'My Company is Offering a 4 Day Week For the Same Pay'

Myself and my team have reflected a lot over the past 18 months because we've been in the eye of the storm. When everybody else was locked down during the pandemic, we worked pretty much all the way through because our company provides health and social care professionals to organizations that need staff. In some ways, we were lucky, because we maintained a semblance of "normal" in a crazy situation.

As many companies began to be more flexible with working from home, a seed was planted and I began looking at reports and articles about the Scandinavian approach to business and work culture.

In the U.K. it seems that we have a situation where those who are "first in, last out" are seen as the heroes, but in places like Sweden, the mindset is often: if you need to be there that long, you're not doing your job properly. That really struck a chord with me.

Our company, Fairway Homecare, focuses on our social care staff and clients and sometimes we do forget about ourselves in the office. A lot of our staff have been with us for seven, eight or nine years and a lot of them have started families. We really like to pride ourselves in being innovative and our people go over and above anyway, so it was about creating more of a work-life balance. As operations director, I personally feel that the concept of working 9-to-5 or putting in 12 hours a day to stand out from the crowd is really backwards and old fashioned. So, introducing a four day week with the same pay as a five day week was just the next logical step.

There are about 40 staff who will be affected by our change to a four day week from January 2022. When we told them, a few asked what the catch was. There was a general sense of "why?" or "what's in it for you?" It's almost as though staff were looking for the catch, but once we got through those initial barriers and explained that it is what it says on the tin, people were intrigued by how it will work.

We have had some staff say it will help reduce childcare costs, some say they can now have some "me" time while their kids are at school and others tell us they will be able to travel more.

Fairway Homecare are Introducing Four Day Weeks
Alex O'Neill addresses staff at Fairway Homecare in the U.K. The company is moving to a four day week in January 2022. Edwin Ladd

Holiday allowance is pro rata so it's gone down from 28 days to 22-and-a-half per person, to reflect the four day week, but each staff member gets 52 extra days off. We've slightly elongated the days by 45 minutes and reduced lunch break to 30 minutes. But the net effect is that our staff are at least 6 and a half hours a week better off.

A lot of staff have asked us what will happen on public holidays and whether we will still do a four day week when public holidays occur? The answer is yes. Nothing will change from how we operate now to how we will operate from January, other than we will have a four day week. I find it interesting because you see the inbuilt societal cynicism I guess; people suspecting a catch. There is no catch. I just want the people who love working for us and are happy being where they are to get used to a four day working week very quickly.

In any office, system or structure there is a lot of "less productive" time, so it's just a case of getting people to focus their minds and work in a more concentrated fashion over a shorter period of time. The way we operate as a team means that we don't have a set of tasks that one person completes and if they're not there, it sits on their desk waiting. The whole company is far more fluid than that. Our team works amongst themselves to make sure that tasks are completed. Hopefully they will get more out of it and we will as well.

My cards are on the table; we want to attract strong talent and keep everyone we have now. Ultimately, we have had a lot thrown at us during the past 18 months and come through it unscathed and much stronger. If you cut a trunk in half you see all the rings of age, and I see that as similar to all the experiences, journeys and challenges my current team has gone through together; it has made us what we are.

Technically we have said we'll see how it goes and if it impacts performance and results, we can reverse it, but we are aware that could be quite a drawn out process. To be honest, I genuinely believe that we'll never go back to a five day week.

It's a cliche, but from the moment I walked into my job, I haven't worked a day. That is 100 percent true, anyone who knows me or works with me will confirm it. I know very well that I am very lucky. I've never had any sort of issue with looking at the clock. I have to remind myself that normal people do! I think this decision is a case of me trying to help my staff join my mindset and love work as much as I do.

Alex O'Neill is operations director at Fairway Homecare in Sutton Coldfield, U.K. You can follow Fairway on Twitter @Fairwayjobs.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.