The idea of flexible working has been around for decades. Christel Kammerer, a German management consultant, proposed the idea of 'flexiwork' back in 1965 as she identified balancing childcare with work responsibilities as the reason for a lack of women in the workforce.
This concept didn't seem to gain real or widespread traction until the Covid pandemic. I think we can all agree that this period introduced a monumental shift, both in the way we live and the way we work. Social distancing, face masks, and hand sanitiser all became common practice in a matter of months. But so did remote working and the introduction of more flexible working patterns.
Perpetual Guardian, a privately held company in New Zealand, were the first of their kind to successfully trial a 4-day work week in 2018, before Covid. So, this working example, paired with the introduction of widespread flexible working during the pandemic both had a huge role to play in the shift to 4-day weeks becoming more common.
We are really happy to announce that at Proctors, we are trialling the 4-day workweek for 3 months, having commenced on the 3rd of July. We understand the importance of listening to our team and supporting them wherever we can, and this represents an exciting milestone in our ongoing journey.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is incredibly important to us, and we understand that even though we are on our journey to be the best that we can be for our people, our planet, and our community, we still have more steps to take to get there. Implementing the 4-day workweek is one of the crucial steps we are taking towards fulfilling our commitment to these values.
If you've visited our CSR page, you'll know that our mission statement is all about putting actions behind our words. We don't just talk the talk; we always try to walk the walk. And as an agency, we're driven by purpose, whether that means doing something as small as recycling our rubbish or as grand as hosting an annual student awards ceremony. If it can be done, we'll strive to do it. This is why we're implementing a 4-day workweek, because we want to further our positive changes and improve the business structure for our team.
So, what are we doing already, you may ask? Well, here's a sample...
The office building itself was salvaged by us, reclaimed from an old printworks. We also added 90 solar panels to the roof, which to date have generated 159,758 kWh of energy.
We're also the only building in the UK coated in CristalACTiV, a coating that reduces atmospheric pollution in the surrounding area.
We have 6 electric car charging points, automatic energy-saving light bulbs, increased insulation, a living wall, compost and recycling, a cycle to work scheme, and that's just some of the environmental initiatives we undertake.
We also have a number of community-focused CSR initiatives, from the South West Design + Digital Student Awards to working with charities to donate our resources and help them raise awareness and money.
Which brings us back to our people-focused CSR: from providing an inclusive workspace and hosting the PrOscars, to offering mental health first aid to our employees and internships for creatives taking their first steps into the creative industry.
These are just a few examples, but now we are proud to add the 4-day workweek to the list of ways we are trying to improve our CSR journey.
But we haven't just decided to implement this change for fun. We extensively researched the benefits and implications of this initiative to ensure this was going to be a success.
So, without further ado, here are some of the benefits of a 4-day workweek:
Improved work-life balance
You know that hobby you're always putting off because you just don't have the time? Or that volunteering scheme you were always interested in joining? Or even that extra time you've been meaning to carve out to spend with your loved ones?
With an extra day off work, this gives our employees the chance to make the most of their time, however they may wish to spend it.
More than 95% of the companies in the 4-day workweek trial saw no decline, or even noticed an improvement in productivity, and nearly 15% said that this had improved "significantly". This is due to the fact that happier, and more content employees are more focused on their jobs than those who are dissatisfied or unfulfilled.
With unhappy employees often being more distracted and, in some cases, distracting others, it makes sense that introducing a 4-day week would cut down on this and boost focus. In addition, employees are likely to have more energy with an additional day away from work, which adds to the improved productivity.
Reduced work stress
Going hand in hand with the above point, the overall mental health of our team members is incredibly important to us. Implementing a 4-day workweek may stand to improve this, with a reduced stress level regarding work due to the additional time off per week. We believe that being able to approach work with a clearer and more refreshed perspective is highly likely to show benefits in this area.
Around 45% of workers in England and Wales drive to work. Cutting out even one day of commuting for people by introducing a 4-day workweek will build up to have a huge impact on commute-related carbon emissions. With fewer cars on the road, congestion will decrease, and there'll be a reduced environmental impact. In addition, even though our office is remaining open 5 days a week, as fewer people will be in on certain days, the office-based emissions will also decrease.
But don't just take our word for it. Let's hear some Proctorians' thoughts on the 4-day workweek.
Chris Harris, our People Partner
Why was the decision made to go ahead with the 4-day week in the first place?
The idea came from a discussion following a review of the feedback we received from our employee engagement survey. We were looking at what we could do that would have the biggest impact on our people.
At the time it was mentioned, I thought we would just do some research and then move on to the next idea. Following the research and looking at different ways we could make this work, the idea started to grow, and the Directors made the decision that a trial would be the next best step.
The key factors that we considered related to the impact we saw in other companies that have taken this approach and how it improved people's wellbeing and productivity.
What are your thoughts on the new initiative?
I am excited to see what impact it has on how we approach our work. My thoughts are currently focused on making sure we allow people to think through any obstacles they may come across during this trial. Change is tough, and being available to help our people and teams navigate these obstacles will build our capabilities as a group and as individuals.
What do you hope to see from doing this?
I hope to see a group that realises its potential and starts to challenge our previous ways of thinking. Taking us forward and being contributors to how we operate as a group and business.
What do you plan to do on your extra day off work?
I am really looking forward to getting those boring chores done that mean I can have a full weekend with the family and not have to worry about it!
Ailsa Billington, Managing Director
Could you tell us more about the decision behind implementing the 4-day work week?
After conducting one of our regular company engagement surveys, it was clear to see that a good work-life balance was one of the key things members of the P+S team were looking for.
One of our core values is taking care of each other, so prioritising the well-being of our employees and making sure they are heard and supported is really important to us. The responses from the survey were the original catalyst into looking into and ultimately implementing the 4-day work week trial.
We also carried out a lot of research into how this approach has worked for other businesses, and the positive outcomes that resulted. We also gave people the option on a few different working patters to vote on, and the 4-day week was definitely the most popular outcome!
What would you like to see from this change?
We have an incredibly dedicated, talented, and hard-working team, and I believe that by embracing this change and continuing to nurture a positive work culture, it will provide rejuvenation and promote creativity and innovation across the business. I’m already hearing plans that people are making for their extra day off and I can’t wait to see what everyone gets up to!
Emily Hawkins, Junior Digital Designer
What are your thoughts regarding the 4 day week?
I’m so excited that we are trialling a 4-day working week! I think this new approach is very refreshing and progressive and shows how the company is adapting to prioritise a better work-life balance for employees. I think that having an extra day off each week will allow me to properly recharge and come back to work feeling more focused and motivated which will increase my productivity and creativity.
What do you plan to do with your extra day off work?
I’m hoping that I can use this time to focus on myself and pick up a hobby, perhaps a fitness class or something creative. I’m planning on trying out something different each week to see what I enjoy! I’d also love to learn a new skill, like photography or a foreign language, or to volunteer for a local organisation.
Spending more time outdoors is also really important to me and I’d love to use some of the extended weekends to explore more of the UK or even take some spontaneous short breaks abroad! I’m particularly looking forward to being able to travel back home and spend more quality time with my family and my dog.
I can’t wait to experience the positive impact that this change will have on everyone’s well-being and on the agency as a whole.
We’re incredibly excited about this announcement as it signifies real change and innovation within the company. Listening to our employees is so important to us, and making sure their suggestions are valued is something we take seriously.
As previously mentioned, this 4-day working week trial will initially run for 3 months so we can see how well it is received by the team and how effective it is at improving our work lives. During this period, we will review the changes and effects, and discuss the option of continuing with it in the long-term.
If you would like to find out more about our corporate social responsibility initiatives, check out our CSR page here.