Ten lessons and tips for switching to a four-day week

From getting the team on board to fitting the week around your company's needs, there's plenty of preparation to do before you make the switch from five days to four.

We spoke to five business leaders to learn about their tips for switching to a four-day week and lessons they've learnt along the way.

This article is part six in our series on the four-day week. In the series, you'll learn what the four-day week is, the main motivations for implementing it and how to measure and track its success. You can see other articles in the series at the bottom of this page.

(1) Invite the team to participate in the planning stages

“We said to the team that we'd like their input into how to structure a four-day week. They went away and had a think about it and came back to us with their proposals, and we could then see that it would work. Because we had their buy-in, it worked really well.” Rachel Garrett, CMG Technologies

(2) Explain the new four-day week to clients – flagging up how it may even be to their benefit

“One of the reasons we are doing this is that we think we can be more productive as a business. We think it will make our staff happier and more engaged in the work that they're doing, which will benefit our clients. And we communicated that to all of our customers.” Andrew Dipper, streamGo

(3) Don't think of it as a free day off for everyone

“One of the things that often comes up when talking to other business owners is this idea that we are going to give everyone a free day off in return for substandard performance. They say, 'How does that make business sense?' I think you have to reframe it as, 'No, this is actually a productivity tool'. There is no way that every single person is 100 per cent productive every day. I think in most businesses people are probably about 60 per cent productive. So, if you could take that up to 80 per cent over four days, or even 85 per cent, you're in a better position.” Dominic Chandler, Yo Telecom

(4) Make sure that you mould a four-day week around your firm's need

“There's often a misconception around people thinking that there's a 'one size fits all' approach to this. If you think about a five-day week, some people work weekends, some people work weekdays, some are on shift work. There are so many different ways that companies can approach a four-day week.” Andrew Dipper, streamGo

(5) Don't underestimate the value of a happy workforce

“If you don't have happy staff, you don't have a productive workforce. By allowing them to have an additional day off, I think it not only helps them be happier but to have a better work-life balance in general. People need to really think about the knock-on effect this has on a business, because if you've got more productive staff, your business is only going to get better.” Dominic Chandler, Yo Telecom

(6) Remember that it may take some getting used to

“One of the things that we do try and do regularly is to encourage people to definitely take the time off, because I think it's quite easy to go, 'I'll just finish this bit of work' on a Friday lunchtime, and suddenly it's three o'clock. One thing that helps is to have a chat about it in our internal group chats on a Friday morning, saying things like 'What have you got planned for this afternoon?'.” Andrew Dipper, streamGo

(7) Remember that productivity will need to improve if you are to maintain revenues

“We looked at lots of productivity optimisation, trying to reduce operations where we could, so that everything goes through the system a lot quicker. There's been a whole circle of improvements that weren't necessarily anticipated, to be honest.” Rachel Garrett, CMG Technologies

(8) When measuring, look beyond the black and white

“There are a lot of other hidden benefits, things like how much you don't have to spend hiring someone because you're retaining good people who want to stay with you. You're spending less on training, less on onboarding. Offering a four-day week is also a really big benefit if you want to attract the best talent.” Andrew Dipper, streamGo

(9) Embrace the opportunity

“We're going into the unknown, but after the pandemic, how bad can it be? It's more exciting than daunting, I would say.” Morgan Rigby, MBL Seminars

(10) Accept that a four-day week may, in fact, be long overdue

“One thing people don't realise is that the five-day week is not some 'written in stone thing' we've had since time immemorial. Way back in the 1830s people used to work seven days a week and they were given the right to have Sunday mornings off so they could go to church. That gradually became all of Sunday, and then factory workers started getting weekends off in the 1930s, but the five-day week wasn't widespread until the 1950s. We've dropped from seven days to six to five – and it's about time we dropped to four.” Neil Knowles, Elektra Lighting

Learn more about the four-day week

Read the next article in our four-day week series

The future of work?