The evolution that is a Four Day Working Week

What does it mean in reality? We are adopting it. Let's break it down.

3 min read

Written by
Sam Wheeler

Director | Co-Owner | Admiral of Ops

Sam Profile

You may have seen the buzz recently about the 4 Day Working Week formal pilot that has launched UK wide.

For a couple of years or so now we have been chatting on and off about how we make a 4 Day Working Week (4DWW) a reality at Big Lemon. A 4DWW completely aligns with our values and ethos, so this shift has always felt inevitable.

Countries with shorter working hours typically have a smaller carbon footprint so reducing the work week from 5 to 4 days could have an environmental benefit.

In the summer of 2021 we trialled out a 4DWW for a month in August.

After this trial we did some thorough digging with the team, sharing our experiences and thoughts, sending around anonymous surveys too to get the real picture of how the gang found the change.

Some questions we asked the team via an anonymous survey included:

Q. Did you have any concerns before your first 4-day week?

A: 90% were worried about the lack of time to complete tasks.

Q. How much did working 4 days per week negatively impact your workload and capacity? (1 = not at all / 5 = extremely).

A: The outcome after our trial was an average of 2.8.

Even with its challenges the unanimous decision was that 100% of the team wanted the 4DWW to be adopted permanently.

Reflective comments from the team on what the most attractive aspect of a 4DWW would be to them included:

'To be honest Friday is not my most productive day' 'It would give me more time to recharge' 'Mental health benefits' 'Focus on becoming more deliberate with my time Monday-Thursday'

We are super chuffed to announce that as of February 2022 we will be shifting to a 4DWW for 6 months, with the aim of staying a 4DWW company permanently.

We are a big communicative bunch at Big Lemon, no day is without much chatter on all levels, but we recognise that moving to a 4DWW can be daunting, and it is not without its obstacles for a busy, multiple project, small team, big mission focused company. And it can be daunting for us on a personal level; happiness, wellbeing and mental health is our priority.

We will be sharing weekly reflective surveys with the team individually, which will hopefully provide some more structured data gathering that we can analyse. Alongside this we will have monthly team chats, and slightly larger 3 month and 6 month check ins.

There have been some unknowns as well as many questions along the way, there still are unknowns and questions, and we have found a limited amount of resources available to help navigate the 4DWW shift at times.

For example; How does holiday allowance work? How many hours a week is the official 4 Day Working Week? Do you just squeeze in the same hours into less days? Can you spread the hours over 5 days or do we have to all work on the days/hours? How do we make this work practically, what does it mean for project deliverables? What impact will it have on our partnerships, our clients that we work with? Will we struggle to financially commit to a 4DWW?

Let’s go with the holiday allowance conundrum. If you look up the guidance on Government websites about holiday allowance they indicate that a reduction in holiday should happen. Unfortunately this doesn’t reflect the reality of adopting a 4DWW for everyone, permanently, it is based on reducing hours, going ‘part time’. We ended up reaching out to the lovely folk at Escape the City, who align with our values driven, purpose led mission. They have adopted a 4DWW too and haven’t reduced their holiday allowance, and when you think about it, that is exactly what should happen. No holiday should be reduced, holiday is not something that should be sacrificed.

Nobody’s salary has changed due to the shift in working 4 days a week, for us we never questioned the team's salary. We are very aware that there are many folk out there that find the money calculation a huge barrier, a blocker to even considering, let alone explore, the possible shift to a 4DWW.

The 4DWW was successfully trialled in Iceland, this article has a much more thorough reflection of that pilot that we found super useful.

Four Day Work Week

It really is a matter of trying it out, each situation is different. Is it worth the time and energy to figure it out? Heck we truly believe so. We have to be the change we want to see.

We will be hosting a free open-to-everyone webinar soon, to drill into the details of a 4DWW, demystifying some of the unknowns, spark interest, encourage others to implement change, create a supportive space for questions and queries with a wider community. We hope you will join us. Ping over a message to let us if you are interested: We will get the webinar details shared in the coming weeks.

In the meantime here are a couple of resources that we have found useful:

A four-day work week: is it really worth it?

What are the benefits of a four-day working week?