four-day workweeks have been shown to improve mental health and decrease stress. A UK report showed that life expectancy has stalled for the first time in more than 100 years, whilst also highlighting major health inequalities accumulating over time. The top of the report’s recommendations to improve health outcomes is a four-day week.

“At its recent conference the Scottish National party called on the Scottish government to launch a review of working practices, including the possibility of a four-day week, while the recent Marmot review into health outcomes put shorter working hours on its list of priorities to cut stress and extend life expectancy,” says the economist Aidan Harper who champions the four-day week at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) thinktank and EU political groups. Since stress has been proven to increase risk of disease and decrease life expectancy, a four-day week could drastically impact our health and wellbeing long-term.

Team retention:
According to a Deloitte survey, 22% of millennials plan to leave their jobs because of a poor work-life balance. As the largest sector of the workforce, this focus on work-life balance has a tremendous impact on talent acquisition and retention.

Gender pay gap:
A few years ago, a study conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies studied the gender pay gap in motherhood compared to that of their male counterparts and found that those who had reduced their hours to raise their children were paid 10% less than their male colleagues in a comparable role. By the time they reach their 12th year, this pay gap increases to 33%. In December 2020, the U.S. saw that women accounted for 100% of the 156,000 jobs lost in the U.S. economy, while men gained 16,000 jobs in that same month following 3 million already leaving the labour market and no longer making up 50% of the workforce there. Studies show that women (disproportionately) have had to drop out of the workforce due to outdated notions of caregiving that lead to gender inequalities in the home – mothers were three times more likely than fathers to be responsible for a majority of housework and childcare during the pandemic. As we have a long-standing commitment to gender equality within the workplace, an aspect of adopting the four-day week is driven by ensuring we create a level-playing field where families, parents and caregivers can balance out responsibilities equally and more fairly.

The environment:
Although our team works remotely ensuring a low carbon footprint, reducing to a four day week could have a profound impact on many other businesses looking to lower theirs. A report by Henley Business School found that employees in the U.K. would drive 557.8 million fewer miles per week on average, leading to fewer transport emissions. Further to this a study from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, predicts that “if we spent 10% less time working, our carbon footprint would be reduced by 14.6%, largely due to less commuting or grabbing high-carbon convenience foods on our breaks. A full day off a week would therefore reduce our carbon footprint by almost 30%.”

Around the world

  • Reykjavík City Council and the national government conducted two trials, one in 2015 and one in 2019, in what is thought to be the widest spread test of the model. Since the trials, around 85% of the country's workforce are working reduced hours with no impact on salaries or productivity
  • Microsoft Japan saw a 40% boost to productivity after implementing a four day work week in 2019
  • In 2018, a million German metal workers fought (and won) the right to decrease their work week from 35 hours to just 28
  • New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, encouraged businesses that are "in a position to do so” to adopt a four-day workweek.
  • Both Spain and Scotland were set for a trial but the pandemic paused both of those for now

How will we implement it?

The studio will operate Monday-Thursday from 8.30am – 5.45pm (an extra 45 minutes per day) and we will be closed Friday-Sunday to give the team a 3-day rest. In the case of bank holidays, we’ll work the remainder of the week as usual, e.g. if there’s a Bank Holiday Monday, we all work Tuesday-Friday.

We will be trialling this for a six-month period to measure its effectiveness in terms of team happiness and  productivity and report our findings thereafter.

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A shift in mindset

By no means is a four-day week an excuse to slack off, reduce our workflow or lessen our impact. Rather it’s about giving employees time to recharge and invest in important relationships outside of work in order to bring the best versions of themselves to the working week. A great work life is not mutually exclusive to a happy home life. After all, creativity relies upon on our own ability to have unique lived experiences.

Therefore Fridays offer our team an opportunity to switch off, run errands, volunteer or spend time with loved ones in order to maintain a happy work-life balance. And who doesn’t want that?!

New research by Henley Business School reports that companies that adopted a four-day week found that over three quarters of staff (78%) were happier, less stressed (70%) and took fewer days off ill (62%).

Henley Business School

Will it work?

Who knows – that’s why it’s a trial for now. We’re not flawless but we’re committing to the experience with the intention to encourage a better balance. Watch this space!