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Four-day week in progress at Stone Soup

Stone Soup Consulting has been experimenting the four-day week since January 2024. We can already see that there have been many more benefits than challenges for the company and the team.
Continue Reading Four-day week in progress at Stone Soup

Four-day week in progress at Stone Soup

May 27th 2024
By Clara de Bienassis
Partner, People and Well-ness Director
Stone Soup Consulting

The four-day week is on trial in different places in the world (Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Iceland, UK…) and some countries have already decided to legislate on it, such as Belgium did two years ago. In 2023, 41 companies with more than 1,000 workers tried in Portugal the four days working week. Stone Soup Consulting, composed by a team of 75 people (4 directors, 6 staff and 65 independent consultants with a strong commitment to the organisation) is one of the latest companies to join this trial. It has indeed been a natural path for the company, an international B Corp with headquarters in Portugal, that already offers flexibility, 100% remote work and strives to innovate at different levels. The main reason for this decision has been to increase the staff’s well-being and improve their work-life balance.

The idea of testing the four-day week came from a staff member, who wanted to have a better work-life balance. After conversations with our lawyer and accountant about legal and financial implications, we decided to offer our staff members the possibility of implementing it. The model we decided to follow is the “100:80:100” – 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100%productivity. Out of 6 employees, 5 dedicated to admin, finance and operational roles decided to test the four-day week. Their work schedule has changed from working 35 hours per week and 7 hours per day, to working 32 hours per week and 8 hours per day.

So, how is it going?

After four months of trial – we started in January 2024 – we can already experiment some positive outcomes.At the staff level, a team member reports “more time to relax, to take care of (her) own stuff and to unwind” whereas another one mentions “fresh air” and the possibility to take care of some relationships. She highlights that even her family feels she is calmer. In general, work-life balance has improved and all the employees who took the four-day week trial reported an increase in their well-being of 4 on a scale of 5.

On the other hand, Cláudia Pedra, Stone Soup’s managing partner, finds the employees more relaxed, happier, and with more energy, “which translates into a better week for all”. Also, the other community members and consultants are very understanding of the new system. They look for alternatives when someone is out and have adapted to the new model very quickly, which “surprised” one of our staff members. As a consultancy company, we always have last minute support needs and urgent tasks, however, we can already see that the community members on duty are integrating the staff’s new timetables and finding other ways to solve some of these urgent matters.

 

On a not so positive note, there have been some delays in tasks due to the staff’s absence on certain days; also, they need more time to catch up on their return, which can create some anxiety. Regarding productivity, we are not sure about a possible improvement, maybe it’s just too early to be assessed. However, workload is still a challenge we need to overcome and we know that the four-day week will not solve it. We are looking for other ways to tackle workload, such as doing less and more organised meetings, so that the staff can focus on their work and gain efficiency.

Of course, it’s still early to understand if this trial has been successful. We’ll need to re-assess introducing more elements in 4 to 6 months, check if the experience has been beneficial both for the staff and the company. However, what we can already see is that there have been many more benefits than challenges for the company and the team. So, we invite organisations that are looking for ways to increase well-being at work to join the four-day experiment and share their feedback too. We are curious to see what happens in other places!

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