CharlieHR cements nine-day fortnight policy following successful trial

On-demand HR advice and software business CharlieHR has permanently implemented a nine-day fortnight for its 50 members of staff, following a successful nine-month trial period.

The alternative working structure, rather than implementing a straight four-day working week, saw the firm alternate between five days and four days. During the trial period, which ran from October 2021 to June 2022, the business tested whether non-traditional working patterns could improve wellbeing and productivity.

CharlieHR reported a 24% decrease in work-related stress, and a 14% increase in team members’ ability to disengage from work outside of their working hours. Despite the decreased hours, the business saw an 11% increase in productivity.

As of May 2022, two-fifths (40%) of hiring candidates referenced the nine-day working fortnight as one of their top three reasons for applying to join the organisation.

CharlieHR has started to roll out the new structure as a permanent adjusted work week policy across the business, with employees only working every other Friday, with a rotating schedule for client-facing roles. Employees’ salary and holiday allowance have remained unaffected, and they are not expected to work more hours within the day to make up for the new structure.

Those asked to work on the non-working Friday can book time off in lieu within the same nine-day fortnight.

The business has also introduced ‘deep work Wednesdays’, where on the Wednesday of each five-day week, it limits meetings to a minimum to help staff get as much done as possible.

The permanent introduction of the policy has added to CharlieHR’s existing employee provisions, which include mental health sick days and a ‘nomad policy’ that allows staff to work from outside the UK for a set number of days per year.

Ben Gateley, CEO and co-founder of CharlieHR, said: “The focus of the nine-day fortnight was very much about our continued investment in the wellbeing of our team. I have always felt that our work life is intimately connected to whatever else we do, and this idea was an extension of that. It came from the simple and obvious premise that if team members have more time to be fulfilled outside of work, they will be happier and therefore likely to do a better job.

“What wasn’t clear when we started the trial was whether increased personal energy and bounce would make up for lost time and mean we don’t lose by way of productivity. It has seemed not, and productivity is up by 11%. Having working hours reduced does seem to improve team members’ focus – we just need to keep a watchful eye that this remains to be the case. An inspiration for positive focus and not a stressful pressure to get the same amount of work done in a shorter period of time.”

On the decision to trial a nine-day fortnight over a four-day work week, Gateley added: “[Organisations] and employees must be under no illusion that the four-day work week is some kind of ‘magic bullet’. [Organisations] operate within all kinds of structures. Some will be able to accommodate a shortened working week, and, for others, it would be totally inappropriate.

“Those with customer-facing roles or with ‘always-on’ tech deliverables will find a four-day week will be far from practical. And for those for whom it might work, there are wellbeing implications to consider which are at odds with the seemingly work-life friendly offer to reduce your hours by a significant 20%.

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“Employees whose working week is already maxed out will find a directive which removes an entire working day every week stressful, meaning they are required to work longer hours to make up the shortfall. We chose not to see the four-day work week as a mandate. Rather we embraced its spirit and looked for a solution which would work for us and would genuinely improve productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

“Working policies should feel as diverse as the products and services different businesses offer. Only then will we find solutions which actually work commercially and personally.”