Is the four-day working week going to be right for you and your business? (as featured in EG magazine)
Jun 30th, 2022
I was asked by EG magazine (formerly Estates Gazette) to look at some of the key considerations that business leaders need to think about when deciding whether or not to implement the four-day working week.
My comment piece appears this week in their online platform EG Radius and I thought I would share it with you
Opinions are definitely split as to how manageable a four-day working week is, although this was no-doubt also that case in the early 1900’s when many factories started adopting a five-day week, instead of the standard six days; although with much less social media hype and online commentary.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the large-scale six-month trial that started in June in the UK.
This month more than 70 UK companies signed up to take part in what is the biggest global trial of a four-day working week in the world.
Campaigners for the long-term implementation are citing that it will be good for the economy, good for workers and good for the environment. They are also highlighting statistics that show that companies already testing it have found that productivity has, at the very least, remained constant, but often increased.
A four-day working week is not going to suit everyone, but will it, in principle, work in the property industry and, if so, what considerations need to be made?
Is the property industry ready?
The property industry has often been known for being slow to embrace change, but this is definitely something that is starting to be addressed. Experienced leaders are increasingly leaving corporate roles in agency, investment and development to start their own businesses or move to smaller, disruptive firms. This is being led by a desire for more control over their job function, greater flexibility and less red tape. People are burnt out and it is currently a competitive employment marketplace. This is possibly a sign that an unofficial move towards a four-day week is already happening.
One of the biggest challenges that the industry currently has is in attracting diverse talent. Embracing new models for working life could be one way of making a wider range of talent consider a career in property.
No major change should be blindly jumped into though, so it will be important for leadership teams considering the shift to carefully think through the implications and benefits, as well as how to implement it.
Set clear expectations
Productivity comes not from the number of hours worked, but in the efficiency with which outcomes are achieved. If you can do the same, or more, in four days, then why do it in five?
Clarity of deliverables is everything. Setting clear expectations around the outcomes that teams and team members need to achieve is good leadership practice for any working model, but it will be key to the success of a four-day working week.
Agreeing clear targets enables everyone to be accountable and take ownership for how productive they are during the time that they work. It also makes it easy to measure success effectively and allows everyone to know what success looks like.
For a four-day week to work, strong processes will need to be in place to help teams work more efficiently.
Time spent on administrative tasks is often one of the biggest hurdles in the way of productivity, so spend some time looking at what investment in technology may be required. Also, review what current unproductive admin habits are in place now and see what efficiencies can be made.
Maintain a creative culture
The property industry in creative by nature. This is true whether discussing design or the best way to handle complex negotiations, so structuring regular time for in-person team collaboration is key.
Can you still be “always on’”?
For service providers, it is going to be essential to have clear structures in place for client care. Clients should not notice any difference in the level of service they receive. The property industry is often a 24/7 business, so careful consideration will need to be made as to how teams are structured to ensure there is always cover and that everyone knows what is happening and when.
That said, the internal benefits of a four-day working week will only be seen if the “always-on” culture that drives the property industry is carefully managed. Employees’ biggest fear will be that if they don’t work every day, they will be limiting their prospects for promotion. This will be heightened if managers don’t lead by example and demonstrate how an ‘always on’ culture doesn’t have to mean ‘always working’.
Know why you are doing it
Before implementing anything new, you need to be clear as to why you are doing it and what you want the change to achieve. To do this you need to see if the potential changes will help you meet your business priorities. For most businesses, the basic priorities for any changes made are to increase profitability, improve staff wellbeing and attract and retain the best talent.
Even just trialling the move will mean a big change for your business and team, so make sure you are communicating clearly why you are doing it, what it will mean and how it will benefit everyone.
If you think moving to a four-day working week could be a means to getting what you want from your business, then it is definitely worth exploring further.
For the four-day week to work, it will need employees to own the idea. It needs to be led by their desire for a more flexible working life so that they are accountable for its success or failure.
Oona Collins is founder of Potential Plus International