Mount company flourishes on four day week

Thursday and they’re outa there. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

“TGIF - thank God it’s Friday”, the universal cry of relief in offices, factories and workplaces anywhere and everywhere, come Friday. The week and the work are just about done, the mind’s tuned out and the weekend is upon us.

But at Adam Taylor Architecture in Mount Maunganui it’s “TGIT” or “Thank God it’s Thursday”. 

Because Thursday’s the day this company clears its desks, logs out and goes home for the weekend. It’s been that way for a few years now – a standard four-day week followed by a long weekend, or holiday weekend, every weekend.

“We’re continuously looking at how we can do things better in order to be the best,” says Jamee Taylor, wife of Adam, eponymous founder of the Mount Maunganui architectural design practice. “The four-day week started as a trial, but the benefits were so glaringly obvious, it was locked in.”

“It wasn’t some brainwave or epiphany,” says Adam Taylor. “We just came back from our Christmas holidays one year and were joking how it sucked to be back at work.“

So, for the rest of that summer, during daylight saving, they started work an hour earlier and finished an hour later. “It was no big business plan,” says Adam. “We just wanted more time off.”

Then the new work practice gathered momentum. “Why don’t we get the work done, and get out the door earlier, a day earlier?”

They squeezed their working week into four ten-hour days – so more time to muck around with the family, more time for the beach or golf. More time for everything.

It was going to be just a summer thing, but they never went back.

So the Adam Taylor Architecture team arrives at work at 7am on a Monday. They’re pumped, ready to launch. Then, when the rest of the world, the rest of mainstreet Mount Maunganui, is having lattes and long blacks at morning tea - ATA is having lunch, a break of 45 minutes at around 10:30am.

“Then we have another 45-minute lunchbreak about 2.30 or 3pm,” says Adam. So three blocks of work and two lunch breaks a day – instead of a long run, lunch and another long run. The thinking being people work better in short bursts.

“If we run from midday to 6pm, you’re out of gas, you can’t be productive. So the key is breaking the day into smaller parts.”

And hump day, which is Wednesday for most of us, comes on Tuesday evening at ATA. And at 6pm on a Thursday, ATA is out the door and down the stairs to start their weekend.  “Are we as productive?” ponders Adam. “I guess we are - we are still trading and we are still getting work.”

ATA is a relatively young business - architectural design, residential, interiors, renovations and something called sustainable performance housing. And it’s driven by five chilled and slick youngish dudes. The office is main street but minimalist, there’s banter and beanies, a very comfortable corporate feel.

Under one of those beanies is draughtsman Nick Harrison. He says the four-day week impacted his productivity, but positively. “Because you pack five days into four, you have to be more conscious of how you use your time and plan your work flow a lot more. It’s been good for me.”

Nick joined up 13 months ago. The young family man was drawn to ATA by the flexible work hours, but didn’t buy in at first, simply because he wasn’t obliged to.

“Earlier starts and later finishes would have meant I wasn’t able to contribute as much at the busy ends of the day for my family.” But after two weeks of watching his colleagues disappear for a long weekend every weekend, he said “nuh, let’s do it.”

The work-life balance has worked out a lot better for him. “There’s fewer family hours during the working week, but three days with them every weekend. My wife likes it, she’s into it, she likes having me around with my daughter (Taylor) on Fridays.”

Recently in Auckland, the trust outfit Perpetual Guardian called in an academic researcher to assess a “work four, get paid for five” plan for the business and a 240-strong workforce.

And while all the news headlines focused on the four-day week, it was more about people being at their most efficient and effective while at work, and families having more time together.

From the get-go, there were concerns that reduced work hours would increase the stress on staff to achieve objectives and lead to lower productivity. The opposite occurred.

There was a massive increase in engagement and staff satisfaction regarding their work, they were much happier and, crucially, there was no drop in productivity.

It tells us the whole work scape is changing and even at ATA, Adam Taylor hasn’t finished tinkering with the working week.

“There’s more of a thought process in the business community about productivity and what’s to be done,” he explains. “I borderline think we can do the four-day week, but also reduce hours, just do seven to five, do 36 hours.”

His thinking is that if you are running out of steam at the end of the day and the last hour isn’t productive, why do it?

“Whether we go there, I don’t know. But it’s definitely crossed my mind.”

It’s those millennials, he reckons. They’re always wanting to be different. “Whether for a good reason or not, I think they are just keen to keep trying things new and breaking normal. It’s great.”

Adam Taylor’s also looking for a sixth man – four days a week and possibly only 36 hours. Message: jamee@adamtaylor.co.nz for more information.