Articles From the Team

Can a lawyer make a four-day working week work?

The age-old question, do part-time hours in the legal profession actually work?

It’s quite the quandary as I hear you ask yourself: “Will I be fitting the same amount of work into a shorter amount of time whilst getting paid 20% less? ... “Will I be just as busy and stressed?”

The answer is: there’s no definitive answer. Rightly or wrongly, it’ll completely depend on your individual circumstances, including your firm and your practice area. So unless you’re working in a fixed hours team, where there’s no opportunity for remote working, then it’s something for you to decide…

However, help is at hand and maybe change is around the corner?

What recent studies reveal

More broadly, there’ve been a number of recent research studies across different professions that show there’s considerable merit in dropping down to a four-day week. One study, where a company experimented and trialled a four-day workweek found it so successful, the management board are seeking to make the change permanent - without dropping salaries.

The company (in New Zealand) has a workforce of just fewer than 250 employees and they manage trusts, wills and estates (so quite similar to a private client team). The trial took place over two months; with a month to prepare.  Each team put productivity measures in place before it officially kicked off; to ensure the results could be measured accurately. Employees completed surveys before and after the trial and then the overall results were analysed.

The results?

  • Staff stress levels lowered by 7 per cent
  • 78 per cent said they could manage work/life balance (from only 54 per cent pre-trial)
  • Performance didn't suffer: team engagement levels across leadership, commitment, stimulation and empowerment metrics all climbed post-trial
  • Increased levels of teamwork and collaboration as teams felt more willing - and better able - to help each other
Interestingly, the planning phase had an additional benefit in terms of employee behaviour: employees implemented new ways to be more efficient in the workplace. The productivity ideas included automating manual processes; running shorter and more focused meetings; combining meal breaks with work tasks; and, putting a halt to non-work related Internet use.

Generally speaking, it seems as long as you're both efficient and disciplined with your time, a four-day week is likely to work no matter your profession. Who knows, maybe we'll all be working a four-day week before we know it!

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