Digital marketing agencies navigated the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic with proportionate ease. We are a remote-friendly part of the industry and did not have all the same ship steering issues our more long-established colleagues had to face. Even with pulling staff back to "business as usual," many of us were able to shift focus so we could retain our teams for the future.
Planned or not, people found out quickly during the pandemic if they loved the work they found themselves doing. We have watched it play out in the Great Resignation, with workers willing to make enormous sacrifices for a better work-life balance and more flexible schedules to care for family members or fortify their mental health. Offers of pay increases, unlimited PTO and full healthcare benefits were no match for those experiencing burnout or on the verge of quietly quitting.
So what's one method successful digital marketing agencies practice to keep committed employees and recruit new talent? They offered them a shorter work week.
What is a four-day work week?
The 40-hour work week, with its 8-hour days, sometimes time off for lunch, and extended coffee breaks is outdated. Historically, it was a way to protect workers and increase overall productiveness for specific industries. It is the very thing that gave structure to the modern-day office, though not without some effects being lost in translation since work at a digital marketing agency differs significantly from tasks done on an assembly line.
Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the UK have all successfully experimented with the four-day work week. While the old guards of corporations may view a compressed work week with a skeptical eye, data illustrates that a schedule with four days on and three days off only increases employee well-being, family balance and productivity. Extended weekends might seem lavish, but extra sleep, quality time with loved ones and the opportunity to move slower truly benefit our bodies and minds.
Remote work further proved something that we creatives knew all along: so long as deadlines are met, the when, how and where of work does not really matter. Remote work weeks saw an uptick in productivity and even saw workers starting their days earlier or ending them later. We all began to grasp how the absence of an unsympathetic daily commute and fewer office life distractions made for more satisfied employees. No one really wants to attend yet another subcommittee meeting or pause their workday for required personnel celebrations when they are on a deadline.
Ways to implement a four-day work week
Piloting a four-day work week can look different for companies. They can start slow and test out one week of compressed hours per month. All staff could take the same day off, or a rotating employee's choice schedule can be put in place if an agency must be open for a classic work week. Workplace management software and task automation tools will help the process go more smoothly, whichever route a company takes. Companies can make skill-building resources available, especially in time and task management, prioritizing and organization and verbal and written communication.
A four-day work week leads to more satisfied workers, narrows the gender gap and the return on investment is better than expected. It should not, however, come at the expense of cramming more into what might feel like a shorter time frame at first. Jamming in extra meetings or duties defeats the purpose of a new schedule aimed at increasing motivation and morale, deep work, granting more autonomy and making space for talent to shine.
Why the four-day work week is a fit for digital marketing agencies?
Two extra hours in a workday are not lost on digital marketers, especially if it means there is a potential for distraction-free time to accomplish the deep work so often required of us. Minus the essential meeting, product launch or important client event, days off can be maneuvered around a calendar with enough advanced notice.
Joe O'Connor, the CEO of 4 Day Week Global, leads six-month pilot programs for four-day weeks. The business leaders he has worked with have described company transitions to a compressed week as "the cheapest, most efficient process improvement strategy."
A flexible work schedule is not just an advantage over competitors but has become an expectation. It is even easier to try with an office following a hybrid schedule with team members already working a certain number of days in and out of the office.
Digital marketing agencies can lead
Remote work has benefited the world, and it is here to stay. When it comes to spreading the word about the efficiency and well-being benefits of the four-day work week, digital marketing agencies can lead the way for other industries. Why not give this "ahead of its time" concept a go? Our teams will be happier and more productive, so let's support them and strike out burnout culture simultaneously.