Charity Finance Banking Survey 2024

The questionnaire is now open for responses. Share your views by 28th February to receive a free copy of the published survey report and one lucky person will also win a £100 John Lewis voucher.


Charities adopt permanent four-day week to boost efficiency and staff wellbeing

07 Dec 2022 News

Dzmitry / Adobe Stock

Charities including those taking part in a six-month pilot programme have moved to a permanent four-day working week to boost staff wellbeing and increase efficiency. 

Friends of the Earth said it has reduced its working week from 35 to 30 hours as part of a “wellbeing initiative that is also formalising our hybrid working arrangements”.

The Royal Society of Biology (RSB) and Debt Justice, which both took part in the trial, said that flexible working has given staff a better work-life balance, with the former deciding to retain these arrangements next year.

In June, over 70 organisations across more than 30 sectors joined the world’s largest ever pilot in which staff would receive 100% of their pay for 80% of their usual hours while committing to delivering 100% of their normal productivity.

A few weeks into the trial, charities RSB, Scotland’s International Development Alliance and Waterwise revealed that the initiative had already improved employee wellbeing while either maintaining or increasing productivity.

Improved productivity and better work-life balance

RSB chief executive Dr Mark Downs explained that the trial has been about “improving productivity whilst striving to be a better, innovative employer to attract and retain our current staff”. 

“It’s encouraged smarter working, whereby more thought is given to: do we really need an hour for a meeting when we could do it in 30 minutes? Do we need four people in a meeting when two would do?”

He said it has also given the charity the opportunity to provide staff with a “better work-life balance, whether it’s spending quality time with family and friends, personal development with hobbies, or generally relaxing to reduce stress and burnout”. 

“Especially after the pandemic, workers now have different expectations around what constitutes a healthy life-work balance. Our employees are very enthusiastic about the benefits delivered by the trial and as an organisation we want to build on this success. Of course, the impact we can have for both the public and our members remains key.”

RSB still operates five days a week through a rota system, with no changes to service levels or availability.

Downs said the trustees have agreed to “continue this flexible working offer into 2023, with an annual review”.

Responding to a rapidly changing world 

In a LinkedIn post, Adrian Cruden, head of people at Friends of the Earth, said that the charity has reduced its working week from 35 to 30 hours.

Friends of the Earth will continue to operate five days a week, with almost all full-time staff working Tuesday to Friday or Monday to Thursday for the same pay. 

Some staff also “opted to work reduced daily hours over five days”, Cruden said.

“As people are more refreshed, they become more energised and focussed in what they do - indeed, with greater staff wellbeing, their organisations are much better set to realise the true potential of both people and technology in terms of productivity, creativity and impact. Additionally, greater flexibility in when and where we work also helps organisations become more diverse, creating conditions where groups often excluded from the workplace or from career development are more able to access life-changing opportunities,” he added.

Miriam Turner, co-executive director at Friends of the Earth, commented: “In several decades of campaigning our organisation has gone through many evolutions. By reducing our working hours we’re once more responding to the rapidly changing world we’re faced with.

“In line with the growing body of evidence supporting the move to a four-day week, we believe it will improve the efficacy of our campaigning, boost the wellbeing and work-life balance of our staff, and importantly, minimise our environmental impact by reducing our consumption and demand on resources. This is an exciting next chapter for Friends of the Earth – we hope that others in the sector will see how this could benefit them too.”

Energised, well rested and inspire team is ‘essential’ in charities

Debt Justice said it will decide whether or not to move to a permanent four-day week in February. 

Executive director Heidi Chow, said: “The shorter worker week is about working smarter rather than longer and investing in the wellbeing of staff. Having a more energised, well rested and inspired staff team is essential in our work which is heavily based on creativity, relationship building and problem solving. 

“As an organisation that campaigns to end unjust debt, we’re fighting for systemic change in the wider economy. The shorter working week allows us to start modelling a vision of a wellbeing economy through rejecting an ableist, patriarchal work culture where time is equal to value and drives over-working, burn out, stress and poor mental health that have become common features of working life.”

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


More on