13 October 2022

TFI Friday: Trialling a 4-Day Working Week

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


Work-life balance is important in employee engagement and retention. In a recent YouGov poll, 55% of working parents would consider leaving their job if they found another that offered more flexible options. In addition, from a hiring perspective the survey found that 8 in 10 parents would likely apply for a role that listed flexible working options, with only 3 in 10 parents likely to apply for a role that did not list flexible working options.

October is the month where I start a three-month trial for compacting my hours into a four-day working week. It is quite fitting that it is also National Work Life Week – an annual campaign for employers and employees to focus on well-being at work and work-life balance.

One of the reasons that my brother and I set up Red Tiger Talent was to allow both of us the flexibility to work around our family commitments. This is the logical next step for Red Tiger Talent, to trial a reduced working week in order to allow me to improve my work life balance.

Flexible Working: What Are My Motivations for this Change?

Having my own business means that there is always a blurring of lines between work and personal time. There is no doubt that we work hard and put in solid hours each week. For example, the other day, I had a call at 8pm with a candidate who is in a different time zone. The nature of our work means that we tend to have conversations before or after work with candidates (for privacy reasons), although that has changed with increased home working. Work can also impact on downtime at the weekends, to be fair it is an exception rather than the norm, but I have occasionally had to speak to candidates over the weekend.

flexible working a 4 day week - digital detox on kili trek
Digital detox?

This blurring of lines also happens on annual leave. It is only on my well documented trip to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro that I managed to have a complete blanket ban on work related things (largely due to lack of WiFi and 4G). It is fair to say that on other holidays where internet connection is available (such as my recent trip with the kids to the Lakes) I will often get distracted into doing work related activities.

I have heard of other industry contacts who are particularly prolific on social media who deliberately delete the apps whilst on holiday. The always on nature of mobile phones and the addictiveness of social media platforms sometimes requires a greater discipline when on annual leave.

This trial is to support me to achieve some of the other personal and professional objectives that I have set over the next few months and year.

What I Hope to Achieve?

My initial objectives in the next 3-6 months are as follows:

  • Completion of the book I am writing on Dementia/Alzheimer’s and my experience of supporting a loved one with the disease, which I aim to launch in September 2023
  • Development of my coaching practice. I have amassed a vast collection of books on a variety of subjects on coaching and self-development, the majority of which are currently gathering dust on my bookshelves.

Beyond that, who knows. I have a long list of other things I would like to do: discover new walks to go on with my trusty dog, learn a musical instrument, discover new music and listen to my large collection of unplayed vinyl, do some volunteering and dust down my golf clubs for a regular knock around a park (I haven’t played since a holiday in Antigua in 2012!).

What Will My New Working Pattern be Like?

I will be working extended hours during the days of Monday through Thursday with core hours from 8 am until 7 pm. Even with an hour for lunch/tea breaks that is still a 10 hour working day.

The biggest challenge I can see is around my self discipline and sticking to the trial in order to meet my objectives. I feel there are two main tactics for success:

  • Firstly, I need to block out my diary and stick to the commitment I make to do these other things. With this in mind I plan to allocate the early morning to writing my book (as this is generally the most productive time for me, where the ideas tend to flow freely after my morning coffee). The bulk of the afternoon will be dedicated to reading some of my books.
  • Secondly, I need the support of others to not impact on my ‘fallow’ Friday. Notably my colleagues, Chloe and Grace, and co-director Paul, plus my clients and candidates. I need to communicate to colleagues, candidates and clients that these are my new working hours in the hope that this will be respected. I am pretty sure given the nature of our work that this will be the case. I have already adjusted my signature to inform people.

Reflections on my First Week: Work-Life Balance

My ‘fallow’ Friday (7th October) didn’t quite go to plan. But it is fair to say that it kept reasonably work free. I was mainly tasked with doing house related errands – trip to Costco, the GP, the pharmacy, and before you know it the day is over. I did manage to spend a few hours reading a book but getting into the book writing will have to wait until this Friday.

My communication plan has not quite got into gear. Early on in the day I got a message from a client who wanted to have a chat with me about a recruitment assignment. I initially jumped in and agreed to have a call. Then I felt guilty about failing in my quest to keep it ‘work free’ on my first ever ‘fallow’ Friday. I duly messaged them back and we re-arranged for the Monday.

It did feel a little strange not working on the Friday, but I’m pleased to say that Red Tiger Talent didn’t collapse in my absence! One thing I did also notice was it allowed me to go into the weekend with a fresh energy. After a full on 5 day week I normally prefer to do next to nothing on the Saturday as a ‘recovery’ day! Sunday is normally the more energetic day for me when I tend to go on a long dog walk and play badminton with the kids.

Is there anyone else who works to a similar flexible work regime – what are your biggest challenges?

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Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.


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