four-day working week

Four-day working week: ‘For us, it’s working’

Natalie Moore, founder and director of Aconveyancing, highlights the impact of the four-day working week at her firm

It was announced last week that the majority of companies taking part in the world’s largest trial of a four-day week have opted to continue with the working pattern. As others have watched this trial closely, the initiative is now being considered by businesses owners across the UK. But can the four-day model apply to the law, and conveyancing specifically?  Having taken a chance with my own business, I know it can work.

In January 2022, following feedback from staff on the pressures of the previous year – both with Covid and the stamp duty break –  we realised that our business had to do something to alleviate the stress staff were facing with busy workloads. Hybrid working did lessen commuting time, but remote working was not a long-term option for our fee earners because conveyancing relies on a team setup which is challenging to replicate online.

We had to consider productivity from another angle and after a period of consultation with staff and HR, we decided to trial a four-day working week, allowing full-time employees to work 35 hours over four days. While it hasn’t come without its challenges, the benefits have far outweighed any bumps in the road. Planning the allocated day off for 60 staff took a while to figure out and finesse. We had to ensure that offices were manned with the right people at all times, so our clients felt they were receiving the same level of service. Staff were accountable for communicating their day off to clients – usually in their email signature or out of office.  This worked fine: clients were happy as long as they knew who was available and when.

Some staff decided not to take part in the trial and others opted out after a few months – it doesn’t work for everyone. For a while, it was like putting a big puzzle together. We had to be flexible and open-minded for a while until the change became normal, but we kept focused on the long-term benefits. One year on, it’s completely integrated and normal practice within the business. We had an overwhelmingly positive response with staff reporting better job satisfaction, higher productivity, less stress, and more balance.

I am still seeing much negative chat about four-day week online. Often from business owners, company partners, and high performers, reluctant to appreciate how a fully-productive working week fits into four days. I think they are looking at themselves as opposed to the interests of their workforce and not recognising the impact of long-hours on productivity levels. We are working to change the false narrative that long hours equate to maximum productivity and champion the importance of free time. By doing this, hopefully we can retain the best talent in the legal profession and pave the way for others to follow.

Key stats released by the official 4 Day Week Programme:

  • 92% of companies who took part in the pilot scheme (the largest in the world to date involving 61 companies and 2900 employees) are continuing with a four-day week
  • Stress and burnout for employees both significantly declined with 71% of employees reporting lower levels of burnout
  • Positive mental health increased by 43% and positive emotion at work increased by 64%
  • During the pilot scheme, resignations dropped by 57%
  • 63% of businesses also found it easier to attract and retain talent after moving to a four-day week

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