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At first glance, a four-day workweek may seem like a fantasy – an invention from some far-off, unattainable future. However, in the wake of the Great Resignation, a growing handful of organizations – and even countries – are making this fantasy a reality.
James Osborne of The Recruitment Network recently caught up with Kris Holland, Director of Marketing and Revenue Operations at Charlton Morris, and Liam Thomas, Co-founder of DataX Connect and Highfield Professional Solutions, to discuss the challenges and benefits of implementing a four day week at their businesses.
You can catch a recording of the webinar here or check out the recap below.
What is a four-day week, and why consider it?
For both Charlton Morris and Highfield Professional Solutions, a four-day week means working Monday through Thursday, with regular, eight-hour workdays, and having every Friday off. “A fundamental part of a four-day week is believing that you can do what you can do in five days in four,” said Holland. After COVID, Holland and his team wanted to give their employees more flexibility, so this was a compromise to do just that.
“The attitude,” continues Holland, “is very much the same in that if you have a client ring you on a Saturday, and it’s something urgent – you’ve got to arrange an interview or a phone call or something – then you will do it; it’s a 24/7 job. But we don’t do proactive work on Friday – that is the day off, and that’s when we start trying to leverage things like technology and automation to do that heavy lifting for us.”
“We wanted it to be a life-changing benefit,” said Thomas, “and a three-day weekend every weekend is a genuine life-changing benefit.”
The goal for Thomas was that no clients or candidates would feel a negative impact from this – if someone is unavailable, there will always be someone picking up their work, and vice versa. “But,” said Thomas, “you need the right people in the business and the culture to foster that collaboration and people having each other’s backs.”
What does the process of rolling out a four-day week look like?
Pre-COVID, a four-day week wouldn’t have worked for Charlton Morris, said Thomas. “People and data are the most important things, but if you don’t have the right people, the right culture, if you’re not genuinely a values-driven business where people will support each other and take care of your customers, this won’t work. We had to do a huge amount of work on getting the values in place and ensuring the culture can do what we needed to do in a four-day week.”
Highfield Professional Solutions embarked on a four-month trial of their four-day week, focused on learning. They regularly had presentations on productivity and return on effort and brought in Zoom speakers who are productivity experts. The trial also included regular meetings between leadership teams and stakeholders, with everyone encouraged to share productivity tips and tricks to create a collaborative and efficient culture for everybody.
“We didn’t announce our trial initially,” said Holland. “We just did it behind the scenes for four months, and then when we decided we were going to go full time with it, we launched it.”
A crucial part of rolling out the four-day week was managing expectations, said Thomas. He also emphasized the importance of being collaborative and “staying in that flow state.” He spoke on the importance of not simply replicating the flow of a five-day week but rather putting more into that Monday through Thursday.
How did your technology stack enable you to roll out a four-day week?
Highfield Professional Solutions began implementing automation during their trial period. “The first thing we wanted to do was establish what we can do and achieve in a four-day week, and then see if there are any gaps that we need to fill in with automation and tech,” he said. “What we’ve seen since has been really positive – it’s much more of a soft approach with the automation, it’s not doing, for example, new client outreach, or any of that high-risk stuff – it’s just something that keeps things going when we’re not around.”
Elaborating on automated workflows that Highfield Professional Solutions utilizes on Fridays, Holland spoke to the value of light touch communications automation. “One that you’d be able to do would be getting quick interview feedback for a candidate that’s had an interview, or you want to get some questions out – surveys are such a big part of it. And you can set automations based on the end time of an interview, make sure that something goes out an hour after that, and let them know in that email, ‘I’ll be following up with you, but what are your initial thoughts? What’s your initial reaction? How did things go?’”
Leveraging technology was instrumental to implementing a four-day week at Charlton Morris. “We use Automation by Bullhorn,” said Thomas, “the same as Kris. But we haven’t ventured into the full recruitment process automations; we still like to have that human touch.”
Equally key for Charlton Morris was having tech and culture work hand-in-hand. “People want to look after their customers,” Thomas said. Anything that comes to his team on a Friday will naturally get picked up because of their collaborative, proactive culture. “We have a process in place to make sure our clients and candidates are getting the same experience as they would Monday through Thursday.”
What benefits have you seen as a result of implementing a four-day week?
Thomas has seen applications to work at Charlton Morris through the roof – and not just folks who want to work one fewer day, but people who want to be part of a forward-thinking organization that wants to do the right thing for their staff. “We’re looking for – and finding – people who can fit five days’ work into four.”
Holland notes that there’s been an increased focus on productivity and return on effort since implementing a four-day week: “Time to fill’s been dropping, increasing our fill rate by 25%. When your time becomes that much more valuable, you value what you do more.”
Have there been any downsides?
“Not everyone can turn up that productivity dial,” said Thomas. “It doesn’t suit everybody.” In terms of work-life balance, both Thomas and Holland found only positives, but they have found that a four-day week isn’t suitable for everyone. Don’t try it until you’re sure you’ve got the right people in the business.
“Business does drop off on Friday,” added Holland, “but there’s always a drop off on Friday anyway.”
Would you recommend a four-day week to other organizations? What advice would you offer to those looking to implement it?
“Personally, I’d like to see this be more widespread,” said Holland. Part of Holland’s goals in implementing a four-day week was to change the way the world sees recruiting – to see it as a fast-paced, exciting industry that people want to join and in which they can build a career. While you can’t avoid the pressures of the recruitment industry, Holland noted, a four-day workweek adds a nice incentive and makes recruitment a more attractive industry to be a part of.
For Thomas, it all comes back to values. “Once you have the right people,” he added, “make sure your tech stack is aligned to run that four-day business and give your clients and candidates what they need over five days.”
“If you don’t have the data and you don’t have a starting point,” added Holland, “you have nothing to measure it by. We’ve spent a lot of time looking different types of business development and getting those segmented properly in Bullhorn so we can see what works more effectively.” Holland finds that his team is now much more data-driven than before, “which is traditionally where recruitment has not been at its best – it’s very ‘throw things at a wall and see what sticks.’ We’re now seeing what sticks and working backward.”