How a CEO Can Even Make a Four-Day Week Work

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Apr 13, 2020

Offering flexible working options, including a four-day week, is a major benefit to any business which wants to recruit and retain high-performing women – that’s a lesson the technology industry has already learned.

I myself have been working a four-day week for the last decade, and in that time, I have been promoted to the position of CEO for International, and I am now a member of the board. I see myself as the tip of the iceberg — I work with so many brilliant female colleagues, not only in my own company but in the partners and customers we work with. Now, I am pleased to have a role as a manager and mentor as supporting and encouraging other women to take on leading roles in my industry.

Although the picture is gradually changing, for many years, women have been a minority in this industry, and companies have been competing to recruit and retain talented, creative, and dynamic women on their teams. We are now seeing increasing numbers of women emerging into leadership roles in technology, and in my estimation, many of them have taken advantage of some of the opportunities the tech industry offers to manage their own work-life balance.

Offering a four-day week but continuing to promote the people who take it up, ensuring they have the same opportunities as full-time members of staff do, is key. People on four-day schedules are just as keen to develop their skills and to participate in challenging and innovative projects. Another important enabler of this is having a strong team culture. An environment where people collaborate and help each other to achieve the team’s objectives is much more conducive to this. Then, each individual doesn’t feel they are carrying their burdens alone – they can share the load.

For me, working a four-day week is a key part of creating a sustainable career, which I hope will continue for many years — I’m in this for the long term. Working four focused days has meant that I can feel on top of my work life and also that I have the flexibility to be present for my family. This reduces stress as well as the risk of burn-out and means I can keep up a productive pace year in and year out. On my four days, I am extremely focused at work, and there isn’t that temptation to head home early on a Friday afternoon.

On my day off, to be honest, I do quite often put in some work, but I control my own schedule on that day and can fit a bit of work into a time that’s convenient. It also gives me the space to shift my schedule around so that I can be on the sidelines at an important sports match or in the audience at the school show. That is very important in making me feel really positive about both my work and my family life. I don’t want to have to miss out on too many of those special moments.

On a broader level, to make this work for the long term, it is crucial to ensure everyone is aware of and respects the four-day week that people like me work. The company and culture need to be open to it and make sure days off are protected and respected. I have been lucky to work in environments which have always been supportive of this and whilst there are often times I have to take a call or work on my day off, it is managed within my schedule and is when I want to make this happen, it is not pushed on me. I need to be practical, and I understand that in my role, there will be times I need to work on that day, but managing this and making it work for me is important. Being focused and planning ahead (organizing meetings in advance) is really critical.

Having flexible policies and procedures in the company is pertinent also. It is important to have the flexibility to offer extra pay or holiday days for additional days, where perhaps someone has consistently worked their non-working day for a period. I think companies need to be careful that four days does not consistently mean someone is paid for four but never manages their workload without working five full days. There are risks it slips and just becomes someone working full-time. This takes support and flexibility from both the company and the employee.

From time to time, of course, I do have to make sacrifices, and so does my family. I can’t always be there when I might like to be. It’s not easy, but then easy and successful don’t always go together! But, on the positive side, my career has been part of some great opportunities we have had as a family — such as spending a couple of years based in California. I am comfortable with, and positive about the choices that I have made, and the four-day week has definitely been part of that.