Luke Platten, manager at Platten’s Fish & Chips, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, says staff productivity, well-being and engagement are at an all-time high since taking part in a four-day week trial
You’re a month away from finishing a six-month pilot programme in which staff work a four-day week. Why did you take part?
Our purpose at Platten’s is to make memories and we were searching for ways to enhance the experience for our customers and our team members alike, and the four-day week seemed a win-win solution for all parties involved. Our initial hopes were to provide that holistic well-being approach to our team, so not to just get a work-life balance, but to really engage, motivate and create that kind of vibrant, energetic culture within the organisation itself.
Staff do fewer hours with no loss in pay, so how does it work?
Statistically speaking, the average UK employee is 100% productive for just two and a half hours out of their working day. So we introduced four eight-hour days, on a two-on, two-off cycle, and said we are prepared to gift staff that time back if they can find ways to be more productive.
What did it involve?
Lots of meetings and seminars to start with, we have been assigned a mentor at different stages and we are now part of a support group so we’ve had a lot of help and guidance. One of the biggest things is having the right mindset. Andrew Barnes, author of the Four Day Week, said that if your organisation’s culture isn’t right, then you need to focus on that before you consider entering into a four-day week and that is so true. The other thing is the communication with the team, that’s been crucial through every step of the process so that they know what our expectations are each day.
How is it working?
It’s working really well and productivity has definitely increased. If you take an individual’s given day, they have jobs to do in the morning, they’ve got jobs to do right at the end of the day and you can’t condense that, it’s impossible. But when you ask the team to work as a collective, that’s when it all becomes possible. The staff started looking at ways to be more productive and they’ve said, right these guys can come in a bit later, we’ll all work together in the middle of the day so that these people can then finish a bit earlier.
How do you measure productivity?
You’ve got quantitative measures and qualitative measures. The quantitative measures are anything that you can put a value on like sick days, attendance, sales, recruitment. However, it’s not so much about that for us, because we believe in the qualitative side of things, which is aligning the team to our values and our behaviours. It’s more difficult to measure because it’s an emotion or a feeling. But you know it when you walk onto the shop floor and there’s that buzz in the place, that engagement that wasn’t there before.
As well as productivity, what other benefits are you seeing?
The biggest impact for us has been the two days on, two days off schedule. What that looks like over a four-week month is that staff work a weekend, work a Saturday with Sunday off, then vice versa, followed by a whole weekend off. We’re immensely proud as an organisation because that allows our team members to go and celebrate life’s milestones, as we call them. Having grown up within the hospitality industry and missing those family barbecues and birthdays, I know what that means. It’s had a profound impact on the team. By focussing on productivity and squashing those hours means people can get home and walk the dog, pick the kids up from school, go to the gym, so the whole well-being of the team is unrivalled within the sector, to be honest.
How is that translating to behaviour at work?
The team is much more engaged and wants to develop themselves and they’re not tired when they come in. They are more open to trying new ideas, simple things like wanting to try different batters or different varieties of chips, they’re just so much more interested in the subtle differences which ultimately make that difference to the customer. They’re really excited and that comes straight back to the shop floor.
We took on a manager recently and she said the four-day week was one of the deciding factors for her joining us as she has young children and it would be a benefit to her. It’s unheard of in the industry.
Have there been any challenges?
In the summer, we can’t control how many people come through that door so the biggest challenge was applying the scheme to July and August when we were at our busiest and we had staff absences due to Covid. So we decided as an organisation, with the support of the staff, to still do four days but to revert to ten-hour days just for those eight weeks. What we said is that we’ll gift staff that time back in the winter so they still end up doing the same amount of hours as they would on a four-day week. We couldn’t be prouder of the team, knowing that they fully understood and appreciated the seasonal aspects and demands of the business. For September and October, we’ve reverted to doing four eight-hour shifts and that has been running really smoothly.
Is a four-day week something you will implement permanently?
I don’t think there will be any turning back for us. The staff are blown away by it. I can safely say we’ve never had such a big team wanting to stay on through our winter either, so that is very positive.
How do you stop complacency from creeping in?
This is where it comes back to your culture right at the beginning. The managers have to understand the expectations of the team and, likewise, it has to be led from the bottom up too. There will always be people that look to take all of the benefits but still put in the same amount of work so I think from your manager’s point of view it’s picking that up early. If there’s that constant communication with the team, it will be absolutely fine.
Has the pilot met your initial hopes and expectations?
Yes, absolutely. We set out to create a working environment where the team feels not just infused and happy but safe and has a strong sense of shared purpose. The four-day week has had a profound impact on helping us create that culture.
What’s your advice to other shops thinking about adopting a four-day week?
I’d really consider the culture of your team and speak to them directly about their thoughts on it. Communication is key so as long as they’ve got a clear sense of direction and that clarity around expectations, then I do believe you can achieve the perfect balance.