As 70 UK companies begin a trial of what is thought to be the world’s biggest pilot scheme into the working pattern over the next six months, by working a four-day week for the same remuneration, Newcastle-based JDDK Architects may well claim to be ahead of the game.

Having started an initial six-month trial of a reduced working week in September 2021, with the results judged by surveying both staff, external clients and business finances, the award-winning practice has been convinced to continue the working pattern moving forwards.

JDDK Director, Nicky Watson, commented, “For some time we have been developing working patterns that support the well-being of our staff while still meeting the needs of our clients. We have had flexible working arrangements for a while but more recently have been interested in and researching the possible benefits of a reduced hours working week.”

“There are proven benefits for employees (better work-life balance, reduced stress etc) and for the business (increased productivity, staff retention etc) as well as wider societal benefits (supporting gender equality, strengthened communities, reduced carbon footprint etc).  In September 2021 we discussed the theories as well as the pros and the cons with all our staff, and with everyone’s agreement began trialling reduced working hours based on the principles of a “4-day week”. We made a small reduction to our full-time hours with no change to salaries or benefits, and for most people these have been worked over four days whilst a small number of people have chosen to split their hours over five days, to suit their own personal circumstances.”

“Before the trial began, we also all filled in a well-being questionnaire covering physical, emotional, intellectual and social well-being and then repeated this after the trial.  The results were very positive all round – with an overall increase in well-being of around 20%.  Everyone has been working really hard in their working hours and we have put an increased focus on managing project resourcing. We have also been monitoring the financial performance of the business over the six-month period and again, the results are positive, with no negative impact on our turnover or bank balance.”

“The crucial factor, of course, was to ensure we retained the high level of service to clients on which the practice has built its reputation – the positives would be of little overall value if the service we provide to our clients, or the working relationships with other members of design and construction teams, was negatively affected.“

“We surveyed a group of key clients and contacts with whom we had been working during the trial period and the responses were almost unanimously positive with most clients unaware of any change in our working patterns whilst the challenges that one or two responses mentioned have now been addressed. We are very much still a five days a week business, but now one with more productive, happier and healthier staff.”

Typical of the client feedback was:- “The service has remained as good as it was previously, I had no idea that you have all gone down to four days so that’s definitely a good sign. You have still been very responsive when required as usual.” Another response was:- “It has seemed pretty seamless to me and I haven’t noticed any difference in service.”

Nicky Watson concluded, “We are committed at JDDK Architects to giving the best service we can to our clients, to have positive working relationships with our fellow design team members, and to continue to make our business a happy and healthy place to work.  We will continue to monitor how our 4-day week gets on …. but we are delighted to say, so far so good!”

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