We’re excited to share with you a remarkable business journey that has transformed the way we work as an organisation and the way we rest and recuperate as individual staff members.

In a world where the traditional 5-day workweek has long been the norm, six months ago we took to leap and decided to embark on a bold experiment — a 4-day work week pilot. Six months on, on the first day of our permanent change to this new, and improved, way of working, we are proud to share our experience in the hope that others will be inspired to take the plunge into a new, innovative, way of working.

Reimagining Work:

When we first introduced the idea of a 4-day workweek to staff, there was a mix of curiosity, scepticism, and excitement and concern. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we’re a team committed to delivering for the people whose needs we’re here to serve, unpaid Carers. Our principal concern was to challenge ourselves to not just meet our output goals but to ensure that our work quality, creativity and impact at a minimum wasn’t negatively impact, and at a best was improved. And so, our journey began.

Forward Carers prides ourselves on being a disruptor and innovator but we didn’t take this decision lightly, months before we launched the pilot we spent time reading the research on the results of other pilot programmes – they almost seemed too good to be true, improvements across many metrics, including productivity. Our Board supported our decision to challenge ourselves to an improved way of working and we aligned ourselves to the 4 Day Week Global pilot giving us access to experts, pilot partners across a range of industries and resources to support us in identifying areas we could improve our working practice.

Smarter Working Practices:

Key to the success of the pilot was the work we put in upfront and throughout to challenge ourselves to identify areas we could improve efficiencies, allowing us to achieve the same – or more – in fewer hours. We decided to change our pilot name from the four-day week pilot to the Smart Working Week, emphasising our focus on improved outcomes. 4 Day Week Global provided a host of resources that supported us to achieve this and the team helped develop these further:

  • Fewer, clearer and more action-focused emails
  • Fewer, shorter and more outcome focused meetings
  • Clearer actions and deadlines
  • Improved prioritisation on our core goals
  • Clearer leads on projects to reduce the risk of duplication
  • Better use of technology (a note on this at the end)

The Benefits We Witnessed:

Surge in Productivity: Counterintuitive as it may seem, our productivity levels experienced a positive surge. The shortened workweek inspired employees to optimise their time and focus on high-priority tasks. Knowing they had fewer days to accomplish their goals, they became more efficient, reducing time spent on distractions.

Heightened Creativity: Team members reported an increase in creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. With an extra day to recharge, they returned to work with fresh perspectives, leading to innovative ideas and solutions that propelled our projects forward.

Enhanced Impact: As a mission-driven organisation, impact is at the core of our objectives. Surprisingly, the condensed workweek didn’t just maintain our impact; it amplified it. By concentrating on strategic initiatives and eliminating time-consuming routines, we were able to direct our resources more effectively.

Improved Work-Life Balance: Staff wellbeing took a front seat in our experiment. Employees had more time to spend with loved ones, pursue personal interests, and recharge their batteries. This newfound balance translated into a happier, more motivated workforce. 100% of staff reported improved mental health and 80% reported improved physical health and improved family relationships.

Improved Focus on Core Outcomes: With an increased focus on measured our outcomes and impact, we identified better ways of tracking our KPIs, we moved from monthly/ quarterly reviews to weekly activity tracking, allowing us to celebrate success and head off any issues early.

Attracting and Retaining Talent: Our commitment to a shorter workweek will resonate with potential hires. The Smart Working Week, combined with our dedication to our mission, is currently a unique selling point that will attract top talent seeking a progressive work environment. Although, if as we suspect, and hope, the shorter work week becomes more common, this may not always hold true!

The Path Forward:

We used the weekly outcomes trackers, a weekly anonymous staff survey about experiences and impact of the four-day week and Line Manager feedback about project outputs to inform our recommendation to the Board to make this a permanent change.

Our successful pilot has propelled us to embrace the 4-day workweek as an integral part of our company culture. As we continue this journey, we’re committed to refining our processes and communication strategies to ensure we continue to learn and develop. A note here of thanks to our HR partners Clover HR who supported throughout with lots of valuable guidance.

In doing so, we’re proving that less can indeed be more. A shorter workweek doesn’t just mean fewer hours; it signifies a greater emphasis on work that truly matters, a healthier work-life balance, and a thriving team that’s enthusiastic about contributing their best.

As we share our story, we hope to inspire fellow organisations to consider re-evaluating their own workweek structures. Embracing change can be daunting, but the rewards are well worth the leap.

And for those that read to the end. You’ll notice we embraced new technologies. This blog was written with the support of ChatGPT using the prompt: “Write a blog from the perspective of a mission driven organisation that has run a successful 4-day week pilot and explain the benefits to the organisation productivity and impact and staff wellbeing”. Of course, I refined this significantly to reflect our own experiences and outcomes, but having a template to start from cut down the task by about 50%, allowing me to achieve more in less time!

If you’d like to know more about our experience, feel free to get in touch at anna.smith@forwardcarers.org.uk

To read more news from Forward Carers, check out our news section at https://forwardcarers.org.uk/latest-news/

Here’s just a few of the many positive experiences staff shared:

“I now try to attend meetings with a preplanned agenda with more specific points to discuss. I plan my week better.”

“I check in more frequently with colleagues and partners and with stronger intention regarding shared tasks/actions to ensure deadlines are met.”

“Working smarter has meant that we discuss and raise meaningful points rather than losing focus on topics.”

“Work-life balance has been better meaning I am more energised at work. I have used the non-working time for practical stuff which I would have booked leave for, as well as caring duties and leisure. It has led to more productive ways of working so I haven’t had to work on NWD as much as I anticipated.”

“The work life balance allows me to leave personal things at the door and be present and productive at work without worrying if I have the time to deal with certain things.”

“I think working 4 days makes you address your whole work/life balance – it’s great to have an extra day so your weekends are more free for fun/relaxation. More productive at work, meetings reduced and communication much better as a result.”

“I am really enjoying the smarter worker practices we have put into place, it has made meetings, emails, work focussed time just flow much better”

“Not only am I more efficient at work but I find I am now more efficient at home as well. My family are really feeling the benefit of the smart working week as I am both physically and emotionally more present.”

To read more news from Forward Carers, check out our news section at https://forwardcarers.org.uk/latest-news/