Tag Archives: 5in4

Working a 5 day week in 4: the reason for continuing /// IB

It is 3 months since we have been working a shorter week by concentrating 5 days of work into 4.The pros and cons have been much debated in the office but the anonymous decision is to continue for another 3 months, maybe for a full year.

The adjustment has been more difficult then we envisaged. The system does not work for staff who are commuting, some of us have not been able, or willing, to free Fridays of work, and long days are very tiring. There are concerns about productivity since we are all counting hours much more and overtime is impossible within the 4 days – challenging the overtime culture, established in our profession, was one of the incentives for this experiment but it is too early to assess its impact on business viability.

But there are also some great surprises – the ‘outside’ world has not been as condemning as might have been expected. We phonecalls on Friday have been very few – from 0 to 4 – and the volume of e-mails greatly reduced. It would seem that a lot of e-mails are generated by the office itself! Urgent phonecalls have been picked up on mobiles by job architects and none of them were really urgent.

Most clients and consultants respect the idea and wish they could implement it in their own offices. Many potential employees expressed the view that such working conditions would be a great bonus to them.

Other, less measurable things are emerging. There is a good moral in the team and a sense of purpose.  We are driven and creativity is flowing.

Private lives are enriched by longer weekends. We make different use of these: some for building homes, some for being with their families, and some for thinking, reading and working in a way that is simply not possible during a normal working day.

The big question that will eventually come up is whether we can reduce working week to 4 days of normal working hours – this will require a loss of earnings. The letting go of earning potential is the hardest obstacle of all – we need to get used to having less but this is easy for me to say because I am from a generation that had more then we needed.

But looking at the talented and accomplished people that make up our team we are all privileged and  we all have enough but the habits and values of consumer society made us dependent on having more. The ultimate purpose of 5 in 4 is to wean ourselves of this dependency.

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2 months update /// RJ

For me the first month of 5in4 mainly consisted of manageable and steady paced working which meant that I could really see the benefits of 5in4. The second month however saw the deadline of a competition entry that some of us were working on but this didn’t necessarily mean that 5in4 had negative impacts for me. In the second month my work spilled into the weekends, but this would have happened regardless of my contracted working hours. It’s the day-to-day overtime that we are seeing less of but the pre-deadline overtime is much more difficult to avoid and wasn’t a result of 5in4.

I still believe that the 5in4 strategy is beneficial to both my working life and personal life however the greatest benefits are geared more towards the latter. As an architecture student I spend a large portion of my weekends undertaking personal architecture projects and studies because it’s what I enjoy doing and I have the time to commit towards my future career. I have far less commitments outside of work than others in the office that have partners and children so my opinions of the experiment may differ greatly. I’m also not a main point of contact for a contractor or client say, so little to no correspondence is required from me on my Fridays off.

At BLA I feel that I’m achieving the same amount of work as I would over the original five day working week – which is great – but the difference that 5in4 has had on my personal studies and projects over the weekends has been hugely positive. Whilst this may not sound like 5in4 is benefitting my work at BLA there are also indirect impacts to consider – if I’m experiencing a happier personal life then is this in turn going to have a positive impact on my working life (such as feeling more refreshed on a Monday morning etc)?

All in all as a part one student who is trying to make the most of my year out between Part I and Part II, 5in4 is great and I’d be happy to continue with this way of working until I return to University.

2 months update /// IB

It has been 8 weeks since we worked a  5 days in 4 week.

I know there are difficulties. It does not work for everyone: commuters, part time workers, families with school age children would not find many advantages. The 4 days of work are long and we get tired. Evenings are almost non existent.

Out of 8 Fridays I only had 4 that were work free.

But there is one benefit that outweighs all others.

The ‘free Friday’ is free for thinking. I never wanted mine to be free of work but rather to be free from the daily necessities of work : the meetings, the phonecalls, the e-mails, the pleasantries, the PQQs, the interviews, the cashflow, the fee negotiations, the chasing of everything, the website, the tweets, the chat with the cleaner, and the brewing and collective drinking of coffee……..STOP!!!!!!

The are so many ideas every week and so many decision to make. I always feel that if I don’t make time to consider, analyse, assimilate, synthesize and disseminate, I will miss the point and will just keep on running to stand still.

It has been invaluable to extract the thinking time and to drink coffee alone just now and then.

2 months update /// LC

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There’s been a lot of this in the last 2 months!

2 months have gone by pretty quickly and we’ve entered our last month of this trial.

So far it has been an interesting challenge and journey in evaluating whether this for me is a valuable and viable way of working.

As I started to understand at the end of February, this intensely condensed working pattern is not suited to my situation (I’m Manchester based).

I continue to notice the diminished contact with colleagues and directors, by being in the office one less day a week than my ‘standard’ days.

And although I travel less, saving 4 hours a week of commuting, the overall tiredness I accumulate in the days I work 10 hours, coupled with 4 hours of commute, is surprisingly overwhelming. The rest of the week is filled by other commitments in Manchester, so it’s not like as if I just put my feet up and rest.

I think 5in4 can work well, and I see some of my colleagues enjoying this work pattern, for those people who live locally to their work place and have no commuting time to add to a 10hr day.

I also realise, more strongly now after this experience, that such a different working pattern (i.e. the office being closed on a Friday) can work, without added stress, if others share and understand this. At this moment in time the construction industry has still a long way to go before the above can happen.

One discussion we had, in the office, right at the beginning of this trial, was the wish to find time to do personal activities that we would find enriching, activities that currently are not as valued as paid work, such as volunteering, looking after your own children, looking after the elderly, undertaking research and so on.

If there’s something that this recession has taught me is the importance of placing renewed value in non-paid work, as much as paid work. If we are to break the capitalistic society that isn’t making us more happy, on the contrary, then I think it’s imperative to wean ourselves off an all consuming working life.

Based on my personal experience, I think 5in4 can allow this to happen for those who have no added commute, as it still enables some flexibility to be retained in the hours at either side of a 10hr working day. When you add a commute like mine, for example, that flexibility unfortunately is lost.

This interesting article from the Guardian discusses the recent phenomenon of “work-life merge” where technology is allowing us to flip between private and work life seamlessly, which may be viewed as a good ‘solution’, but that has inevitably blurred the boundary of where one starts and one finishes. I don’t think this is an inherently good thing.

I have reached a point where I’m now weighing the positive aspect of less commuting – in fact for me the most positive aspect of this trial has been the ability to reduce my personal carbon footprint – against the negatives of increased tiredness and reduced interaction with my colleagues.

Stay tuned…

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This month we asked our partners to give us feedback on their experience and impact by our longer days. Here’s my husband’s input:

What I have mostly noticed since my wife has been working her new work hours/day pattern is that she is a lot more tired when I do see her. This is probably down to the fact that she leaves the house an hour earlier than previous (around 6.30am) and arrives home an hour later than before (around 9.15pm) and consequently often misses breakfast and eats her main meal of the day late. Although it is only for two days of the week, being out of the house for close to 15 hours for those two days is taking its toll and I doubt its sustainable in its current format beyond this short trial period.

I suspect that this arrangement may be better suited for those who don’t need to commute as far as she does and is contracted to a full week’s work – but I may be wrong. My personal feelings are that a part-time employee (3 days week) should continue to work just that – 3 days at normal hours – and that to create a 5in4 version for a part-time employee is more problematic than a feasible solution. It also runs the risk of making a flexible work pattern of 3 days/week less flexible for her and her commitments to both Bauman Lyons and those back in Manchester.

5in4 Initial thoughts – M Lyons, founding partner

As with everyone in the Architectural design industry, I have noted the inexorable rise in the number of hours that individuals in offices are required to work in order to meet deadlines. These deadlines are very often set very unreasonably, to say:

  • Fit into a funding bodies’ end of financial year time scale, to suit their own bureaucracy and funding deadlines;

Or

  • Developers requiring redesigns because the “market” has run counter to their cost consultants’ estimates of schemes’ construction costs.

Or

  • Clients’ changes to designs required on site and the necessity to deal with the fall out, with increased contract administration not to mention redesign time. 

These time pressures are similar in many associated building consultancies such as engineering, but it is far worse, I feel, in architectural practice. Needles to say that this culture is not compensated for with increased fees, reflecting the extra hours worked as fees continue to drop rather than increase.

This ‘extreme hours’ culture eventually takes its toll on individuals’ lives both private and professional, with many dropping out of the profession.

Therefore our 5in4 trial period, is BLA’s attempt to start looking at this phenomenon in a way that – whilst working the hours of a full week – makes the extra hours often required from staff members to be either paid for separately or negotiated with a client, to then be added onto the programme of a commission.

I, of course, have worries about what we are embarking on :

  • Loss of 20% visibility during the week.
  • Inability to meet urgent deadlines as staff will be unavailable for that 5th day of working if needed.
  • Negative perceptions within the client group of part time working.
  • Disproportionate effort by certain individuals to maintain “the safety net” of being available on the Fridays for emergency issues. 

However on the positive side:

  •  BLA will still work a 38hr week, it will just be compressed into 4 days.
  • Individual staff members will have a reduced commute to and from work.
  • There will be an extra day for staff members’ private lives, potentially making family life less pressured.
  • We should be able to manage the expectations of clients and contractors that meetings and queries are arranged in the first four days of the week. 

Going forward:

  • For the 5in4 to truly work we will have to work much smarter. There will have to be less repetition; less pondering re design; less bespoke unique solutions.
  • There will have to be much faster initial solutions, with modelled presentations leading to faster and firmer sign offs of frozen design stages.
  • We are going to have to gauge our clients needs in how bespoke they wish to be in design, or in fact how they want to simply have a standard solution.
  • We are going to monitor and possibly scale back the “service” we provide to inexperienced and under-resourced contractors and clients.