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Working week: making five go into four

LSCA Business Board vice chair Anzo Francis looks at how an agile organisation can help its staff achieve the goal of a four-day working week, through teamwork, technology and trust.

Anzo Francis

January 2020

There is talk in the press, and among politicians, that the UK should be heading towards the ‘Nirvana’ of the four-day working week. Is this possible or feasible in the UK?

Can staff be paid for five days and work only four? A possible route map would be to embrace agility.

This may require businesses to invest in new ways of working and commit to technology. The return on investment could be exponential, including significantly boosted customer and employee satisfaction, plus higher profits and surpluses over the long run.

Let’s look at what agile workplaces do differently; here’s a checklist:

  • Agile workplaces embrace a collaborative, flexible and open environment.
  • They are outcomes-focused and encourage teamwork throughout the organisation.
  • They are data-driven and focus on solving problems.
  • They give employees freedom to innovate and choose how they work, focused on performance.
  • They outperform their competitors as staff are well motivated, deliver better customer service and better products.
  • Their staff work anywhere, on mobile devices, laptops and cloud technology.
  • Their staff rely on work online using the latest collaborative tools and share information real-time.
  • They invest in customer engagement over the phone, email, social media, chatbots and messaging.
  • They enable their customers to browse, order goods and services and make payment online via cloud-platforms.
  • They hold meetings and deliver training and communications online across all time zones.
  • They share ideas quickly and respond rapidly to new trends, customer wants and behaviours. 
  • They design and create new and improved products and then bring them to market quickly, efficiently and at lower cost.
  • They digitise processes, improve workflow across teams and thereby boost productivity.
  • They improve employee satisfaction by freeing teams from mundane tasks so that staff focus more on customers, sales and creativity; this in turn boosts revenue and profits.

So how might agile working translate into a four-day week? By approaching strategic and operational objectives in a more flexible and innovative way, organisations become free to embrace flexible systems, procedures and people-related policies.

Communications company Synergy Vision, recently featured in the press, initiated a 10% cut in working hours from 40 to 36, and then compressed hours into four days. They ran a six-month ‘proof of concept’ pilot. The evidence was similar company productivity with significantly happier staff, improved recruitment of new talent and improved retention.

Agile businesses empower their teams with choice on how they work, trusting staff to ‘get the job done’, be flexible and innovative, with unrelenting product and customer focus.

Compressed hours provide a tool for achieving the four-day week, enabling staff to maintain income levels and achieving better work/life balance.

Anzo Francis is vice chair of the LSCA Business Board

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