Progressive Research: adapting to human behaviour at The Mix
As part of our guest blog series, FourDayWeek caught up with Tash Walker - founder of The Mix, a 6-year old research agency successfully adopting a flexible working schedule with impressive results.
What was the inspiration behind adopting a four day week?
A big part of what we do is understand human behaviour, and we have noticed for the last two years that regardless of the project, brand or client, all our consumer interactions involved them telling us how stressed out with life they felt. We noticed clients talking about it as well, and at that point we decided that it couldn’t be a coincidence, so we did some research of our own and found that our current work/life balance and addiction to our smartphones means that most people feel overwhelmed and stressed quite a lot of the time. As one of our core values is all about being human, we realised quite quickly that this probably meant that our staff also felt the same. At this point we then investigated other work patterns and came across a few case studies from Scandinavia that had already put into practice a four day week. Of all the models we saw, it looked the most compelling.
How does a four day week benefit your business?
Our staff feel fresh not frazzled on a Monday; we have to work more efficiently to get things done and so it means we have to innovate to create better ways of doing things. I think it means that our work has improved and the massive bonus is that we have a bunch of really engaged people who really want to get stuff done.
Are your working weeks generally based on full-time hours and how have your staff reacted to this way of working?
We don’t expect everyone to just cram in a 5 day week into 4, we expect them to work smarter to find better ways of doing things. If that means an extra hour Monday-Thursday occasionally then that can help but it depends on workloads. Interestingly, I think there was some nervousness when we first started our four day week approach. I think we had to work hard to make sure we all understood what was expected and how to manage things so we still could meet our deadlines. Once we got through the trial period we had learned enough for us to turn this into a full time model and from then on things have got better and better. I think if you asked our staff now, they feel like they know what they are doing and are able to really enjoy their Friday’s.
In your experience, as a market research agency, have you found any difficulties implementing a four day week strategy?
Honestly, not as many as I expected. We expected clients to notice – they didn’t. We expected to have to more challenges over the internal management and whilst we’ve had teething problems, there hasn’t been anything impossible to handle. The biggest challenge for us has been the change in contracts, making sure we deal properly with holidays, and just ensuring that we all communicate really well in the week so we can deliver by Thursday instead of Friday.
Would you have any advice for similar companies looking to move to a four day or flexi-working week?
A soft launch or trial period is a great help, mostly so that you can iron out any initial internal hurdles before launching properly. We found that this gave us time to put in place any adjustments so that when we told clients we were fully prepared. Also, to recognise that whilst it is a great thing, every member of staff works differently so it’s important to work with teams to understand how the new way of working affects them. We found that, for example, some members of our team were more affected than others because of the type of work they did, so we needed to help them the most to find ways of working.
It has ultimately been a fantastic success and we wouldn’t go back to 5 days now, it’s a great business model and the upsides to our staff and the way we work have been really encouraging. I’d highly recommend it!