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The 4 Day Work Week at Ronin

The 4 Day Work Week at Ronin
October 27, 2021 Amber

Businesses have had to re-evaluate almost every aspect of their workplaces in the past year and a half. The implications of COVID-19 have changed how workplaces function and have pushed many businesses to innovate with their office spaces and workforces in way that may have taken years in any ‘normal’ situation. And what’s been innovated is good news, for businesses and employees.

At Ronin, we were a little ahead of the ball-game in terms of innovating how our office looks and runs. With our Aussie owners living overseas, systems have been in place for global communication, workflow and remote working for years. But, just before COVID hit, we began a trial of something very different – we moved to a 4 day work week.

So more than a year down the track, we wanted to tell you about this experience, how it works for our office, clients and workflow, benefits and a few roadblocks that we’ve come across. In this way, we hope to inspire you to maybe think outside the box for your own business and give you some practical ideas for making it work and introducing quite a big change to your employees and clients.

Our Context

As a marketing agency, a lot of our work is based on invoiceable hours – similar to an accountant or lawyer. So simply reducing our weekly working hours and increasing productivity wasn’t an option. To get a certain number of hours completed for clients, we needed to keep a 38 hour work week.

So the proposal that was put to the staff was an 8am-6pm workday for our full-time team members. This may be different for workplaces where logged and tracked hours aren’t as important; but as we’ve seen a huge jump in overall productivity, it could be that cutting out a day completely may be a great option for you, no matter your business model.

Getting Started

At Ronin, the collaboration and feedback of the entire team is always key – especially when considering such a significant change.

The way we addressed this was to set-up a whole team feedback session. Everyone was told about our intentions, and we passed on research and examples of 4 day work weeks in other places and scheduled a meeting for a week down the track. It was made clear that in this meeting, everyone would be given a chance to speak, to lay out their ideas, and pros & cons before we get to discussing the idea as a whole team. That way everyone knew they would be heard and not just the older team members or the more extroverted people.

This meeting was really successful, some ideas for implementation were put forward, prospective roadblocks and individual concerns for how this switch would impact different team members. We wanted this to be a unanimous decision for or against. Being able to offer flexible arrangements and hours for team members who had existing commitments, like classes and childcare meant the decision was, yes, let’s give this a go as a trial.

The Trial

We decided on a 1 month trial. So we let our clients know what how we were shifting our working week, how this may impact them and how they could let us know if there were any issues for them. Open communication was always going to be massively important in this transition.

And then COVID and lockdowns hit.

So our trial was a little unusual for the first 2 months, but amongst the stresses of lockdowns and then back to the office 2 months later, the 4 day work week was a success and the team unanimously decided to make it a permanent thing.

What’s Worked Well

From an employer’s perspective, we’ve found this change to be hugely beneficial. We have more flexibility with work hours so see fewer days off and sick days. Our staff have Wednesdays to make any appointments, so fewer requests for time off for things like doctor’s appointments. It’s also a great recruitment advantage. When too many businesses offer ‘fluffy’ (and to be honest unhelpful) stuff to help improve staff wellbeing, but don’t put anything on the table to actually respect a work/life balance, a flexible 4 day work week is refreshing

General staff wellbeing and satisfaction is high and productivity has increased. Those times of the year where workflow tended to be put under more pressure like the Christmas break, have been much smoother, and capacity for extra projects has increased.

For our staff, some of the benefits reported include feeling much more refreshed at work through the whole week. There’s no ‘hump day’ as we don’t work Wednesdays. For those times when you’re feeling less motivated to be at work (and we all have those!!!), we only have to make it through 2 days of work before getting a break, that’s a big shift mentally. Having a weekday off is great for getting jobs and chores done – hair appointments, medical appointments, educational commitments – it has freed up the weekend even more.

Some of the other benefits include 2 hours of uninterrupted time each day – with most of our clients working 9-5, not worrying about emails and phone calls makes for some really great focused work time. There’s also more flexibility around days off; if a team member is away for a long weekend but doesn’t want to use a leave day, they can login from home on the Wednesday. And with the bosses in a different timezone, being in the office for long distance meetings until 6pm works really well.

Overall it has made a significant and positive impact at Ronin.

Stumbling Blocks

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. So it would be misleading for us to not address some of the cons of the switch.

Working to 6pm can be problematic for the parents in our team, as child care centres usually close by 6:30 at the latest. We addressed this by working around more flexible start and finish times and offering more part-time job opportunities.

How did the clients feel? For the most part, our clients were supportive and positive around this shift. As we generally work on monthly schedules, there really aren’t any marketing emergencies that must absolutely be handled on a Wednesday.

We had a couple of clients raise concerns over not being able to communicate with their account manager on the Wednesday, however, as the trial rolled on, they realised this wasn’t actually an issue. In fact, many of our owners really like that they can now get in touch with their account manager after 5pm, as that’s when they finally get a chance to sit down and look at their marketing.

Conclusion

Yes, this was a little scary when we first implemented it. Having to try and pre-plan for any problems and knowing that it could throw up concerns with our clients was stressful. However, given we have zero inclination to return to a 5 days week, we would obviously make the same decision again. It has been an overwhelmingly positive change for Ronin and we’d recommend all business owners stop and think about if it could be a fit for them.

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