Business case studies

Case Study: Tech firm Administrate’s 4-day working week

Tech firm Administrate, which has its HQ in Edinburgh, moved to a four-day working week back in 2015.

The growing company currently employs around 100 people who all work 32 hours a week (down from 40) on full pay.

Motivation for change

CEO John Peebles said: “Start-ups tend to be full of high performing employees who are excited by challenges and like to work. They can egg each other on and end up working crazy hours. But we knew we wanted to grow our business over 10 or even 20 years, and we wanted it to be a journey our staff didn’t regret, and their families didn’t regret.

“We didn’t want people to leave after a couple of years because they were exhausted, or because they were having a baby and couldn’t see how work would be compatible with being a parent.”

Practical implementation

John knew buy-in from the board and investors would be critical in making the new working pattern a success. He talked them through research he’d seen about the business benefits to recruitment and retention, and they all agreed to trial it.

After a successful trial, teams were added in phases to the new working pattern.

Responsibility for day-to-day operations is devolved to individual teams. However, all contracts have now been amended stipulating that people are technically employed for 40 hours a week - and expected to work 32 - ensuring the fifth day is used for rest and not to work elsewhere.

Challenges

While the vast majority of staff have been working four-day weeks for years, Administrate’s small leadership team tended to work more.

John said: “Start-ups can often be a bit light on leadership, and you risk burning out your leaders faster than anyone else. We’ve just brought in more people at leadership level who will model the four-day week and really own their areas of the business. For the last two or three weeks, I’ve not had anything on Fridays, so we’re getting there.”

John also said the four-day week wasn’t for everyone. He said: “Some people can’t handle the organisation and discipline that’s required to hammer out work in 32 hours. Our environment is high paced and the demands are very high and a four-day week intensifies that.”

Many external people simply don’t believe staff genuinely work four days, which means the impact on recruitment has been less than anticipated.

Benefits

For employees, parents are able to spend more time with children, and this saves families money on childcare, while single people are using longer weekends to travel more, and people generally have invested time into learning and hobbies.

From a business perspective, John said the four-day week has helped the firm retain top talent, and the Software as a Service (SaaS) company continues to rank highly when benchmarked against peers.

John said: “When you look at our metrics and how fast we’re growing, investors can’t see any impact from us working four days a week. We actually get more done because we’re more focused. No one’s online shopping, or in long meetings.

“We deliberately set out to create a healthier, more sustainable work culture precisely so we could maintain high growth. We’re in this for the long haul, and a four-day week is proving unequivocally better for business.”

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