The future is hybrid as local firms adapt to suit and serve employees

FOUR-DAY WORKING: The TN Recruits team

A RECENT reader poll conducted by the Times revealed that 89 per cent of people would like to move towards working a four-day week. While the idea is a hit with some staff and employers, the model does not meet the needs of every sector.

Last year, the four-day week was put to the test at 61 companies across the UK, which reduced work hours for nearly 3,000 employees with no loss of pay.

The ‘4 Day Week Campaign’, which ran the six-month trial, reported that almost all of the companies – 92 per cent – continued with the new working week after the trial ended.

One local company which ran its own trial of the scheme last year is TN Recruits in Lonsdale Gardens. It made the change permanent in December 2022 in the wake of its phenomenal success.

With the company open five days a week, TN Recruits’ 14 full-time recruitment consultants run a ‘buddy system’ where they work ‘opposite’ days, allowing them to work only four days per week.

Neil Simmons, Director at TN Recruits, told the Times: “We found that our staff were less stressed and more rested. Productivity had increased and from the six months before to the six months after, revenue had risen by seven per cent, which is great for business.”

“We have even seen more candidates applying to work with us and the retention rate of our staff has increased, too.”

Citing his dual role as a recruiter and a father, Mr Simmons added that parents were also benefiting, and companies could, too.

“I am very passionate in a belief that there is so much untapped talent out there – so many parents who are willing to take on a part-time role, and will end up doing as much as full-time people, even on reduced hours.

“Half of the team at TN Recruits (10 of us) are working parents, and they do a fantastic job. The four-day week really helps.”

Local business champion Matthew Sankey told the Times: “We actually started doing this at Sankey’s after the lockdowns. We worked out that people really valued their own personal time, so now all our staff get three days off, and these are consecutive.

“They still get their 48 contracted hours, and this works because of our opening hours. We have found this makes the rota far simpler.

“I fully endorse any practice that makes life better for the employees in the town. If businesses can find new ways of working, then that’s all for the better in my opinion.

“With recruitment becoming more and more difficult, it’s clear to me that those businesses that can think outside of the box are going to be able to attract the better and brighter talent. That’s for sure.”

However, Mr Simmons cautioned that the practice was not yet widespread, nor was demand.

“The four-day week is still scarcely implemented. We have one client who has been trialling it and are undecided as to whether it works for them, so have extended their trial. Aside from that, it’s not something we hear [a great deal] about locally.”

By contrast, hybrid working has become more widespread, he noted.

“Most local companies offer some kind of hybrid working. In fact, when we are telling candidates about a role, they will often ask if there is hybrid working and if the answer is a ‘no’, it can be off-putting to the candidate in some cases.

“Some employers do give one or two days ‘charity-work-leave’ per annum, but it’s not a widespread thing,” said Mr Simmons.

A great deal depends on the sector, according to Wendy Read, founder of HR Revolution, which offers recruitment and outsourced HR.

With over 100 retained clients, and over 200 clients on account, just two are currently a four-day working week, she told the Times.

“The difficulty comes in finding a solution that suits everyone, employees, the business and clients or customers,” she said.

“Some have trialled four-day working weeks and it’s not worked, so they’ve reverted back to five-day weeks, but with hybrid models that allow people to work from home or work remotely for a part of the week. We have companies that offer roaming work (work from anywhere) which is great for those businesses that are online.”

There is no single form of flexibility, she stressed.

“We are finding that the majority of employees are actually missing collaboration, missing being with their work colleagues, so the hybrid model helps everyone juggle the logistics of childcare and travel expenses, but hybrid can only work for those businesses not in the customer-facing, service industries.”

Gavin Tyler, Managing Partner of Mount Ephraim-based law firm Cripps, said the professional services sector was at the forefront of innovation, being conscious of “supporting people to work in a way that suits both them and their business”.

Yet despite being open to different forms of working, outcomes do vary.

He said: “We operate a hybrid working environment and 30 per cent of our people have a form of flexible or part-time working agreed, with a four-day week becoming ever more popular, albeit with a pro-rata salary.

“There is clearly potential in looking at a four-day week with no reduction in pay, but for this to succeed we would need to increase efficiencies, make significant further investment in technology and develop an even better understanding of the needs of our clients,” Mr Tyler said.

“For now, our flexible options for all our people are working well, but we will continue to look at new ways of working that support our people, as well as continually improving the service we provide to our clients.”

Echoing the sentiment about customer service, Joanna Pratt, Senior Partner at Thomson Snell & Passmore, stressed: “We are committed to championing hybrid and flexible work arrangements for everyone at the firm where jobs allow and for people who wish to work in different ways.”

However, she confirmed: “In order to maintain our excellent service to clients, we are not currently considering introducing a four-day week.”

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