From August 2023 to July 2024 Student Hubs is trialling an exciting new policy: a nine day fortnight. The organisation will shut down every other Friday giving the whole team the chance to take regular breaks throughout the year. Our team is central to the impact we have and this approach is the natural next step for us in becoming the radical, people-centred workplace we strive to be.
What’s the context?
In the second half of 2022 more than 60 organisations across the UK trialled a four day work week. In this trial colleagues were still paid their full salary, but for only four days worth of work. This didn’t include compressed hours but was instead focused on the productivity of staff while they are at work. The results of the trial? Overwhelmingly positive. Productivity levels were maintained, and staff retention and wellbeing improved. More than 90% of those trial organisations have implemented the policy for the long term.
Though general engagement from the world was mixed (some thought this was amazing, and others were concerned about productivity), we saw this as an incredibly exciting trial driving forward a change in the way we think about our work time. There have been huge changes to the world of work building for many years now, which were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns. The swift change to working from home, and adapting to new ways of communicating with one another, impacted the work experience for everybody. Even though we were already well set up to work remotely, flexibly, and online as a network, the pressures of the pandemic fundamentally changed the mindset we all had about how and when we were working. Ultimately impacting what we all needed to maintain the work/life balance which works for us.
What are we doing?
We’ve always centred people and culture in our work. For the past 15 years we have encouraged our staff team to take their whole self to work, and figure out the best work life balance for them. In practice this has been executed through:
- Our minimum leave policy, where staff are invited to take additional paid leave above and beyond the statutory allowance
- Wellbeing Fridays, introduced in the pandemic to allow our staff members to work flexibly on a Friday – logging off early for self care and joy
- Organisation-wide closure weeks in the summer and over winter to give staff an opportunity to take a break without the worry of emails and work piling up
However, with changes in the world of work over the past few years it’s become clear some of the initiatives we have in place to support our staff team are no longer operating as well as they could be. The policies and processes we’ve put forward in the past no longer meet the demands of our staff and something needs to change. In response to this we have been listening to what our staff team needed. We’ve been working with them over the past year to explore the challenges they are facing, and what support they need to thrive at work – and it’s regular, synchronous time off of work to rest and recuperate throughout the year.
So why a nine day fortnight rather than a four day week? We could see how to streamline our responsibilities and approach into a nine day fortnight easily, being more efficient when it comes to meetings and support across our network. On the other hand, it felt like a four day work week may have had an unintended negative impact on wellbeing – one of the main drivers behind this policy in the first place. A four day week may have introduced colleagues attempting to work condensed hours, ultimately overworking and returning to work feeling less rested rather than more. Or on the other hand, feeling pressured and panicked from Monday morning to Thursday afternoon in a race against the clock to get work done – and we weren’t the only organisation who had these concerns. Our HR system provider CharlieHR also opted to trial a nine day fortnight, with huge success. With all of this in mind, the nine day fortnight felt like the natural step for us.
How will it work?
We’re changing the way we work. From 1 August 2023 we will be operating a nine day fortnight. A good trial of working differently to support both the way we plan and prioritise, and our wellbeing as a team. In practice this means every other Friday Student Hubs will be closed and our team will be taking a break.
Whether the team decides to volunteer, learn a new skill, or keep on top of their life admin, this additional day off will undoubtedly be made use of well. It’s an opportunity to make the most of our time outside of work which is proven to improve wellbeing and ultimately productivity when we are at work.
In terms of how we work, we will be planning in fortnights. This means being ruthless with our prioritisation making sure we are working towards our shared mission of mainstreaming student social action. The way we do meetings and plan our weeks will change, but we are determined our approach to high quality student social action will not. We are aware our partners won’t all be working on the same schedule as us, and in our modelling don’t expect there to be any change in the experience our partners have working with us. We’ll be working closely together to monitor delivery and progress, and sharing reflections along the way.
We are trialling this change for the 2023-24 academic year. Throughout the year we’ll be listening to colleagues and tweaking our approach, all the while sharing our learnings with you.
If you have any questions or want to chat further about this policy reach out to our Network Director Sophie Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.