It’s been one year this week since we started our four-day, same-pay work week.
To reiterate how it works for us:
- Employees work Monday to Thursday, 9am to 5.30pm
- All employees are paid the same salary they were employed on (or more, obviously, if they’ve had a promotion/pay rise). They are not paid pro-rata and new employees are paid industry-rate for experience and location
- We are effectively ‘on call’ on Fridays, should clients, journalists or anybody else need us – just as the PR industry is on evenings and at the weekend. This promise to clients is the fundamental reason we were able to do it
- We went from 36 hours of work per week across 5 days to 31 hour over the 4, with lunch hours becoming 45 minutes per day rather than 60
- Holidays went from 25 days per year (+ birthday, plus bank holidays) to 20 days per year (+ birthday, plus bank holidays). So, effectively, by going 4 day/3 day weekend, whichever way you look at it, each team member has gained 44 additional days off work throughout the year. That’s a month and a half each year. Over a working lifetime, supposing it’s around 50 years as some estimate – and I’m aware I’m taking massive liberties here with the figures but bear with me! – that’s the equivalent of 6 years
What’s happened, then?
We trialled it first for six weeks in June 2018, then announced it would be permanent after going through the feedback from the team and clients. We updated six months later, highlighting exactly how the decision had impacted the business.
As one of the first companies in the UK to trial going four-day, we’re in a fairly unique position. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the business results below, 12 months on – from staff happiness through to financial impact.
- Turnover is up 70% (vs. the same 12 month period before starting the 4 day week) – going against a few initial concerns I heard, proving that growth is very possible
- Gross profit has more or less stayed the same
- (It’s dipped a few percent, on account of increased supplier and team costs. I know this is still high compared to the PR industry average and might raise a few eyebrows, but bear in mind that we’re an agency based outside of London rightfully charging what our capital peers charge for high standard work) and…
- Net profit has stayed the same, too – increasing marginally
The topline: as the graph shows, we’ve continued to grow and are even marginally more profitable than before we started
- New business: we’ve continued to grow and win new business. Anecdotally, we have been approached by bigger brands since starting the 4 day week, but that could have everything to do with us being another year older (we started 4 and a half years ago) and still being vocal with the results of our work
- Recruitment: the number of CVs received has more than doubled per role advertised – I always think of the participation pyramid we looked at in GCSE PE, here! The more people at the base of a pyramid, the higher the quality at the peak. That’s what we’re finding when recruiting
- Sick days: have halved, going down from 1.3 days per person on average for the year June 2017-June 2018 to 0.5 days per person on average since starting the 4 day week
- Staff happiness: I shared another anonymous survey with staff just before writing this, asking them about various aspects of work.
- when asked ‘do you think you’ve enjoyed a better work-life balance since it was implemented?’, with a sliding scale of 0 (not at all) to 10 (definitely), three quarters of the team selected 10 – definitely. The lowest score given was an 8
- 100% of the team answered 0 – not at all when asked ‘do you think there has been a drop in communication with clients since the 4 day work week began?’
What the 4 day week has enabled the team to do:
The survey also asked what having the additional day has meant on an individual basis. Here are a handful of their responses:
- ‘I have registered with a charity to volunteer my time to go make tea and spend time with older people’
- ‘It’s helped me because I’ve had more time to finish my Masters degree’
- ‘We wouldn’t have been able to get a new puppy! Settling him into the new house would have been much harder, and also, we’d have had to spend out on a dog walker’
- ‘We’ve been able to get our garden house ready and up on Airbnb, which took 8 weeks. This would have taken way longer if it wasn’t for the extra day at the weekend’
- ‘I’ve been able to spend more quality time with my wife, just us – a rarity when you have two exuberant school-age kids!’
- ‘I’ve started yoga, I joined a community committee to raise money for a local facility and have been able to spend more time with family and friends’
Clients have been amazingly supportive – both clients that were with us prior to the change and new ones we’ve taken on since. Results and communication are still a priority for us, and in the world of PR, where you’re constantly proving yourself and there are plenty of other alternative agencies for clients to choose, there’d be immediate and irrefutable feedback if it wasn’t working because clients would be off!
As I’ve said before, Fridays in PR, at least in my experience over (getting on for) 12 years, used to be something of a reporting day. A day to collate results and reports and to get ahead with writing/content creation.
We’re in a position now though, thanks to reporting and measurement tools, that we don’t have to spend as much time as we used to pulling it all together. And as our financial results show, you can grow an agency and maintain strong margins, in no small part thanks to improvements in technology. Could we be making more money, and enjoying even higher margins? Possibly. But, I’m very happy with where we are – and it’s not like I’ve lost a single ounce of ambition to grow.
We’re building a real culture of conscientiousness. Of trust in the team, at all levels, that they can manage their time well enough to deliver the results clients want and expect. But ultimately, we’re trying to instill an emphasis on work-life balance that is tangible; that is felt every week.
I hope it continues to go as well as it has, because while we all have to work for a living, and while I might not exactly stick to 4 days a week myself (!), there’s every chance that come this time next year, at this rate of growth, there’ll be 25+ of us. It feels good to know that for both current and future employees and their families, we’re offering something that isn’t some spurious work perk but something that positively impacts their personal and professional lives.
(Bored of hearing me bang on about all this? Think it’s all we’re about? We’re pretty bloody good at what we do, too – there are loads of measurement-conscious client case studies and results on our PR blog and homepage – and a quick video you might quite like here…
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— Radioactive PR (@radioactive_pr) May 21, 2019