A company-wide nine-day fortnight

Charlie HR talks to workingmums.co.uk about its nine-day fortnight pilot.

two women and a man discussing at a table


Charlie HR has been trialling a nine-day fortnight since last October after thinking through how they could find better ways to work that allow their team more time to re-energise.

The move came just before the 4-Day Week campaign launched a six-month pilot programme in the UK with around 30 companies. Three more – Yo Telecom’, game developer Hutch and MBL Seminars – have joined the pilot, which will be overseen by Oxford and Cambridge universities, Boston College and think tank Autonomy.

Originally Charlie HR had also been thinking of moving to a four-day week, but following lots of internal discussions they decided that this would not work for the whole organisation, particularly more client-facing roles and the product teams. The nine-day fortnight was felt to be less disruptive and more sustainable as teams could put a rota in place to ensure clients had a contact point all week.

Luula Abdulkadir, HR Advice Team Lead, explains that they didn’t want some employees having to effectively do a compressed week to catch up, given the aim was to reduce people’s hours and improve their sense of wellbeing.

Charlie HR has extended its six-month trial to nine months due to all the Covid and xmas disruption and the impact of things like holidays in 2021. It wants to be sure that the trial period gives a true reflection of how the policy would work in practice.

Although employees work one day less in the fortnight, they retain the same salary and holiday entitlement, meaning their hourly pay effectively increases.  On full five-day weeks they also reserve Wednesdays for ‘deep work’ and reduce meetings to the minimum on that day.

Luula says the company is finding that people are more productive, more engaged and more motivated as a result of being able to rest more and that is also helping the company stand out and attract the best talent. “We are very passionate about what we do and we want to make work better.  If we preach that we should practice it,” she adds.

Colleagues share photos on Slack of what they are doing on their Fridays off – which often includes meeting up with each other to do social things such as rock climbing. Luula has an 18 month old and says the policy gives her more time at the weekend to relax.

Hybrid working

Charlie HR has also adopted a hybrid first approach to work since the pandemic, with people encouraged to work in the way that works best for them. There are eight company meet-ups a year in the office, but otherwise people can work from home if that works for them and their role. The policy has meant the company can hire people from anywhere in the UK. They have also got rid of their core hours. Luula adds that the pandemic was pivotal to this transformation, showing that trusting the team is at the heart of good business.

Luula says it is so flexible that she cannot see herself ever leaving the company. She can attend nursery events, for instance, and then make the time up later. “That flexibility is rare,” she says.

Charlie HR has 50 employees and has grown fast in the last year. Three years ago when Luula joined it had just 17 people. The company has put a lot of thought into the virtual onboarding process as a result of the pandemic, but as the restrictions are relaxed new starters will be invited into the office for the first day so they can get a better feel for the company.

The pilot, which finishes in the summer, will be assessed both on metrics linked to well being and performance. Luula says that so far customers don’t seem to notice the difference because there is always cover and, if they do, they are usually interested to find out more about how it works.

Luula says people have become so used to it that they cannot envisage going backwards.  One comment on Slack talked about a return to a five-day week as being positively mediaeval. “It’s about encouraging people to be able to work to the best of their abilities,” says Luula.


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