Our 9-day fortnight trial results
May 23, 2023
Public Practice is a small not-for-profit social enterprise (a team of eight people) based in London, and from October 2022 to March 2023, we conducted a trial to see if a reduced working hours approach could work for our organisation. You can read more about why we wanted to do this and what our plans for the pilot were in our previous blog.
The six-month trial
10% Reduction in working hours: We reduced the workweek from 37.5 to 34 hours, with one week totalling approximately 38 hours and the following week about 30 hours. This allowed for a Friday off every other week, which we called a 'Non-Working Day' (NWD). However, we did not offer reduced hours every month due to business needs. Our schedule of adjustments was as follows:
Other Operating System Updates: We are constantly evolving and seeking to improve how we operate and work together as a team. Over the six-month trial period, other changes were also occurring in the ways we work. For example, we were recruiting new team members; confirming our flexible working policy (one day a week in the office); working together to develop our handbook; and receiving external training to embed a more inclusive feedback culture within the team.
Our 9-day-fortnight (9DF) trial was not conducted in a vacuum, and the trial review reflects the wider changes we were making as a company during this period.
Results of our trial
Team survey: We conducted a team survey before the start and as we neared the end of the pilot. Although it’s impossible to attribute these changes purely to the 9DF adjustments, the results were unanimously positive. At the end of the trial, we asked employees which top three things they looked for in their dream job:
Four-day working or 9-day fortnight with the same pay
Above-average holiday allowance
Attractive bonus policy
Hybrid working opportunities
Remote (nomad) working opportunities
Strong team social culture
Time tracking: Data collected during the trial was compared with previous 6-months, focusing on overtime and time spent attending all-team meetings (stand-ups and weekly pulse meetings). In summary, the average overtime decreased, indicating that reduced working hours had not meant that employees worked more overtime to compensate.
The data also shows that each team member saved, on average, 2 hours per month due to reduced team meetings and improved meeting efficiency. This amounts to just under two days saved in people resource, across the company per month.
OKRs: By comparing the team's individual objective key results (OKRs) from Q2 (before the trial) to Q3 (during the trial), notwithstanding factors external to the trial, the data shows that there was no effect on the team's ability to meet their objectives when working a 9DF schedule.
Company KPIs: No negative trends could be seen comparing our company metrics for performance and customer satisfaction before and during the trial.
Reflections on the trial
The benefits: Admittedly, due to other changes occurring in the company at the same time, the data being analysed cannot be considered conclusive; however, we found that the main benefits of a 9DF for a small social enterprise like ours appear to be:
Valued, affordable benefit: A regular non-work Friday, without any change in pay, is one of the most valued and inclusive policies (according to our staff survey), and unlike other benefits, it has not required any company financial investment.
Employee Wellbeing: There is clear evidence that by providing the 9DF, our staff's work-life balance has improved.
Productivity & Efficiency: There has been no drop in productivity. More so, the change has motivated employees to seek their own improvements and efficiencies individually and collectively (rather than from the top down).
Prioritisation & Ownership: Although harder to track quantitatively, there has been a subtle cultural shift across the team, with greater ownership, accountability and improved work planning at an individual level.
Agility & Resilience:As a small team, last-minute unplanned leave by employees, or urgent unplanned work, can result in a negative impact on employees having to work unhealthy over time. Having a ‘buffer’ within the company resourcing schedule has given us greater flexibility to respond to urgent and unplanned events without asking employees to work unreasonable hours or weekends.
Development & Inclusion:Colleagues have used their Non-working day (NWD) for personal and professional development (voluntary positions, signing up for courses and taking on personal projects). We've all used our days in different ways, whatever our interests and commitments.
The requirements: The importance of having an existing solid operating system quickly became apparent as we began to change our working hours. The benefits we gained from a reduced-hour set-up would likely not have been possible without some fundamentals already in place:
Open task management: We use Asana to share, plan, manage and allocate tasks to colleagues. This transparent sharing of work updates helps us coordinate schedules and deadlines asynchronously.
Efficient internal communication: We use open Slack channels across the company and host weekly Pulse meetings and daily Stand-ups, helping keep everyone informed without the need for ad-hoc calls or requests.
Shared weekly working patterns: We have deep-dive Tuesdays where no meetings happen - internal or external, and we coordinate our internal team meetings for Mondays and Wednesdays as much as possible.
Clear individual and team objectives: We adopt quarterly OKRs and are currently working up an interface on AirTable so everyone can access company live metrics at any one time to view status and performance.
Mindful meeting culture: We work on the assumption that meetings with colleagues are the last resort, not the first. Where possible, we create quick internal videos and guides via Loom and share on Slack.
Trust and support: We constantly cultivate a culture of trust and support across our team. That each of us will manage our time and workloads and feel safe to highlight issues or flag concerns with others and ask for support when needed.
Formally adopting reduced working hours
After approval from our Board and further consultation with our employees, we have formally adopted our own version of a 9DF into our contracts – with some benefit adjustments:
Employee contract working hours have been reduced by 10% across 10 months (protecting January and July, which have no reduction).
Holiday entitlement reduced from 30 to 27 days (10% reduction), excluding bank holidays (35 including bank holidays, still well above UK statutory minimum).
Reduce team away days to just over 50% of the current schedule.
Logistics of adoption
From an operational perspective, adopting a reduced working hours policy has required us to update and develop:
Company Calendar: We decided that our non-working days (NWDs) would be agreed upon at each financial year's beginning. We used Asana to create a company calendar to cross-check key events and milestones to confirm the rhythm and dates of our NWDs.
Part-time colleagues: We have worked on the basis of the same 10% reduction equivalent, where part-time employees take their additional days off at the end of their working week. For example, we have an employee who works Monday–Wednesday, so their NWD falls on a Wednesday and is at reduced frequency compared to full-time staff (3 out of every 5 NWDs are taken).
Switching Days: A few events in our company diary fall on a Friday that is down as a NWD. We agreed in advance that colleagues would need to switch their days around to attend these events and updated their calendars to reflect a NWD the following week instead.
Updating handbook: We have updated our handbook to try and address some of the common FAQs, including working hours reduction and the approach for NWDs.
Got a question?
We would be very interested to hear from you. We'll be holding a lunchtime drop-in Q&As on Thursday 15 June at 13:00–13:45. If you have any questions for our COO (technical or general) or suggestions for us, get in touch!