4-day working week - does it work in reality?

Six months into my previous job, I already knew that it wasn’t somewhere I saw myself long-term. With no end in sight to the 12–14-hour days, I was already exhausted. Admittedly, some of this was self-inflicted – I’ve always been a glutton for punishment and was partly convinced that if I didn’t put in the extra time, I’d never progress up the ladder. Trying to find some time off was neigh on impossible and 6 months without a break, often working weekends, was definitely starting to take its toll.

While I loved the buzz (and abundant swearing) that comes with being in a larger network agency, I’d already started paying more attention to job adverts as they came up on my LinkedIn feed. I was determined not to just jump ship to the next passing opportunity; I saw my next move as much more long-term. I knew that I wanted to continue my career in client services – I love the daily problem solving, endless twists and turns to a project, and building relationships with clients. I also knew that finding the right work-life balance was incredibly important for me. There had been times that I’d turned down nights out, pretty much given up on rock climbing (which I was doing for 12 hours a week, previously) and frankly I just needed to rest a little and enjoy life.

Enter Synergy Vision. During my daily trawl of LinkedIn, I noticed an advert from a recruiter pushing a 4-day working week. I think my first message to the recruiter was “is that actually possible?!”

Fast-forward to prepping for my first interview with Ffyona (Global CEO) and Jill (Client Services Director). I’d already been given a full-page print-out of the company benefits – flexible working, duvet days, value awards, time off on your birthday, drinks trolley and, office dogs (I’ve got two border collies, so this was a big tick). The list goes on. All the emphasis was on an honest, open culture. I was slightly hesitant still – I’d seen things promised before butnever followed through.

During the interview the same values kept cropping up. Ffyona was very transparent about the company and its ambitions. It was clear that they wanted to find someone who was, above all, a good fit with the rest of the company – both in terms of fitting into the SV culture on a personal level, but also in terms of commitment to delivering quality work by bringing in different qualities and experiences. People at SV are not clones of one another, everybody has their own quirks and skills and SV really puts emphasis on drawing in a wide variety of different attributes. Many of them are ‘long-timers’, and for a company only10 years old, the staff turnover is really low. People seem to stay while the company continues to grow.

Things went well and safe to say, I got the job! I’ve been here just over 6 months now and my impressions of the company are the same, if not better. I’ve never worked with a more open, lovely bunch of people. Everyone is genuinely kind and looks out for each other. There is no dog-eat-dog here.  

As the initial draw to the company, I was sceptical about how the 4-day week would work in practice. Would work get dropped? Would people actually be able to switch off? I wondered how I would manage to achieve this myself. Would I just end up working even longer hours? How flexible would it be?

Actually,it turns out it’s pretty flexible. Everyone chooses which day they get off each week. There is one core day when everyone works – Thursdays. The non-working days get arranged about a month or two in advance, checking in with the team to make sure all work is properly covered.

Some people like the routine of having the same day off each week, and some, like me, prefer to mix it up a little. Taking a Friday and a Monday off consecutively means I get the luxury of a long-weekend – enough time to even travel abroad for a 4-day trip. Or, I can take a Wednesday off, go rock climbing and still complete all my boring life admin, clearing the weekend for proper rest and relaxation. Everyone spends their time differently – some people have taken up a new hobby, some people do bugger-all and use it to recharge, and a lot of people use it to ensure their weekends are free to be properly enjoyed with friends and family.  

I thought that with a 4-day working week all flexibility would be tied to that, and there’d be little or no room for manoeuvre outside of it. When I’ve worked from home or switched my hours around to suit project or personal needs, the response has always been positive; I make my own time and the jobs always get done – this flexibility and autonomy are seen as a given rather than something that you then need to ‘give back’. I now occasionally work from home, stay in contact with my team all day, and complete my work in an environment that helps me work best depending on what’s going on. The best thing is that I now actually enjoy coming into the office more and seeing the team.

So, am I still working 12–14 hour-days every day under the guise of getting a day off each week? No. It’s not to say that there won’t be long days ahead. Agency life means there will always be the need to be flexible. There are still always going to be late nights; frantically prepping expert speakers and putting the finishing touches to slides before a symposium or delivering the latest creative campaign developed by our fantastic in-house team. Have I got everything I need to support me in doing so? Absolutely.

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