Navigating the 32 hour week
From July-December 2022, Flatpack took part in the UK’s 4 day week pilot programme, a coordinated, 6-month trial of a 32-hour week, with no reduction in pay or benefits for staff. Here’s a few reflections on how it went…
Why did we do it?
Like many other organisations, we’ve been reflecting on how inclusive we are and overhauling how we do things over the last couple of years, which has included some open and honest conversations about workload and office culture. Running a festival is exciting and rewarding, but involves periods of very intensive work leading up to and during the event itself. We wanted to explore ways of offering balance in the face of this, and remove barriers for those who might find a typical 40 hour week challenging.
The 4 day week pilot programme came across our desks, backed up by plenty of research, and with a promise of training and mentoring for organisations taking part in the trial. We deliberated as a team and with our trustees about whether we could make it work for us, and with a mixture of trepidation and cautious optimism, decided to take the plunge.
How did we do it?
There was a lot of flexibility in deciding how we would approach a 32 hour week, and we were able to experiment with what worked for us. In the end, some of us settled on four full days with one extra day off, whereas some worked five shorter days instead. We’re lucky in that respect because as a small team we were able to be flexible and responsive to people’s needs (e.g. caring responsibilities or health conditions). We also booked onto a number of training sessions and refreshers around time management and built in some touch points to chat about how things were going and share any learnings.
How did we find it?
A question people often ask in relation to the 32 hour week is whether you do the same amount of work, and we unanimously agreed that the trial had no impact on our ability to deliver all we had set out to do during the 6 month period. Not only that, everyone in the team felt that their time management and ability to prioritise had improved - for example, we got rid of unnecessary meetings and made sure not to have hour-long meetings where twenty minutes would do.
“We were introduced to resources and tools that would help improve efficiency. I’ve often dealt with an overwhelming inbox in the past, and sticking to certain slots in the day for checking emails is really helpful in managing that. Quite a few of the changes are simple but really make a difference.” - Amy Smart, Head of Partnerships
We didn’t always manage to stick to exactly 32 hours, but we are working less hours than we were before taking part in the trial, and everyone agreed it has had a positive impact on physical and emotional wellbeing.
“Having an extra day off has meant more time for personal upkeep - things like cooking, cleaning and socialising. Being able to attend more cultural and arts events outside of work hours has been great, and all of this has meant I have more energy during work hours.” - Juwairiyyah Wali, Project Assistant
It wasn’t all smooth sailing of course - there were challenges. Feeling a bit disconnected was one - we knew we wanted to offer flexibility throughout this process, but this meant we were all off at different times. As we’re flexible with home/office working too, this sometimes meant not crossing paths in the office as often as we’d like. Since the trial ended we’ve all committed to working from the office for one set day per week, with mornings reserved for internal catch ups.
Another concern was the looming festival. If we were to continue with a 32 hour week, how would we manage it at a time when the team has historically worked longer hours? We’re still working on this, and will be evaluating how we get on this year, with the 4 day week firmly on the agenda for our festival debrief.
With our positive column much fuller than our negative column, and plans in place to tackle challenges that have arisen, we feel confident about continuing with a 32 hour week. We’ll keep talking about it, responding to new challenges and reviewing how it’s impacting new and existing staff members, interns and volunteers. Overall though we’ve found it to be a really positive experience - if you’re thinking about it, we’ve popped some more info below, and we’re happy to chat about it too if you have any questions, just drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out about the UK trial and register your interest via 4 day week global’s website.