As agency owners, we often combat the perception and reputation that agencies overwork their employees. On top of that, we know that throughout this pandemic, employers everywhere are dealing with employee burnout. And the recent research that’s come out around employee burnout really bothers us.
- 77% of employees have experienced burnout in their current job.
- ⅔ of employees think that burnout has gotten worse during the pandemic.
- Most employees are feeling negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation or energy, and a lack of effort at work.
As an agency, the most important thing employees offer us is their time. So how can we, as employers and as agency owners, improve our employees’ time and our client experiences?
We think that revisiting things like standard work models is a good start. The five-day work week has been the standard for nearly a century. It’s worked, but it also doesn’t account for things like technology advancing as much as it has, remote work, flexible schedules or a changing workforce.
We see that it’s struggling to keep up with employees’ needs, and that can have a significant impact on a business. Burned out employees aren’t happy, they produce lower-quality work – and all that can have a negative impact on client relationships and revenue. This is especially true at smaller companies or agencies, where fewer employees means that any negative impact is felt faster and more deeply.
For UDG, we think the answer could lie in a four-day work week: so we’re going to pilot a four-day work week this summer.
Why switch to a four-day work week?
Shorter work weeks have been getting a lot of attention. And as more companies try it, more research is coming out that clearly shows the benefits of having a shorter work week.
Employees say that it’s changing things for the better.
- Employees who work four day weeks report having the highest rates of thriving wellbeing (63%), compared to those working five or six days.
- Over ¾ of employees report an overall better mental health: they’re happier, less stressed and take fewer sick days.
And employers are seeing the benefits, too.
- It can improve loyalty and retention. 80% of employees say they’d be more loyal to their employer if they offered flexible working schedules. Shorter work weeks can reduce overhead and other costs, like electricity, energy consumption and office supplies.
Overall, the initial research around shorter work weeks is promising.
But four-day work weeks don’t mean less work
As we’ve been exploring different ways to implement a four-day work week, we found the most common ways were:
- Four 10-hour days, with the fifth day off
- Nine 9-hour days, with the tenth day off
- Switching to a 32-hour work week
For an agency, it’s not just as simple as taking hours away. A 32-hour work week would mean a full lost day of contact with clients and with the work we’re doing for clients. It’s not practical to think that clients wouldn’t need help one day every week.
So how do you balance a shorter work week with ensuring you have the hours to support clients?
For UDG, we took our employees’ input and will try the 9-9s model. This allows us to pilot the program with two teams that will switch between their four-day weeks, ensuring that client coverage won’t change: someone will always be available to handle emergencies. But our goal will be to work with our clients to get the work done on the longer days earlier in the week.
Four-day work weeks: let’s get started
We’ve listened to our team as they’ve navigated this pandemic with us. We’ve never been interested in being an agency with burned out team members, so when our team tells us they’re ready to try something new, we listen.
We want happy employees and happy clients. And with the amount of research coming out around burnout, it’s clear to us that the standard five-day work week needs to be rethought.
UDG is excited to pilot a four-day work week this summer. We think it will help us have a happier, more productive team that produces even higher quality work for our clients. And, we’re looking forward to ensuring that our clients will always have the best from our team.
Have you had experiences with a four-day work week? Let us know about it and if you’d like to come onto our podcast to talk about it: we will for sure be covering this topic in our next season.