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.
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;
- Developers requiring redesigns because the “market” has run counter to their cost consultants’ estimates of schemes’ construction costs.
- 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.
- 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.
Going into week one
Concerns or Apprehensions:
- Yet to be seen if we can detach ourselves from the immediacy that modern society seems to demand. Even though we are all contactable on Fridays not all tasks are as efficiently dealt with remotely.
- Not sure yet whether 5in4 will mean we can save money by taking the pressure off the need to make rapid purchases due to lack of time or whether it might mean spending more on another day of activities.
Opportunities & Enthusiasms
- 2 days away from work never seems to be enough to sort out all the jobs that need doing around the house, spend time with my 2 year old son, time with my wife and time for myself.
Usually this means that everything is compromised.
I hope an extra day at home will lead to better quality time with and for all.
- The night before the start of the 4 day week….. I am nervous – will this work? Will daddy sleep through his early alarm call (highly likely!), will Daddy stay awake while reading bedtime stories, will Daddy really be at home on Friday or will the occasional meetings start to be arranged on this day? With all this in mind we are however very excited about this new way of working. What a great idea! Thursdays are the new Friday, more quality family time and a happier Daddy!
Kathryn and Harrison
- Just worked out I will save 30kg of Carbon per year in not driving in one day . I wonder how much carbon as well as time is spent in saving at least 30% of the usual community time. Less inefficient engine idling in traffic and stop starts. Commuting reduced by 110 hours per year.Great..but less time for Radio 4!
Gambia just announced that the whole country will work a 4 day week as if to confirm that #5in4′ plugs into the Zeitgeist. The excitement of starting a shorter woke me up so that here I am at 4 am.
I am thinking about what I will do with my Fridays. A day of’ taking in’ rather then’ churning out’. I am imagining getting up only to make food and cups of coffee. I am imagining reading 6 Degrees by Mark Lynas, ‘Engaging with Climate Change‘ by Sally Weintrope and ‘The Craftsman’ by Richard Sennett all at the same time , all in one day.and remembering what I read. I am imagining watching the backlog of Ted Talks , browsing through my Flipboard app , reading Building Design, the Guardian and last week’s Observer. I imagine tweeting about it as I go along and finally learning what LinkedIn is all about.
Meanwhile a letter has arrived to confirm that we have been shortlisted for a very nice (paid) competition and that the briefing session is on…………..FRIDAY !
Spirits are high at 7.30 in the morning- most of us chose early start over a late finish.
We are also beginning to clamp down on unnecessary meetings. We have saved 16 hours of work just yesterday by not attending meetings where we could not add real value- we sorted what needed to be sorted on the phone instead. We also calculated a saving of £8 per week on Friday coffee/milk and Yorkshire Post!