After 1 year of working Monday to Thursday (a 4 day week), we can certainly say that our experiment has been a big success (excuse my euphoria, here). Good Rebels adopted a 100-80-100 scheme (100 % productivity, 80 % time, 100 % salary) back in July 2021. It’s been a ride but not everything has been rosy. If you want to stop hearing opinions and go into some real data from the trenches of a company that decided to walk the talk, keep reading. Most professionals look at it with scepticism. Or they see it like an impossible feat. But, it is not and though the starting point will naturally affect the journey, your company can do it too.
The 4 day week is not just a new craze embraced by hipster companies and shouted by progressive politicians from the rooftops. It’s something that the wider society will adapt to sooner or later, thus shaping the future of work. And much faster than Saturdays being taken off the working week a century ago, which started in 1910 and took decades to change.
Work-time down. Salaries up.
Let me repeat this upfront: we haven’t reduced our salaries. Quite the opposite, as always at the beginning of the year, we’ve raised them. The average increase was 10% – while higher salaries normally stay the same.
We are still available on Fridays in case something arises and on rare occasions shifts are established. But we try hard to devote the last day of the work week (or was it the first one of the weekend? 🙂 to do other tasks: learning, helping out, resting. We were the 2nd mid-sized company in Spain and one of the first in Europe to introduce it. Why did we do it, journalists normally ask. You can read more about our reasons here. The altruist one: to provide real data and help promote social change, which is deeply ingrained in our purpose, “inspire organisations to become more human-centred”.
But there were some less altruist and tangible benefits expected from this pioneer move. Here are some of the results we’ve tracked during the past 12 months:
- Our revenue per head has increased by a whopping 7%. Not only were we able to sustain 100% of our output and keep customer loyalty but also increase our sales in the last 12 months (year on year) by 18% with only an 11% increase in our headcount. Of course, the 4 day week is not the only factor, but I’m certain that it contributes.
- Revenue per client is up by 30%. When we communicated our decision to our clients there were mixed feelings: some were more enthusiastic with the idea and others adopted more of a wait and see attitude. But keeping them happy is our raison d’être. This was an important premise of our experiment: happier Rebels, happier clients. It would have been impossible without them. THANK YOU!
- Our voluntary turnover is down 35-45% compared to our pre-pandemic levels. In our worst years, voluntary employee turnover has been 15-20 %. This year we foresee no more than 10%. But there’s one caveat. Our Rebel Pulse (a simple motivational question) improved by 15 percentage points half year after the experiment was started, compared to the previous 6 months. But results from the first half of this year are similar to the first half of 2021. Is the motivational effort decaying with time? I guess we get used to everything, but it still makes a lot of sense.
- Yes, we do work some Fridays, but… Approximately, one in two Rebels declared to have worked some Fridays in a given month. But the amount and type of work has nothing to do with a normal workday. We spend one or two hours working on a given thing or we just have a quick interaction for some unexpected reason. Of course, we are a professional services firm. We are used to working under pressure with a relevant level of stress and attrition. No major changes here.
- We, Rebels, feel more productive and rested. Over the last 12 months, we’ve had some training about personal and team productivity, but I guess that just working to have Fridays off is the best productivity incentive for all of us. According to our internal research, after 4 months working on a 4 day scheme the Rebels’ attitude towards work had improved for 85% of us, out of whom 61% had seen a very positive change. 93% saw improved productivity, 89% of them declared to better manage their time, and 89% experienced more energy during the working day.
- Remote First was key. After the 4 day week, we adopted everywhere (Mexico, Barcelona, Brighton and Madrid) a “remote first” approach. We’ve kept our offices, but people can work from anywhere with meetings and team dynamics of not everyone being in the same room. Some work 100% remotely and others spend two to three days per week in the office. I’d say that we spend one or two days per fortnight in the office on average. No more back and forth research. Working remotely has made us way more productive.
But … What about “culture”?
The last point brings an important question: are companies able to maintain their culture working remotely? My first reaction is always a bit cynic: if the culture of the company you work for is all about the watercooler, you’d better find a new job. As I define it, corporate culture has to do with shared beliefs and collective behaviours. The alignment of both creates a strong culture. And our Rebel culture is something precious that took us quite long to build and is behind the success of our 4 day experiment. The starting point I referred to at the beginning. We have a Leadertarian manifesto that promotes autonomy and freedom in the workplace in exchange for responsibility. Our love in the workplace keeps on sustaining all of this, and our radical transparency principles are key to how we give feedback and make decisions.
But of course, if we talk about “engagement” it is clear that working remotely affects our social bonds with colleagues, and companies need to do something about it. And you’d better start now or accept to fade away, because not even the Musks of this world will bring people back to their workplaces as long as they are offered a hybrid arrangement. Working on our culture must be independent of our physical locations, and we’ll have to nurture storytelling and rituals as long as hiring (and firing) according to culture, by not tolerating certain behaviours. And this has nothing to do with working 4 or 5 days per week, in a shared space or with a globetrotter workforce.
When it comes to introducing a 4 day week scheme, there are many reasons why your company might want to wait and see: being a pioneer is a high risk demeanour and many die in an attempt to demonstrate that a different world is possible. But late adopters won’t reap many of the benefits (lower turnover, emotional salary?) and will be perceived as dinosaurs. Are you willing to attract young talent? You can give them futile perks (never enough) or you can become serious about changing our ways as the world progresses.