British company praised for moving to a four-day week after a trial success

A four-day week could offer some employees a better work life balance. (Getty Images)
A four-day week could offer some employees a better work life balance. (Getty Images) (Getty)

A British company is being applauded for moving the entire team to a four-day working week after the success of a month-long trial.

Marketing agency Tribera says the trial during March saw a boost in productivity, wellbeing and morale within the team – all while still hitting their business targets.

Now the agency has moved to a permanent four-day week schedule, with staff required to work Monday to Thursday, with no change in pay or benefits.

The company believes the shift will allow staff to achieve their ideal work-life balance, whilst still delivering on results and goals.

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Following the announcement of the move, flexible working campaigner Anna Whitehouse, AKA Mother Pukka, praised the company for offering proof that the four-day working week model can be a success.

"After a successful four-day week trial, Birmingham agency @wearetribera is now implementing a permanent four-day week on the same pay and benefits," she wrote.

"The company saw an increase in productivity, profit margins, with sick days decreasing – without ramming five days into four.

"And while it’s not for everyone or every industry, it’s proof that working shorter and smarter can make a big difference.

"Look at what people are doing not how long they’re sitting doing it.

"Who’s next?" she finished her rallying post.

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Tribera hopes the move could help to demonstrate that the concept of a four-day working week is viable for certain companies and industries.

“Ever since we founded Tribera over three years ago, we have always had a flexible hours policy in place, so our team could work when it suits them best," explains Fran Nolan, managing director at Tribera.

"I want our team to go to the gym during the day, to be able to pick their children up from school and to take a break when they need it. In theory, anyone could have condensed their hours and taken a Friday off, but sometimes you need to encourage your team more overtly towards a healthy work-life balance.

"Having the freedom of a Friday without logging on is another step in the right direction.

"Our trial has proven the success a four-day working week can bring, and with a few tweaks here and there, we are happy to announce that it will become a permanent change for our team. "

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Trials of four day weeks have proved 'successful'. (Getty Images)
Trials of four day weeks have proved 'successful'. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Tribera's employees are certainly on board with the move, with content executive, Amber Ducane saying a four-day week has been "amazing" for her professional and personal life.

"I’ve seen a huge improvement in my productivity," she says. “My work-life balance has improved tenfold since the trial; it has allowed me to use Fridays to focus on things that matter to me, including my mental wellbeing”.

Watch: Wales could become the latest country to trial a four-day week. Here's why

The company isn't the only one to be testing out the benefits of a shorter week. Another major group trial of a four-day working week was recently launched in the UK.

Approximately 30 British companies are taking part in the six-month scheme, with employees being paid the same amount as if they were working full-time.

It follows the largest-ever trial of a four-day working week in Iceland, which was declared an "overwhelming success" and prompted calls to test out a similar working practice in the UK.

The trial, which took place between 2015 and 2019 and saw more than 1% of Iceland’s working population test out the pilot programme, cut the working week to 35-36 hours with no reduction in overall pay.

Workers reported feeling less stressed and at lower risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also reported having more time to spend with their families, enjoy hobbies and complete household chores.

Employees could have more opportunity to focus on their wellbeing. (Getty Images)
Employees could have more opportunity to focus on their wellbeing. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Benefits of a four-day working week

While there has been some doubt cast about the measurable success of the Icelandic trial, experts believe moving to a more flexible work model could mean British workers are able to enjoy a better work-life balance, leading to improved wellbeing and mental health.

According to Craig Jackson, professor of occupational health psychology at Birmingham City University many studies show that workforces do not get enough rest and leisure time when working hours expand (along with commuting time), indicating that work life-balance is more likely if we increase the rest days workers have.

"Working fewer days allows workers to focus their efforts into compressed working periods and have more 'down-time'," he explains.

"We talk lots about work-life balance but in my 20 years experience as a workplace psychologist, I rarely see any balance in those who work five days a week, but plenty in those who work fewer days."

As well as improving the health and wellbeing of employees, a four-day week could have positive impacts on productivity.

Though you might think an employee's output would fall as a result of working fewer hours, in fact the reverse may be true.

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Findings from research carried out on the four-day week by Henley Business School, discovered that of the UK businesses who have already adopted a four-day working week, nearly two-thirds (64%) reported improvements in staff productivity.

"Human productivity is not linear and we cannot work consistently over longer time periods without some flagging, fatigue or even reduction in performance quality," explains Professor Jackson.

The chance to enjoy more down-time could also lead to employees making better decisions at work and less absenteeism.

"The opportunity to slow down the pace of life with a longer weekend has personal and organisational benefit," explains Tracey Moggeridge, mindfulness practitioner at workplace psychology consultancy Pearn Kandola. "It means fewer rates of absenteeism, better decision-making and a happier and healthier workforce."

Getting a hit of serotonin during workers' increased time off can have wide-reaching impacts on workers' health which could lead to them needing fewer days off.

"Serotonin – the chemical we need to support our immune system among a host of other things – is also believed to help regulate mood, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function," says Moggeridge.

"Serotonin also comes from gentle exercise – and a four-day week would give us all more time for walking, yoga, t'ai chi or gardening."

Employers hope the four-day week could be beneficial for workers' mental health. (Getty Images)
Employers hope the four-day week could be beneficial for workers' mental health. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Any downsides to a four-day week?

While the potential benefits of a shorter week have been widely discussed, there are a few possible drawbacks to consider, including the fact that businesses don't all work in the same way.

Not all companies are able to shut for a weekday, particularly if customers expect people to be available five days a week, with certain industries requiring a 24/7 presence.

Likewise, some employees may not appreciate potentially being asked to work longer hours over four days to make up for an extra day off.

Employees may be expected to work the same hours in a week, but across four days instead of five, which for some could impact childcare arrangements.

Some workers may also feel under pressure to meet targets and finish projects in the four allocated working days, possibly increasing stress levels and impacting the quality of their work.

In some cases, employees may also end up working from home on their day off anyway to ensure they get their work done.

Watch: World’s largest ever four-day week trial in Iceland ‘overwhelming success’