I’ve always been really surprised that a few accounting firms tout that they can operate a 4 day week (“4DW”) and maintain the productive hours value they previous took 5 days to achieve. My suspicion was that after the initial rush of euphoria from the staff, productive hours would slowly decline as people ‘got comfortable’ with the lower hours – and the net result would be a need to hire more people, and a drop in firm profitability.
But an article in the February / March 2024 edition of Acuity made me sit up and take notice. Here were a couple of firms who’d made the change, and held on to the gains for over 12 months. They made some really interesting observations on how they’d done it, that were actually lessons for all firms. Especially those looking to raise productivity.
Here are the top 5:
The change must be led by the staff, and the focus is on meeting production targets for the month. Emphasize that it is a privilege, not a right – the team must make sure targets are met.
WFH options are managed – in one example staff members must now be in the office 3 days a week Monday to Thursday, and all staff have Friday off. This was initiated to improve collaboration and team work. Options of staff choosing their own day off didn’t work and was too disjointed.
Public holidays are not counted as ‘extra’ – so if there is a public holiday in a week the staff are expected to work the other 4 days. So not quite an extra day off every week.
New staff need to be weaned on to the model – as an example they must hit productivity targets for 3 months before they are offered the 4DW. This is because new starters weren’t there during the adoption process, and their productivity tended to be initially lower.
Get support during transition e.g. from the 4 Day Week global pilot program www.4dayweek.com/pilot-program and make sure you do it as a pilot – expect it to take 6 to 12 months to bed in.
Done well, outcomes can include improved productivity, easier recruitment, better retention and lower sickness. Of course some of these gains can be achieved without a 4DW, but the incentive to get there is what firms then give back to the team.
Giles Pearson | After 18 years as a partner with a large public accounting firm, Giles founded Accountests to help those recruiting accountants make better hiring decisions