The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged businesses to pivot and change, adopt new practices and accelerate digital transformation. This has resulted in many businesses reviewing their working patterns, with a rise in hybrid and flexible working practices. It has also led to an explosion of interest in a reduced working week. In the UK, a cross-party motion was submitted to Parliament in June 2020 seeking the introduction of a four-day-week, in recognition of the societal impacts of the pandemic. The idea of a reduced working week is gaining momentum across businesses in the UK, with a large pilot programme launched in the UK in 2022 by 4 Day Week Global.
Wavehill is an Employee-Owned company that operates for the benefit of employees as a collective. This reflects that the value of the company is in the staff; the knowledge, expertise, and ethos that they bring. As such, a happy and motivated team is fundamental to Wavehill’s success as a company. Exploring a nine-day fortnight for Wavehill emerged through our quarterly internal staff satisfaction survey as well as wider discussions in the company around alternative working patterns, work-life balance, and new ways of working in the research and evaluation sector, following the pandemic.
In July 2022, the Wavehill Directors proposed the restructuring of working hours that would lead to the company operating with a nine-day fortnight. The proposed model was subsequently put to staff who voted to introduce it as a six-month pilot from the 1st July this year. Whilst staff wellbeing and work-life balance were the primary drivers for the proposal, other factors including productivity, staff recruitment and retention, and job satisfaction have also been influential.
This is a significant change in the operational approach for the company, changing the working patterns of all our full-time staff. In order to provide continuity of service to clients, staff have been divided in two teams with people taking their 10th day on a fixed day on alternate weeks.
Evaluating the Nine-Day Fortnight – what does success look like?
Intrinsic to the successful adoption of the new working pattern is to collectively reflect on the impact this has on all aspects of the company. We are running an internal research project to evaluate the pilot. We have been watching closely as other pilots are launched and evaluated, including the 4 Day Week UK pilot which is being monitored by academics at Oxford and Cambridge University. As researchers by trade, we understand the value of outcome-based trials and identifying the metrics of success as early as possible in any evaluation process.
As part of the evaluation of this pilot we are seeking to understand what staff want from the new working pattern, and what they want to see measured by the research. In order to reflect on its success, it’s important to understand what a successful implementation of alternative working patterns looks like to staff, as well as any concerns or hesitations. We are conscious of the impact this might have on our current flexible working policies, time allocated to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), other commercial considerations as well as the impact on our clients.
Data on much of this is already being collected internally, which will enable us to take a longitudinal approach to understand the impact of the trial, including controlling for seasonal effects on personal wellbeing and an individual's use of their 10th day. The trial will run until January 2023.
Following the end of the pilot and its evaluation, we will take a collective view on whether we continue to adopt this policy going forward and will share our journey and our learning as we go. For more information please get in touch with Oliver Allies.
Institute for Employment Studies: An idealist dream or survival strategy
Centre for Policy Studies: The cost of a four day week to the public sector
New Economics Foundation: A shorter working week newsletter and campaign
4 Day Week Global: Guidelines for an outcome-based trial – raising productivity and engagement
Journal of Social Policy: A Social Policy Case for a Four-Day Week
Economics Observatory: What might be the effects of a four day working week?
The Royal Society of Arts (RSA): Four-day week: the social benefits