Trialling a four day week

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By Alex Lloyd Hunter & Joe Escalante Coney

What are we doing, and why?

It’s a central part of Forward Action’s mission and identity that we only work with progressive causes. It was one of our founding values, and it has now been written into our new constitution as an employee owned organisation.

We believe both the ends and the means matter when it comes to being progressive; not just pursuing a mission that makes the world a better place, but pursuing it in a way that treats your staff and beneficiaries with compassion, dignity and respect. We aim to hold ourselves to the same standard.

We also believe that happy, fulfilled team members will produce better work for our partners than if we pursue the traditional agency model of overwork and burn out. So we are constantly looking for ways to make Forward Action a more inclusive, enjoyable and enriching place to work.

Flexible working is an important part of that. From the beginning, everyone at Forward Action has had the option to work four days a week, regardless of their role. Those who have done so have reported significant benefits, particularly: more energy and creativity, which leads to producing even better work; improved mental health; being more present for their families; and less stress outside work. We’ve also seen organisational benefits, too, in particular our inclusivity to parents or people with health conditions.

However, access to these benefits was restricted to team members who could afford to be paid a part time salary. We want to open them up to the whole team.

So from January – April 2023, we’re going to be trialling a model where all team members work four days a week for a full time salary, following on from a successful UK-wide pilot of the four day week.

We’re excited about this change and are confident it will have benefits not just for our team but for our partners too. In fact, it’s our number one, non-negotiable success criterion for the trial that our results and partners’ experience of working with us stay just as high. We’re actually aiming for them to go up, by harnessing the opportunities for more productivity and creativity that the four day week has been shown to create.

How will the trial work?

During the trial, all Forward Action team members will work Monday – Thursday, with an on-call system for emergencies on Fridays (details here).

We’ll start the trial on 3rd January, continuing it until the end of April. In mid-March, we’ll decide whether to make the change permanent, reverse it, or continue the trial. We’ll make this decision based on whether we’ve met our success criteria, of which results and quality of partner experience are the most critical.

What does success look like?

Our criteria for success fall into three camps:

  • operational – we are able to do the same amount of partner work in four days as we did in five
  • team – because of benefits to their working experience, 75% of the team want to keep the four day week beyond the trial
  • partner – costs do not go up up (our team has also unanimously voted to take a smaller annual pay rise this year to make this possible); results and partners’ experience of working with us stay as good or improve; projects are delivered as quickly as before; we’re able to effectively respond to emergencies on Fridays using our on-call system

We’ll be assessing how we’re doing against each of these criteria every two weeks during the trial, making any corrective adjustments to how we’re implementing the four day week as we go.

Next steps

Over the next few weeks we’ll be getting everything in place for a smooth transition over to a four day week in January. As we go through the trial, we’re hoping to update on our progress through our blog. In the meantime, if you want to hear more or have any questions you want to raise, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – we’d be delighted to chat to you.

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Written by Alex Lloyd Hunter & Joe Escalante Coney

Founders & Co-Executive Directors