The customary five-day working week has been the norm since 1926 when the infamous automotive manufacturer Henry Ford introduced the eight hours, five-day week tradition. This replaced the previous industrial revolutionary twelve hours, six-day week, and was designed to increase civil rights for the labour of America. Modern-day challenges to this nearly 100-year-old custom are on the rise, especially in digital agency land, and earlier this year, a New Zealand company trialled the four-day working week as a way to increase business productivity and the well-being of its staff.
Why the four-day working week can be good for employees but bad for clients
As found in the New Zealand study, there are suggestions that a 32-hour week is good for productivity. This logic comes from the idea that employees who work less and spend more time doing things they value in life are happier and more motivated to produce results. A four-day week means that employees can spend more time exercising, enjoying their hobbies, doing things to alleviate stress and spending time with their loved ones. The New Zealand study found a 24% improvement in the work-life balance of its staff.
Furthermore, one of the biggest reasons for medical leave is work-related stress. As reported by the New Zealand study, stress levels were reduced by 7%. Therefore, fewer hours in the working week could result in lower stress levels and less staff signed off, and in turn, higher productivity.
Additionally, fewer hours in the working week could mean employees actually spend the time more efficiently rather than getting distracted with non-related work tasks such as using their smartphones, making hot drinks and chatting.
Moreover, there are suggestions that a four-day week is better for the environment, as people would spend less time driving their cars to work.
In practice however, the four-day working week tends to compress 40 hours into four days, making days longer and more stressful, which can actually reduce productivity, concentration and motivation. Stress and pressure for the employee ultimately means a decline in their well-being and mental health.
Longer hours in the day means that staff may not have time to spend on their hobbies in the evening, and families with children will need childcare for longer hours in the day.
As a digital agency and B2B businesses, we need to serve our clients on the usual working days – every business would have to adopt the new method for the four-day week to be successful. Clients need services and support every day of the week, and for agencies who put the needs of their clients first, the four-day week does not allow this.
The alternative - flexi hours
At Avenue Digital, we will not follow the trend of the four-day working week. Our clients’ needs come first, and they need services on the regular five days. Additionally, four-day weeks have been shown to create unnecessary pressure and stress on employees, which consequently could mean that work for our clients isn’t up to scratch.
Whilst we won’t be adopting the four-day week, we advocate the concept of flexible working hours, with the view that the team will be more motivated and work to their strengths. Flexible hours mean that the team produce their best quality work for our clients because they can, within reason, choose to work in hours that they are most productive. Additionally, our staff are able to enjoy a positive work-life balance which in turn we believe creates motivation and efficiency. Motivation and efficiency are key to providing the client with meaningful deliverables, performance efficiency, and an effective working relationship.
Working remotely or from home is also a key part of the flexibility, always ensuring that although not everybody is working during the same eight hours in the day, the work produced for our clients is of the highest level. Avenue’s five brand values are also achieved through our flexible working hours:
Excellence: Allowing the team to work when suits them and at their most productive times means that work will be produced to the best of our team’s ability and we will continually produce excellence for our clients.
Collaboration: If members of the team live nearby each other we allow them to collaborate outside of the office. The team can then complete effective, collaborative, high quality work, always ensuring our clients are put first.
Innovation: We are looking outside the box at how to work with our employees to achieve the best work-life balance for them, all whilst increasing productivity and performance for our clients.
Ambition: Flexibility fuels our ambition to continually produce the best performance efficiency for our clients. Allowing our team to work flexibly but efficiently, motivates our staff to be ambitious and push the boundaries of excellent client work.
Persistence: As an agency, we persist and strive to become better in any way we can be. We believe that flexible time will allow us to produce even better, more efficient and more productive results for our clients.
The trend of the four-day working week is on the rise, with companies and agencies across the UK and internationally taking the plunge. Whilst it is said to increase motivation and productivity, as an agency we see flaws in the four-day working week model, in that it creates unnecessary pressure and doesn’t allow us to serve our clients to the high standards they desire and demand. Instead, with flexible working hours, our team works to their strengths in a supportive and forward-thinking way, but our clients come first and are always provided with the best performance efficiency across their digital marketing activity.
Written by Alice Pelham