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Charities trialling four-day week report wellbeing and productivity gains

08 Jul 2022 News

Charities taking part in a six-month trial of a four-day working week have reported positive initial findings, with one organisation reporting an increase in productivity despite a reduction in hours. 

Last month, more than 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. 

The Royal Society of Biology, Scotland’s International Development Alliance and Waterwise told Civil Society News that their piloting of the initiative had already improved employee wellbeing while either maintaining or increasing productivity.

Charity Bank, which provides services to the social and voluntary sector and has also joined the trial, said the scheme had offered them flexibility and the opportunity to attract a more diverse workforce. 

Happier staff and greater productivity 

Scotland’s International Development Alliance’s seven full-time staff are all involved in the pilot, which it said had “encouraged efficient working practices” and a “better work-life balance amongst all staff”.

“Cutting hours by 20% is not as easy a task as it sounds and requires discipline and planning as well as avoiding the temptation to check emails,” said chief executive Frances Guy.

“Being part of a global pilot helps provide great support and an opportunity to learn from others with different and similar challenges.”

The Royal Society of Biology (RSB), which has an income of £22.8m and just over 30 employees, currently has 27 staff participating in the trial. 

Susie Rabin, associate director of parliamentary and public affairs of RSB, said that those involved in the initiative are “happy” and manage to do their jobs in four days.

“It is early days, just over a month in, but it seems to be going well and the advantages of having a three-day weekend so far outweigh any challenges around making it work,” she said.

Waterwise, a not-for-profit UK NGO, reported increased productivity among its eight members of staff taking part in the trial.  

Managing director Nicci Russell said: “I would definitely say that we have already increased productivity and we are measuring the impact of the trial on Waterwise and on employee wellbeing, supported by the experts involved in the trial.”

She added: “We are bedding in well to the new ways of working and making the most of our extra day off.”

Attracting a more diverse workforce

Charity Bank joined the trial after stating that the standard five-day working week is outdated and no longer fit for purpose.

Out of its 66 staff members, 90% have reduced their hours or intend to do so within the next month, according to Mark Howland, director of marketing and communications.

Howland said: “It’s too early to draw conclusions but we’ve seen some positive and encouraging signs. By looking to redesign the way that we work we can improve efficiency while maintaining productivity and enhancing the physical and mental health of employees. 

“The big changes that we’re seeing at the moment is that staff feel valued and refreshed and we’re starting to see productivity gains. We’re seeing no negative impact in terms of our social mission and business objectives and in terms of customer service, which is something that we monitor very closely.”

He argued that implementing a four-day working week has also made the bank a more attractive employer. 

“Previously, you might have questioned whether someone who’s only working four days a week would be progressed or promoted,” he said. “We don’t believe that merits exist at Charity Bank and there’s no reason why someone working four days a week wouldn’t get a promotion or be part of the senior management team because that’s exactly the same as everyone else. 

“So from a recruitment perspective, it’s been something that’s appealed to people we’ve been talking to, making us more and more of an attractive employee. It has also enabled us to be more flexible and offer more flexibility that enables us to attract a more diverse workforce.” 

Howland said that more than half of Charity Bank’s staff have caring responsibilities and being able to opt into a four-day working week had made a huge difference to their lives. 

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