4 years ago we decided to rethink the working week at Nicholson, we gave everybody in the company Fridays off. Permanently!
When I told people what we were doing reactions varied from the sharp intake of breath to “I’d love that but it would never work in my business” comment. After all we’re in the services industry, 60+ hour weeks are the norm, surely reducing the 5 day working week will make staff lazier and will crash productivity.
When we introduced the 4 day week obviously this was my concern as well but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is that pushing people to work long hours each week is totally unnecessary and ultimately counter productive. Burn out, stress, high staff-turnover, lower quality work, lower productivity all result from the traditional model. When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed working week you focus more on what’s important, constraining time encourages quality time.
So, after 4 years of the 4 day week what’s been the effect on our business?
- Revenue has trebled since 2015
- Headcount has more than doubled
- Productivity per head has increased by 50%
- Staff turnover is almost non-existent, we’ve lost 3 people in 4 years but no one we wanted to keep
- Easier to attract and retain staff
- Staff are not only happier but are more focused as they can’t afford to waste time
- Families are also happier especially to see mum or dad home for an extra day each week!
And what have we learnt?
- The day off has to be the same day for everyone and the best day is Friday. Friday is traditionally the least productive day of the week anyway, it extends the weekend and traditionally social events happen on a Thursday night.
- A 4 day week we believe works far better than the currently fashionable “unlimited holiday” benefit introduced by a lot of companies. People like to know that a holiday policy is fair & equal, has clear parameters and no one is made to feel guilty.
- Staff must be available for clients and candidates on Fridays if necessary.
- Unless for emergencies all doctors, dentist and other personal appointments should be made for Fridays where possible.
- Annual holiday allowance should be reduced by 5 days per year (however to book a week off you only need to use 4 days leave and new reality is over 70 days holiday per year!).
- Salaries & therefore targets must stay the same as a 5 day week (no-one should have the attitude that a 4 day week is an easy option!).
- Finally and most importantly – everyone loves it!
We’re a relatively small company without the same resources as some of our large competitors – but this initiative not only costs nothing but our experience has proved it’s actually made a positive impact to the bottom line! Introducing a 4 day week is not the “silver bullet” to success, we’re good at what we do, we’re specialist, experienced, international and consultative – but now we have even more that makes us successful and sets us apart.
Too often our industry treats its people like children, fails to practice what it preaches, and tends to micro-manage when it’s not necessary. What introducing a 4 day week has clearly demonstrated is that if you give people such an attractive benefit then they will fight hard not to lose it and as a consequence are happier, more productive and genuinely want to stay!
John Nash is the Founder and Chairman of Nicholson Search & Selection Limited. Nicholson recruit permanent and interim Enterprise Technology sector specialists across Europe and North America.
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