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A four-and-a-half day work week is the key to staff success


Teams moving to a four-day week seems to be the hot topic of the moment across the UK – with 30 companies taking part in an upcoming six-month trial to test its benefits.

Regional firms including Atom bank, Venture Stream and Evolved Search have tested the model, citing potential benefits to work-life balance and efficiency.

But Jane Hunt, co-founder of JBH – The Digital PR Agency argues there is an optimum middle ground between the four- and five-day work week. Working 4.5 days


“How was your weekend?”


Chances are we’ve all had this Monday morning conversation, or at least one very similar, with a friend or co-worker after a weekend has flown by too quickly. 

After such a tough two years of living under restrictions, lockdowns and guidelines, the appetite for extra hours in the day to tick items off those never-ending to-do lists, spend more quality time with loved ones, and relax away from the demands of our 9-to-5 roles, are certainly being echoed across all industries. 

But the big question is, would the much-discussed potential switch to a four-day working week here in the UK offer a genuine solution to the problem of overworked, undermotivated and burnt out office workers?

Or would it merely cause them higher levels of stress attempting to cram five entire days worth of work into four?

Is the four-day week as tempting as it sounds? 

As a co-founder who’s worked in the marketing industry for more than 10 years, and headed a specialist agency for eight, I have an understanding of what it takes to develop and run a successful business.

The global health crisis has already led to a huge shift in the way we work – allowing for complete remote working and more flexible patterns in general. Now, it looks like the three-day weekend is finally within reach – with up to 30 businesses across the UK preparing to participate in a pilot four-day working week. 

This new proposed ‘four-day’ model presents an 80:100:100 approach to working – a 20% drop in hours for 100% pay and 100% productivity. But while a reduction in hours without a reduction in pay might seem extremely attractive in theory, fellow business owners still undoubtedly dealing with the ongoing aftermath of the pandemic are going to be asking themselves if the premise will work for their companies in practice. 

Finding our happy balance

Long before the pandemic, we decided to implement an agency-wide early finish every Friday. Even at a time when the four-day week was complete folklore, this decision was a no-brainer for myself and my co-founders.

Each of us has years of agency experience from previous roles, and we’re all too familiar with the infamous Friday feeling – and what it poses to staff productivity and work output. 

So the JBH 4.5 week was born, and – more than four years after making that initial decision – my personal experience of running and growing the business with half-day Fridays has shown me that a 4.5-day working week is the perfect balance for business owners and employees alike.

As co-founder, it’s up to me to ensure that not only are my employees happy, but our clients are too. With this in mind, as enticing as each Friday spent unbound by the responsibilities of professional life sounds, the reality is in fact much more complicated. 

From my experience, a lot of clients are keen to host meetings on a Friday as a way to round off the week. Therefore, if our agency were to go completely dark, it isn’t guaranteed that all of our clients would be on-board with the decision.

The half-day offers the perfect middle ground. Clients know that any Friday meetings must be scheduled before 1pm, and our staff are then free to take the afternoon to themselves.

“Its biggest benefit is the opportunity for a better work-life balance”

It’s also worth considering that the four-day week would ultimately create an angry divide between those able to rebalance their workload, and others whose line of work doesn’t allow for a reduction in hours – for example university and school staff, care workers, delivery drivers, and the self-employed. 

The ongoing benefits of four-and-a-half days

It goes without saying that being one of the first digital PR agencies to ditch the traditional 40-hour working model has set us apart in our industry.

Our team boasts digital PR executives at various stages of their careers, digital PR managers, data analysts, graphic designers, interns, content writers, and business development executives positioned across various areas of the UK and Europe, including London, Liverpool, Ipswich and even Spain.

No matter how many quirky perks a company offers its employees, we all know there’s no more valuable commodity than time. Fun perks might get employees through the door, but creating a culture where they feel trusted, valued, and that their time is important keeps them content in their job roles. 

This staff culture, centred around our 4.5-day week, has helped the agency to triple in size over the past year. We’ve also won and been nominated for a significant number of prestigious industry awards over the years.

How do employees benefit from the 4.5-day week?

Our triumphs as a company, as well as our high staff retention, have made it abundantly clear that a 4.5-day working week has no negative impact on output – much the opposite, in fact.

Unsurprisingly, most of our team said that the biggest benefit of the 4.5 day working week is the opportunity it poses for a better work-life balance. Having an extra afternoon each week offers the perfect window to finish household chores, exercise, or even walk the dog – tasks that’d otherwise eat into your Friday evening or weekends. 

Additionally, staff said this flexibility frees up time that can then be spent with family and friends.

It also means that those who live in different cities to loved ones have more time to plan a visit and avoid the dreaded Friday evening rush hour traffic.

Other benefits include more time to rest and recuperate over the weekend, ultimately helping staff feel more energised for Monday and the week ahead. Similarly, in the wintertime an early finish Friday offers more daylight hours – and in the summer, more time to spend in the sunshine. 

While the dream of the three-day weekend is indeed an enticing one, I believe that it would be much more challenging in practice.

More time to ourselves in exchange for less time at our 9-to-5 sounds perfect, but for many it seems just a little too ambitious to work effectively. For instance, the expectation of 100% productivity at 80% capacity might add increased pressure and stress on employees already running on empty after almost two years of living and working through a global pandemic. 

In summary, as the old adage goes, ‘compromise is key’. I’m firmly of the belief that the 4.5-day week is that compromise. 

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