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Wellbeing at work: rise of the four-day week

By
Urchana Moudgil
,
Chief Operating Officer

This week marks a year exactly since my co-founder Craig Unsworth and I, went from a dynamic duo to an employer of other people, with our leadership team all starting on the same day. Since then we have grown to a 24-strong team, and are still growing with more hires on the horizon as we scale.

When Craig and I set up Upgrade Pack we not only wanted to create a company that was unique in terms of proposition, but one that also stood out for its culture.

We have defined this in our company values which are more than words on a site or posters on a wall. We actively use them as guiding principles as business leaders, and also when recruiting to find people that can not only do the job at hand, but that will fit in and flourish within our culture too.

The team showcases our values

I’m really proud of the culture we have, and that so many of our team tell me that the attraction of Upgrade Pack was as much in the culture as the professional opportunity presented.

And while hiring great people is of course important, what’s really paramount is keeping them. Employee wellbeing is increasingly central to achieving this, and a rising area of focus for all employers.

Having worked in many corporates with varying degrees of focus on cultural DNA, Craig and I wanted to punch above our weight when it came to Upgrade Pack – with creating a balance between work and life as a key element. It’s why we have fostered a culture around genuinely being yourself at work, why we have 15-days ‘work from anywhere’ time, as well as time off for volunteering.

As a startup that’s now in scaleup mode, we have ambitious growth targets over the next three years, including launching in seven markets within the next 12 months. Everyone is working really hard to deliver on the goals we have set ourselves.

So, when we announced this week that Upgrade Pack was trialling a four-day work week, which, as far as I’m aware, will make us one of the UK’s earliest established tech startups to introduce such an initiative some of my friends and peers raised eyebrows. With such a roadmap, why would we ‘lose’ a day of the week by downing tools on a Friday?

I can understand why. The startup / entrepreneurial culture is hailed for many modern and flexible working initiatives, but it also suffers from what one Forbes columnist recently called a “well-trodden stereotype” of entrepreneurs as obsessives who “work every hour of the day and night.”

But the fact is that by simply working an additional1.5 hours each day the rest of the week (and at times which suit them), we have been able to propose to close the office on Fridays to create a four-day working week - something that all the team were in favour of at least trialling.

For us, there are a number of reasons we are introducing a four-day working week including;

  • Better employee work / life balanceReduced company and employee carbon footprint
  • Opportunities for employees to give back (e.g. through volunteering) or develop additional interests (such as personal passion projects or ‘side hustles’)
  • Improve productivity and business performance
  • Reduced sick leave

Before sharing the proposal with our team and collecting their feedback through a survey, we spoke with members of our network who had done the same thing. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive and there was not one that after trialling it had gone back to a regular Monday-Friday 9-5.

While of course each company is different, studies so far on the impact of a four-day week are highly encouraging. One well-publicised piece of research found staff at one large firm that had introduced a four-day week were 80% happier and saw a 20% rise in productivity. Output levels were not reduced and apparently the change aligned with an increase in profits. The World Economic Forum has even authored a paper looking at the impact of current working practices on our climate and ecology, considering how reduced working times will be a future ‘requirement’ in order to reduce carbon footprint.

While we have a central office base, as a technology platform (and cloud-based business) we can support our clients, partners and users from anywhere. We are speaking to our clients and partners during the trial period, and of course, any concerns or push back will be considered as part of our final decision. But in terms of client relationships, we believe that initiating a four-day week to improve employee wellness will be seen as a positive thing. Furthermore, by endorsing a four-day work week, we are practicing the very values that we preach with our technology.

Look out for updates as we share how our trial is progressing.

We are recruiting! Check out our latest roles here

June 27, 2019
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