As an agency, we’ve taken a lot of big swings, and most of them have connected.
We’ve been really lucky.
The first swing was to start an agency in the middle of the pandemic (June 2020 to be precise). A year later, we were up to ~£400K in annual revenue with a handful of great clients.
The second swing was shifting from a freelancer-driven agency model to a hybrid agency model that unites the best bits of a core, full-time team (based in London, a global creative capital) with a distributed and remote talent network of contractors.
In doing so, our gross profits grew by 80% year-on-year, and we built a stronger company culture. At one point, we even hit the £1M ARR mark.
Swinging Into the 4-Day Workweek
The third swing was to join the UK’s Four Day Week trial in July 2022. “We’re young enough as an agency to embed a shortened workweek into our company culture, and it’ll be a huge draw for talent,” we convinced ourselves.
We weren’t wrong.
Around that same time, we doubled the size of our team (from four full-time team members to eight). We brought on two incredibly talented writers living in Spain and Zimbabwe, along with a wonderful senior designer based in York. They all mentioned the four-day workweek as a key factor in their decision to join our team.
They most certainly had other offers on the table.
So, what is the four-day workweek anyway?
It boils down to three numbers: 80, 100, 100.
80% of the time, 100% of the productivity, 100% of the pay.
Different companies implement it in varying ways, but we’ve chosen to give everyone Fridays off. We’re looking at even more flexible arrangements in the future.
It hasn’t all been roses, but let me show you how we’ve executed the four-day workweek within our agency.
Implementing the 4-Day Workweek at a Content Marketing Agency
We started the four-day workweek at an incredibly opportune moment.
As the world emerged from COVID lockdowns and remote work merged with Summer Fridays, we started staffing up our agency at a time when top talent were on the hunt for more flexible workplace arrangements.
With incredible partners like Phil McParlane over at 4dayweek.io, we were able to tap into talent networks that weren’t available to us before.
We even got rid of our office and opted for a hybrid approach using tools like Hubble to enable team members to book co-working spaces near them on-demand. We still get the team together in London once per month for lunch and socialising, but that’s as much facetime as our team seems to want.
So, what’s been tough about the switch?
Well, one piece of advice would be to focus on how the four-day workweek affects different roles and provide a pathway for each role to succeed in this new context.
For example, our content strategist (Aditya) has a pretty full plate as he works across all of our clients. Cutting a whole day out of his schedule each week meant that we needed to really think through how we structured his work each week.
We pulled him off superfluous calls. We brought in support. We trained him up on automation and other time-saving resources. We hired a consultant to help him streamline content strategy processes. And we trusted him to restructure his time accordingly.
With those supports, that’s exactly what he did.
But it is a cautionary tale. Don’t expect the four-day workweek to land equally on everyone’s lap. It won’t. The impact will vary by role and by person, sometimes significantly.
How the 4-day workweek impacts clients
In terms of clients, we were actually surprised. They took it in stride.
We mentioned it casually in emails and Slack messages, and we told them that we were embarking on the trial. Some of them still send us emails and Slack messages on Fridays. That’s fine.
We just reply to them on Mondays. (Technology allows us to schedule social media posts and blogs to go live on Fridays when we’re off, which is a fantastic assist for our new lifestyle.)
Content marketing agencies have some major advantages when executing a big change like this:
- Creatives already have a flexible relationship with time as it is. It’s understood that creatives need ample time and space to produce their best work.
- Client work lends itself to a bit more wiggle room for timing.
- Creatives are inherently geared towards trying new things, especially if the new thing can enhance their creative work.
It would be wise for content marketing agency owners to embrace that unique positioning and situate their team at the cutting edge of modern workplace culture.
How to Craft Your 4-Day Workweek Messaging
To channel Olivia, our Senior Designer: “It’s f*cking brilliant. Don’t change it back.”
That was her response when we discussed the four-day workweek in our last team meeting. The rest of the team nodded in agreement.
When discussing the change with your team, I highly recommend encouraging them to proactively schedule things for their new day off.
If you don’t, the inertia of the five-day workweek creeps back in and suddenly you find yourself back at the laptop in your living room chipping away at your latest project.
To some extent, that’s fine. Give your team a bit of grace.
People are going to use their newfound freedom in whatever way suits them best and that most certainly includes catching up on work, just as you would during a normal weekend.
But one of the joys of the four-day workweek is taking the time to celebrate how everyone uses their extra day off. We talk about this actively on team standups.
Adi visits castles in Scotland. Olivia has taken up painting classes with her mum. Naume is caring for local family members. Shakeera painted her parents’ bedroom. Victoria is working on a book about grieving. Will goes surfing. James pursues his artwork and took a UX design course.
In this way, the four-day workweek is an incredible team morale and staff retention tool.
Discuss the new workweek changes with your team
In terms of rolling it out within your team, take the time to talk about how it will work before it starts. We didn’t do this enough, we just jumped in.
Once you’re in it, do regular check-ins to see how it’s working for different team members. For our content strategists and writers, we actually reached a few points where we had to sit down and look at schedules to see how we could ease time burdens.
The new workweek is a regular feature in our weekly check-ins and quarterly town hall conversations.
Experiment With the 4-Day Workweek
I encourage fellow marketeers to give it a go.
Just like we experiment with different marketing channels and tactics, I urge other agencies to do the same when it comes to the four-day workweek. Give it a earnest go and be honest with yourselves about the results.
Believe me, your team (and your clients) will very likely thank you for simply trying.
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