It only takes a casual glance at the latest Glassdoor reviews for intelligence and insights company, Awin, to quickly glean everything you need to know about what currently makes this three-time ‘Great Places To Work’ company so good to work for right now.
“Four-day work week – incredible perk,” says one; “Great work life balance by them including introducing a four-day working week,” says another; “Four-day working week; super happy to be working for Awin,” says one more – and so the reviews go on.
In fact anyone who mentions anything to do with a four-day working week has – rather understandably – only got praise for it.
The perk – available to all of Awin’s entire global workforce – was officially introduced in February 2023.
It followed a successful 18 month trial beginning in 2021, which also saw the UK arm of Awin be one of the 61 organizations taking part in the UK’s much publicized 4-day week pilot programme (which saw 18 of the firms included decide to make a four-day week a permanent feature. And, so popular is Awin’s officially titled ‘Flexi-Week’ that there are no plans to ever reverse it.
Four-day work weeks – they’re still rare in the US
Even though most Americans would love to work a shorter week (a 2023 poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on behalf of Newsweek found 71% of Americans say they would support a four-day workweek, with only 4% of staff opposing it), Awin is definitely in the minority when it comes to actually offering it.
For starters, the anti-four day week lobby is incredibly strong. It’s so strong that in California, for example, which has attempted to legislate a four-day week 14 times since 2005, it’s proposed shorter working week bill has never once made it out of committee stage.
Meanwhile – if truth be told – the experience of some who have tried it hasn’t been all that great either.
Some firms have tried it, such as Los Angeles-based market research firm, Alter Agents, have since decided to renege on it, citing lack of cover for days when staff are off, and lower employee satisfaction.
What makes Awin different?
So what has Awin been able to do that others haven’t?
Meredith Lankenau is Awin’s people and culture business partner, based in Chicago, Illinois, and – speaking exclusively to TLNT – she reveals that Awin’s success is all done to broad desire to improve employees’ wellbeing, but also good planning too:
“If you think back, we’d already transitioned to remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and as part of this, we had already transitioned into half days on Fridays, to give people a chance to reconnect with the families, and de-stress,” she says.
“This made going into the trial – from January 2021 onwards, not a massive jump for many.”
She adds: “We could all see that the wellbeing issue was dramatically rising up the agenda, and so for us, we really thought this was a chance to try it out for ourselves. People have asked whether there was fear from executives about doing it, but we took an approach where we involved the rest of the company in planning for it early – talking to people from different areas of the business – around what might be impacted from a clients services point of view, and what would be needed for other departments, such as marketing and sales.”
The result, she says, was the creation of a system where teams assiduously planned when the best times would be for certain people to be off, so that projects could still be serviced.
“We didn’t just have everyone off on a Monday or Friday – that wouldn’t have worked,” says Lankenau. “People typically had their day a week ‘off’ during the week, so that the business could still run smoothly.”
Transparency and technology too
Unlike some companies – which decided not to tell their clients they were even doing a four-day work week – the decision was also taken to let customers know – so that expectations could be managed.
The new working week isn’t a complete free for all either.
Where there is already a public holiday on a particular week – such as 4th July – then that becomes their day ‘off’ for that week, rather than employees taking their public holiday, plus another day that week.
But crucially, says Lankenau, the decision to go to a four-day week was also supported by the firm investing in new productivity-boosting technology for staff, so that that employees had a fighting chance of being able to do the same, if not more, work in one less day.
So what have the results been?
Well, according to Lankenau, they have been nothing short of stunning.
Results from the pilot – which led to the creation of its permanent Flexi-Week policy were:
- A 13% average annual growth in profits between 2019-2022
- 92% of staff self report being more productive at work
- 70% of staff say the quality of their work has improved, and that they are less stressed at work
- A 33% reduction in regrettable employee turnover
- Sick leave days decreasing by 21%
- NPS scores improving by 20.7 points
- 94% of staff say their work-life balance has improved
- 90% of staff feel they now have time to do the things they did not before
- 85% of staff say that Flexi-Week plays a significant role in their decision to stay at Awin
Says Lankenau: “The results really did exceed our expectations. Staff tell us they now have the time to devote to a new hobby; or that they have more time for their families.”
She adds: “Prospective employees also see this as a massive plus-point for them, because what we’re doing is approaching this the right way.”
She explains: “We’re not like other organizations, who are not doing four-day weeks properly – which is still wanting their staff to do five days’ work, but in four days – ie the same hours, in less time. We’re specifically saying just do four days’ work, doing normal working hours [ie 32 hours a week], and for the same level of pay too.”
Productivity is still monitored
Lankenau puts the success of Awin’s four-day week down to making sure managers still ensure service level agreements are met, and that workloads are properly managed. She adds: “We’re still looking a ways in which teams can tweak how their work, to make sure this continues to be a success.”
She also says these interventions should ensure that staff’s productivity doesn’t drift off to old-style five-day week standards.
Says Lankenau: “A lot of this comes back to asking why we wanted to do this in the first place. We wanted to look at people from a productivity perspective, not just how long they sit behind a desk for. We’re absolutely committed to ensuring the benefits we’ve so far enjoyed don’t slip back – but we don’t think they will.”
The $64,000 question, or course, will be whether Awin’s experience will give other organizations the confidence to try it for themselves.
“I think there is a lot of fear still about a four-day working week,” she says. “But while it may not work for every organization, I do believe that other firms could be asking the sorts of questions we were. I don’t think enough of them have been doing this.”
Lankenau concludes: “Implementing a four-day week requires firms to look at the working week in a different way – in terms of what outcomes they want for themselves and for their employees. But it shouldn’t be something they should necessarily be scared of.”
What the data says:
- 63% of businesses say it’s easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day week
- 78% of employees working a four-day week say they are happier and less stressed
The 40-hour work-week was first codified into US law in 1938.
What progress is there around four-day weeks?
- Lawmakers in Massachusetts introduced a bill in April that would provide employers with a tax credit if they shift at least 15 workers to four days a week without cutting their pay.
- In January, legislators in Maryland introduced a similar bill before rescinding it months later.
- The prospect of federal legislation enshrining a four-day workweek standard, meanwhile, is highly unlikely.