Disrupters versus the old guard – The Four Day Work Week

This article written by Amplitude Managing Director Jo Burns-Russell originally appeared in the September edition of All Things Business magazine.

Welcome back to the monthly column following our journey through the four-day week trial. We’re now at month three of what is a six-month trial conducted in partnership with Cambridge, Boston and Oxford Universities, the biggest-ever global trial and the first major shift to the work week pattern in over 100 years. Hopefully you’ve been following our journey in All Things Business over the last two issues, which are still available to read online (or via my LinkedIn – Jo Burns-Russell).

Media Backlash?

As part of our trial, we are invited to report findings to the study so they can monitor output, productivity and profitability. This week we were encouraged to complete some extra feedback by the study organisers, as it seems there is a media backlash in progress. I was recently contacted by the Telegraph for comment on the trial and despite me speaking positively about our experience and why I believe in reforming working practices, I was cajoled and poked for something negative by the journalist in question. In the end my comments were cut, but three other businesses taking part have all come forward as being misquoted by the publication, who were hell bent on one outcome in their editorial bias – that this won’t work!

Which led me to wonder, why the backlash? This comes on top of many major companies forcing staff to return to the office full time, despite having proven during the pandemic that hybrid working is effective. And current PM hopeful Liz Truss this week was quoted as saying that workers ‘must graft harder’. It feels that battle lines are being drawn between traditional organisations and more disruptive, modern companies. 

Now we, of course, understand that this shift is not right for everyone, certainly not in the short term. As a creative agency we’re very well placed to take part in the trial; we can change our working practices and methodologies to drive efficiencies and we’re agile. What’s more, we sell ideas, and rested brains are better at having them. I fully understand this is not a one-size-fits-all model.

Champion Culture and Values

But there is a bigger question about working culture at play here. Even if the four-day week isn’t right for your organisation at the moment, adhering to antiquated top-down rigid working drives staff to be unhappy. If you don’t trust your team to work independently without supervision, then there is something wrong in your company culture. If people have no autonomy to manage their time and workplace, then they will have no desire to give you their best. This couldn’t be more important when it comes to bringing Gen Z staff into your business, who value freedom, autonomy, and well, values.

Workplace culture is often a bigger driver for them than salary. And it’s not just onboarding, staff retention is critical here, too. As the divide between new and old school models grows, many people are realising that the grass really can be greener, it’s a case of adapt or die.

The values we champion here at Amplitude are highly appealing to Gen Z talent. We offer flexible working (flexible start times, home, office or hybrid working; I honestly don’t care as long as the work is good). We champion the planet and give 5% of our net profits to environmental causes. And we create time within the work day for people to train and upskill as they want to. Our culture is flat instead of top-down, everyone’s opinion matters, and everyone is invited to the table.

Attracting Talent

To me the four-day week is just another extension of this, our culture and values are central to everything, it’s not just some statement hidden on our website. And since we started the trial, I’ve been inundated with CVs from some insanely talented creatives and project managers. Talent that can get the job done in the time allotted and reap the rewards. Why blame them? 

So before picking sides, maybe look at the big picture and ask, is change really all that bad?