Firm switches to nine-day fortnight after successful trial

CharlieHR makes its nine-day fortnight a permanent policy following a nine-month trial that saw wellbeing and productivity improve

Rather than trialling a four-day work week, for the last nine months, CharlieHR, a service which offers on-demand HR advice and HR software to UK SMEs, has been trialling a nine-day fortnight with its team – alternating between a five and four-day work week – to test if adjusting traditional working patterns can boost wellbeing and productivity. The results of the trial, which ran between October 2021 and June 2022 included:
– a 24 per cent decrease in work-related stress across the company
– a 14 per cent increase in team members’ ability to disengage from work
– an 11 per cent increase in productivity
– and 40 per cent of hiring candidates (as of May 2022) said the nine-day fortnight was one of their top three reasons for wanting to join the company

CharlieHR launched its nine-day fortnight trial with the goal of improving its team’s wellbeing and enable them to have more energy to give back to other important areas of their life outside of work. The trial was also an attempt to think about how the team could increase their focus and, in turn, become more efficient and productive. And lastly, to provide another vehicle for hiring, motivating and retaining staff. With other policies such as its Mental Health sick days and Nomad Working policy, the nine-day fortnight was designed to support CharlieHR’s wider ambition to be at the forefront of progressive approaches which will ‘Make Work Better.’

The wellbeing-related results of the trial – a 24 per cent decrease in work-related stress and a 14 per cent increase in the ability to disengage from work – were welcome, but to some extent expected. However, with the business unsure as to whether productivity-levels would be impacted by reducing working hours, the 11 per cent increase in self-reported productivity was the trial’s biggest surprise.

Ben Gateley, CEO and co-founder of CharlieHR, said: “The focus of the nine-day fortnight was very much about our continued investment in the wellbeing of our team. I have always felt that our work life is intimately connected to whatever else we do, and this idea was an extension of that. It came from the simple and obvious premise that if team members have more time to be fulfilled outside of work, they will be happier and therefore likely to do a better job.

“What wasn’t clear when we started the trial was whether increased personal energy and bounce would make up for lost time and mean we don’t lose by way of productivity. It has seemed not, and productivity is up by 11 per cent. Having working hours reduced does seem to improve team members’ focus – we just need to keep a watchful eye that this remains to be the case. An inspiration for positive focus and not a stressful pressure to get the same amount of work done in a shorter period of time.”

CharlieHR’s trial came at a time when many other businesses were signing up to a four-day work week as part of a trial with Oxbridge and Boston College in the US. The spirit of the four-day week, to test new and better ways of working, was aligned with CharlieHR’s intentions but it was felt a four-day work week would not work for the CharlieHR team.

Of his decision to trial a nine-day fortnight over a four-day work week, Ben Gateley said:  “Companies and employees must be under no illusion that the four-day work week is some kind of ‘magic bullet.’ Companies operate within all kinds of structures. Some will be able to accommodate a shortened working week, and, for others, it would be totally inappropriate. Those with customer-facing roles or with ‘always-on’ tech deliverables will find a four-day week will be far from practical. And for those for whom it might work, there are wellbeing implications to consider which are at odds with the seemingly work/ life friendly offer to reduce your hours by a significant 20 per cent. Employees whose working week is already maxed out will find a directive which removes an entire working day every week stressful, meaning they are required to work longer hours to make up the shortfall.

“We chose not to see the four-day work week as a mandate. Rather we embraced its spirit and looked for a solution which would work for us and would genuinely improve productivity, engagement and wellbeing. Working policies should feel as diverse as the products and services different businesses offer. Only then will we find solutions which actually work commercially and personally.”