Skip to content

Diary of an MD Part Two: Documenting Our 4-day Week Pilot

5 Apr 2022

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates.

Diary by Simon Ursell

By now, you should be up to date on our journey which has led us to a 4-day week. If not, be sure to loop back for part one of our MD Diaries, which explores our preparation and decision to participate in the trial.

In part-two, we’ll be sharing the good, the bad and the ugly as we document our progress – along with some tips, tricks and lessons along the way. We hope this will help to inspire and encourage others to follow suit; to create a happier and healthier workforce, community and planet.

Whilst we’re expecting a few bumps in the road, hopefully this will help pave the way for others and help them navigate the change in their future – making it easier for others to follow suit.

Check in regularly to hear the latest from our MD, Simon, as he provides a candid account of our social experiment as it happens.

03.03.22 - Putting the wheels in motion

There’s no hiding that, to get to this point, we’ve put in a lot of hours. Talking to researchers. Reading countless case studies and publications. Canvassing opinions. I’d often find myself lost in a rabbit hole.

Whilst research couldn’t tell us how it would work for us (I guess that’s why we’re part of the trial!), one thing ran clear throughout all our digging: almost every business that has trialled a 4-day week has seen an improvement in efficiency.

So, how could we make it work in our Tribe? It was time to ask them. After all, they were the people that would make or break success.

About 18 months ago, I got the conversation started.

Why? At Tyler Grange, we believe in honesty. Not just when it suits. Not just to attract clients. Not just at the top. It’s one of our core values from which the business is built on. So, it was important for me to include (and be honest with) our team from the start.

It started off as me sharing some initial thoughts on how we could achieve a 4-day week. However, it quickly spiraled into much more, as we sought the opinions of a select group of clients and suppliers too…

For reasons I didn’t expect, this was a very worthwhile activity.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Going into the announcement, there was an assumption that my team would be delighted and counting down the days to the change – and to a large extent, they were. However, what I didn’t anticipate was how much this would uproot concerns around the knock-on implications. I thought that would come later.

But we’ve got a bright and brilliant bunch at TG; that’s why our exciting announcement turned into a deep dive of thoughts, questions and analysis. I wanted to include them; they wanted details I hadn’t yet considered.

But would I do this differently? Honestly, I don’t think so. Their hunger for detail gave the Directors and I plenty of food for thought. They set us down a path of further exploration – keen to get them answers – or discover if this was something we could learn together along the way. All whilst living true to our values.

How do we fit 5 days’ work into 4?

Perhaps the most common concern I navigated off the back of these conversations was how this would work. They were right. It sounds stressful when you think about it.

But – in reality – it was possible by focusing on employee happiness and efficiency. All of the evidence proves so. Yet, to date, 18-months after our initial chat, this is still the greatest concern for our team and, to be honest, for me too!

Whilst the research and experience of others – within our team and in papers and case studies from across the world – is overwhelming in reporting productivity increases, it’s normal to have a nagging doubt about it.

I guess that is kind of the point though… We’re undertaking this whole experiment to see if it helps to combat overworking. That’s what I remind myself of when I’m assessing how we’ll keep the risk of overworking at bay. I remind myself we’re aware of it and actually doing something about it. That’s got to be a good starting position.

HOW DO I DO IT?

Our suppliers and clients that we canvassed our idea on eagerly wanted to know how they could extend their weekend too. Sure, it sounds like a no brainer but lots of thought needs to go into it, so where would I recommend you start?

Hit the books. Work the word of the street. Learn from those who have been there and done it. If you’re considering big change, that’s often the best place to start.

For me, researching a 4-day week was when our dreams really started becoming a reality we could see actually working for us.

I recommend starting with this 5-minute read by Nicole Kobe. It covers most of the pros and cons that surfaced in all of the research I have read – looking at the Icelandic trial in a slightly less emphatic way than some of the cheerleading articles written by others.

Let me know how you get on!

07.03.22 - Dipping our toes in

Today, I’m reflecting on why we opted to join the trial. Why I wanted to dip a toe in before diving in head first (despite my very giddy excitement).

I’ll start by letting you in on a secret. Until a few months ago, we actually aimed to start our trial on 1st January 2023. We’d already come so far in our preparations and felt setting a date was the right next step. It felt far enough in the future that we’d have plenty of time to adjust to the idea.

But then we came across the 4-day week trial.

Initially, I was comforted by the thought that others were considering the same. After all, since covid, we’ve all been feeling the time squeeze and reassessing what we want from our lives.

However, as it sunk in, I wondered to myself: why aren’t we amongst them? After all, we were as prepared as we were going to be.

Yes, it would mean bringing forward communications to clients and suppliers. But we’d worked hard to improve efficiencies in-house and streamline a lot of our admin already, so why were we putting it off? This way, we could do a trial with the support of others, too.

I decided we’d go for it.

So far, our preparation has stood us in good stead. I feel we’re in a great position to move forward with the trial and have organised to meet with the Tribe to update them of where we’re at.

If you’re considering it too, here’s my insight.

Consult early.

Our conversations started 18 months ago, and our team have thanked us for being included in the decision to do it. It helped us to address concerns and put us in the best position to make a real go at this trial.

Prepare and invest ahead of time. 

We started working on efficiency and building systems early on that would help us put efficiency at the heart of TG. These big changes can actually reduce efficiency at first, and you wouldn’t want to do that at the start of the trial, as these would ruin your results.

Do a trial.

It’s obvious why. You don’t know how things might pan out. A trial gives everyone more safety and reassurance.  It encourages everyone to experiment and try things out and gets the innovation you need to make it work. Our trial will be six-months, at which point we’ll assess where we go from there.

Get a lawyer.

I’m so grateful that we had the support of Sara Jane Turcan (she’s quite literally the best). Her expertise helped us to navigate all the legal stuff we needed to take care of to ensure we looked after everyone properly.

Get marketing and PR advice.

We have the most amazing marketing support from Mike Pye + Co. Dani Russo, who works closely with our team, has been unbelievable in advising us, making sure we hit the right notes, and helping everyone understand what we’re doing. We’ve also appointed a PR company to make sure we don’t fall foul of the media. For me, that was a big risk.

18.03.22 - Telling the Tribe

On Monday, I told the team of our news. Here’s how it went…

We got everyone together in our central (Birmingham) office under the premise of a whole-team day. We promised pizza and a team announcement. So, the team flooded in from every corner of the country to oblige!

Prepared with a brilliant ‘deck’ (presentation, for old people like me!), we told everyone of the exciting update and our progress so far. Everyone was excited. Unsurprisingly, we also had a whole heap of questions.

Because we had prepped, I felt equipped to answer most of the questions really well. However, when I couldn’t, I had to be honest and say: “We don’t know, it’s a trial and we’ll find that out together!” or promise to get back to them. The need to be an expert was somewhat taken away by the trial. It also helped to be backed by some big institutions helping us. In my experience, this cocktail of prewarning, preparation and backing helped to mitigate the immediate fear of big change.

So far, I’d say the team have taken it in their stride and feel largely excited about the concept of having an extra day back every week – particularly as we head into the warmer months.

However, amidst the excitement, there’s also an element of apprehension.

Whilst one of our Tribe so eloquently put it: “I don’t understand why everyone is asking questions?  The gaffer has given us a day off, say yes!” there’s actually a lot more to it than that. It’s a fair point to feel a bit nervous. This is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about. It’s literally challenging the norms to which we’ve all been accustomed.

So, in the next few weeks, my role will be to be ‘all ears’ for the Tribe. We’ve opened a number of feedback channels, so that the team can speak with whom they feel most comfortable and have their questions addressed or escalated.

I’m exhilarated by this next step. For me, this is where we make real strides. Yes, we have a bunch of concerns we need to address but we’re damn excited about getting them sorted out and making Thursday the new Friday!

27.03.22 - Telling our Clients

This was a nervy one. How would our clients react? You never can know.

We’d shared with a few – sounding them out. But, to be honest, we’d picked the ones we knew would understand. The ones that would ease us in gently. We knew we wouldn’t get backlash.

But when general roll out began, I think we were all pretty blown away by the response.

Some clients asked us for a job and said lovely things about TG and the innovative way we approach our work. Almost all of our clients have been, not only overwhelmingly supportive, but very eager to see how we make it work. We’ve been inundated with very positive responses on the whole.

But that does leave a small few on the other side of the fence. And we can’t pretend we don’t get it…

We understand. Some clients are worried about how we are going to deal with emergencies on Fridays. For others, their projects haven’t been going great and this looks like we’re not trying hard enough.

However, I believe this move will help us give our clients an even better service.

A happier, less stressed and better motivated Tribe should result in better work. In turn, that creates happier, less stressed clients. It’s win-win. But how do we navigate this difficult meantime?

These clients are important. We’re going to need to innovate and make certain we deliver. They expect nothing less and nor should they. And I believe we can.

I went into this experiment with an understanding that we’d uproot some concerns. I accepted that we may lose a couple of clients, if the fit wasn’t right. However, I have been impressed at the open-mindedness of our (rather traditional) industry so far and believe many will follow in our footsteps in the years that follow.

To the inspired few in that latter category, I wanted to share that well over 90% of those clients we’ve spoken to so far have been delighted. That’s a result beyond our wildest dreams. So, 4-day week or other, I implore you to challenge yourself to something surprising this year. The results might surprise you!

As Suzanne Brown, a psychologist who we work closely with, often reminds us, we often overestimate how awkward or uncomfortable something is going to be and underestimate how great it will make us feel.

08.04.22 – Getting on the same page

Some of our clients don’t get it. That’s ok. Almost all of them do.

Since my last post, it’s been much of the same. We’ve been overwhelmed with positive feedback. More so than we ever anticipated.

I’ve also had a chance to explore and reflect the ‘other’ feedback too…

We’ve had a couple of clients struggle to understand our motivations. I could protest, speak them through the evidence and argue ‘til I’m blue in the face that this is the way the world needs to move to make room for life in the working world. That the way we’re going isn’t sustainable, and that everyone will have to follow eventually.

But I can’t. There are unknowns. And with that, comes fear. So, in the words of Elsa from Frozen, I think we have to let it go.

Sometimes in life, you have to embrace the fact that not everyone is going to like you. In work, that means that not everyone will want to work with you.

I won’t lie, we’d love to be able to help everyone… That’s just who we are at TG. But we can’t do that whilst sacrificing the bigger vision.

We sometimes don’t match clients. That’s ok. The implementation of a four-day week has brought that into sharp focus for us, but it’s not the only thing we measure who we want to work with against. We also work hard to reflect our values – embedded in our heritage – to apply them for a more sustainable, healthy future.

We have a 98% approval rating so far for our four-day week. The 2%? We’ll be available to them if they want to use us. However, our growth and ambition have to reflect who we are and where we want to go. So, for now at least, we have to let them go.

Other than that, this week has been a bit quieter (from a milestone perspective, anyway). We’ve tried to keep the announcements to a minimum since telling clients, to allow our team to focus on delivery.

We’ve encouraged the whole team to start winding down Friday workings, too. Deadlines have largely been pulled forward to Thursdays and Fridays are being used to pick up tasks, tidy admin, access training and putting in the groundwork for the June start.

So far, it’s working well. I’ve witnessed plenty of innovation and creative thinking. Dabbled in a bit myself!

Dare I say it, I think the years of preparation are paying off. We’re well on our way. Only seven more Fridays until June.

 

13.04.2022 - Recruitment

One of the obvious benefits of a 4 day week even the most cynical would understand is that it’s way easier to attract talented people to join the TG tribe.

I mean who wouldn’t at least take a look at a business that offers a full 5-day salary for 4 days’ work?

We’ve already seen this.

We haven’t yet started pushing our message hard but we are seeing a significant rise in the numbers of CVs and inquiries about roles in the tribe. We’ve also recruited 14 new members of the team in the last month!

lancs-park

That's massive for a company that is only 70 strong...

The volume is terrific, as more people come to us it gives TG more security, stability and success.

However, the big one is the talent of our new people. Because the volume of enquiries about roles is increasing we have been able to be even more selective.

We’ve always attracted some of the best people to work with us in my humble opinion however we are seeing the number of high-quality CVs grow rapidly.  If I’m honest, I’m slightly concerned that the number of enquiries about jobs is going to be really challenging.  

So we’ve recruited a recruiter, and worked hard on how we select our team.  

We’re using innovative interviewing techniques, like secret missions and asking people to bring meaningful things to interviews.  

We can train most people on skills, but we’re more interested in the person, and whether they’re going to like working with us – Not everyone does.

lake-district

That brings me to another part of the selection process.  Not everyone says yes to a 4 day week.

Out of our 14 new recruits, we had a really excellent candidate look at joining us, they are really lovely and really talented so we showed them the rewards and benefits including the 4 day week.

They loved us, but a competitor made a very high financial offer – The competitor is struggling to recruit – So they chose the competition. 

I’m not blaming them, especially considering the financial needs everyone has at the moment, however, the wage inflation is putting pressure on delivering more and more work, and subsequent lack of life balance is going to cause everyone problems.

Quality to clients is likely to suffer, prices to clients will go up and, tiredness and exhaustion will cause these factors to spiral.

We’re trying to get it right.

With the proven benefits of a 4 day week, the backing of the world’s best universities research organisations, and think tanks, along with the talents of our rapidly growing team.  

I’m pretty confident we can deliver even more success for our clients, a better balance and a happier team has to do that right?

If the researchers and the trials that have already been done are anything to go by, we should be able to offer the financial rewards AND a better balance.  

We’re going to find out. 

Exciting.  Isn’t it?……..

25.04.22 – Tough but worth it…

A four-day week sound lovely, doesn’t it? Bank Holidays with long weekends in the great outdoors make it – quite literally – all feel like rainbows and sunshine. But that’s not the case. 

It’s hard. Tough going. Lots of work. You don’t just switch off on a Thursday and enjoy. There’s a slog to get you there; I’ve never tried to hide that.  

That’s why, as the inquiries about working for us flood in, I wanted to share a little more insight into what goes into a four-day week and what we expect of our Tribe to make it work. 

First up, let me just say: I’m not trying to downplay how fantastic it is. The extra day is aspirational and exciting for so many; that’s why it’s been wonderful to see so many people interested in talking to us about it. However, it did get me thinking that – perhaps – some people don’t fully appreciate what the four-day week deal is. What it takes to make the magic happen… 

100 : 80 : 100

That’s the science behind it. Well, it’s the ratio we’re aiming for – and our mantra all the same. 

  • 100% of the paythat’s nice 
  • 80% of the timeeasy so far 
  • 100% of the productivitythis is where it gets tricky 

Yep, we still aim to keep the same level of profitability with a day less in our working week. To make this happen, we need to be savvy with our working time to make up for the extra time off. That doesn’t mean longer days or pushing deadlines back and back. It means being more productive.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re sat there thinking “Impossible!” – but the research proves it is.

As a nation, we‘re actually pretty unproductive at work, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Trials and tests have demonstrated that, with a great incentive, our productivity can improve tenfold. An incentive like, perhaps, an extra day off? That sounds like a shared goal worth working for.

How do we get there? That part isn’t easy.

As previously documented, we’re going through a process of improving on everything we do. Whilst we like to poke fun and dress our messages up with some sexy marketing, it doesn’t take away from the cold, hard truth: it’s going to be difficult. At times, we may even wonder if it’s worth it. 

But I’m seeking the answer to one question that I keep coming back to… 

“Do the Tribe want to get super-efficient at their jobs, and enjoy an additional day off… or do they want a slow and steady job which can’t offer the same work-life balance?” 

The answer? I guess that’s why we are doing a six-month trial. We’re working together on it to see if it’s what they want. Personally, I’m pretty confident that it’s going to be awesome. But it’s not for everyone. 

So, this week, I’ll leave you with a little mental exercise to see if it’s for you… 

      1. Write out what you are doing today with a time allocation against each task. 

For example, you probably need 10-minutes to review your calendar and figure out what you’ve got planned in and what needs addressing first. 

      2. Now, document what it would take to deliver the same thing in 20% less time? What would that look like and is it worth it to get the time back? 

 

Tough. But worth it? I think so… 

03.05.22 – The Pressure Beyond Our Walls

“Preparation is the key to leadership success. The more prepared you are the less your struggle…” as Israelmore Ayivor says. 

That’s why, at TG, we like to start off all our projects with a kick-off meeting and review progress regularly as we go. It seems obvious, I know, but we’re really into feedback. It helps us remain at the top of our game and on top of issues as they arise. 

At our 4-day kick-off, the whole team were there; we shared ideas and discussed how we’d make our plans a reality.  

Much to my amusement, one of the Tribe shared that a few of their friends had applied some pressure… Along the lines of: you better make this work. It’s a national trial and if it goes well, we might all get a 4-day week. That way, we can be more productive and happier too. 

It brought me great clarity: our impact is so much bigger than we realise. So, how will we respond? 

‘Mission accepted’ friends of TG! 

09.05.22 – Dreaming of Fridays

The last few weeks have been littered with Bank Holidays. Not that this takes away from our looming start date but, this last week, it feels all the more special as having a 4-day week seems exciting and rare again. 

So, when we were tasked with illustrating how we’d spend our Fridays to portray on camera last week, our minds all drifted to Fridays. 

As I’ve mentioned throughout, this pilot isn’t going to work if we all do a sneaky bit of work on a Friday to ‘get ahead’ or ‘catch up’. That’s not going to give us the benefits. Whilst I love my job to pieces and will find this difficult, I am going to do my best to lead from the front and use my Fridays properly. 

How? For me, that’s likely to be on the golf course and through volunteering. A mix of looking after my body, mind and soul. My handicap index is currently 10.8 and I want to get below 10. This is a bit of a personal challenge for me and a chance to get outside with my own thoughts. I’ll also be spending time relaxing. 

I’ve been working with Luke Doherty at Mindful Peak Performance, and I want to try and become more mindful, so I’m going to try and do a bit of nothing and sit with my thoughts. That’s harder than it sounds and those that know me will know that this is a serious challenge. However, the benefits could be huge, so I want to give it a go. He’s a cool guy and as good as it gets in my opinion. But as I’m supporting him in growing his charity, I’m going to see if I can work with one of his amazing practitioners too to improve myself!  

However, as Luke didn’t fit in my suitcase, I grabbed my golf clubs and jumped on a train up to Manchester to strike a pose in our office. 

How would you spend your Fridays? Get inspired by having a browse through what props some of our other Directors used and use the clues to guess what else we’ll be up to.

The photoshoot was all very amusing; there was a lot of laughter and a fair few shots that didn’t make it. Fun aside, it also brought home the reality of what we’re doing… Years of preparation, and we feel ready and excited, less than 4 weeks!  

Watch this space

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing the good, the bad and the ugly as we document our progress – along with some tips, tricks and lessons along the way.

We hope this will help to inspire and encourage others to follow suit; to create a happier and healthier workforce, community and planet.

Check back for more or, if you have a press enquiry, please get in touch with juliamitchell@toastpr.co.uk

Latest updates

What’s going on