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Four-Day Week Trials: Could it Work for Sales?

An interesting trial has been running in the background of various businesses since July 2022. Which trial, we hear you ask?

The coveted four-day working week trial, whereby researchers test out the logistics of employees working four days instead of five. And the results of this test, if all is well, could change the way we do business forever.

And in theory, it sounds great, right?

Better work-life balance. 100% pay for 80% of the time. Easier to attract new recruits.

But there’s a debate going on in tandem. Would this really work in practice?

Would you get the same level of productivity in four days as you do from five? Would you simply end up spending the same money for less output? And would those employees who are motivated to work even support the change?

We wanted to find out more, so we spoke to two of our sales experts, David Bentham and Ryan Reisert to get their opinions.

If you're interested to find out how a four-day week could work for marketing, then you're in luck! Just click here.

Some background

For those unfamiliar with the study, more than 70 UK-based organisations from various industries are taking part. And over a six month period, they are trialling condensing the working week into four days.

In other words, each employee at companies participating in the trial is getting a paid day off each week.  

The trial is being run by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with leading think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University. Similar trials are being run in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

One of the drivers behind this campaign is to offer employees a better quality of life. This is following a collective shift in mindset after the pandemic.

As the trial reaches the halfway point, some interesting findings are being released. This includes 49% of respondents saying productivity had improved, while 46% said output was around the same as usual.

And of the 70+ companies in the trial, 41 completed a halfway point survey which revealed 86% said they would continue the four-day week policy beyond the trial.

One of the participating companies reports:

"The four-day week trial so far has been extremely successful for us. Productivity has remained high, with an increase in wellness for the team, along with our business performing 44% better financially."

These positive results raise some questions. Is this the way forward? Might we be on the precipice of a new way of working? Could these results translate across all industries?

Well for today, we’re going to focus on what a four-day week could mean for sales organisations. Just keep on reading to find out what our experts said.

The good

First off, let’s look at some of the good results being reported in more detail (results based on the 41 survey respondents).

  • 88% stated that the four-day week is working ‘well’ for their business at the halfway point in the trial.
  • 46% say productivity has ‘maintained around the same level’.
  • 34% report that it has ‘improved slightly’.
  • 15% say it has ‘improved significantly.
  • 86% say they would be ‘extremely likely’ and or ‘likely’ to consider continuing the four-day week policy into the future, beyond the trial's end.

Other benefits hoped to be encouraged with this movement towards shorter working weeks include:

  • Become an attractive employer, retaining and attracting the best staff.
  • Improved morale, fewer absences, less burnout and happier staff who are more focused on their work.

However, it’s not all sunshines and rainbows, there are some predicted downsides.

The bad

As with anything in life, there are pros and cons. And this trial is no different.

One fundamental problem being discussed is that it doesn't work for all industries.

Some companies require a seven-day-a-week presence, and are already understaffed which could make a short working week impractical.

It also doesn’t suit all people. While many will advocate for a shorter week, some employees prefer the structure of a five-day week, and some like working overtime.

Ryan says:

“As a salesperson, I want as much productive time as possible. I’d work seven days a week if I could, I often do. Working fewer days wouldn’t make me more productive, I think it would actually make me more stressed.”

“I appreciate the theory that if you cut out time wasting and condensed your time into four days then maybe that works for some people - but sales is an always-on job, I don’t think it would work for me.”

 

Ryan explains that even in his downtime, he’s still replying to questions from prospects. Sending quotes and proposals. Continuing conversations that were started while he was at work. He says it’s ‘part of the gig’.

So is Ryan alone in this mindset? That unfortunately, the four-day week doesn’t really lend itself to a sales environment?

David says:

“I know that for me personally, I couldn’t get the volume of work I need to get done, finished in four days. I can barely get it done in five days.”

Ryan adds:

“If your clients are working five-days a week, then you also need to be available five-days a week because they’ll expect you to be around to meet with them to discuss moving deals forwards.”

Cognism's four-day week trial

David shares that he trialled a four-day week back in 2019. He realised that losing a day of his sales reps' time led to the lowest sales performance by a long shot.

Not even just losing 20% of their productivity, but 40%.

Because it’s not just losing a day per week per person in the team. It also limits the amount of time that sales reps have to be available to personalise messages. As well as research prospects,  replenish lists and answer queries.

He says:

“I just don’t really understand the logic. If my team works 9am-5pm, five days a week, how could they get more done in four days.”

“And maybe there’s the exception, and one or two people in my team could. But it’s a big team, and I have to make the decision for everyone.”

“I want to work with people who are hungry, ambitious, want to work hard and make their work goals a priority.”

David continues: 

“If work isn’t your priority, then that’s absolutely fine - but I want to attract people who are ready and willing to work productively for the full five days.”

“I can’t help but feel that if your team is more productive in four days versus five, you’re probably managing your team wrong.”

The output system

One way in which this four-day system could, and we emphasis could (this is just a suggestion!) work in a sales environment is to work from an output basis.

Management sets an expectation for the amount of work - and importantly, a benchmark for the quality of output that they expect each individual to complete each week, and it’s up to the employees how long they take to complete.

Meaning if they get x, y and z finished in the four-days, then great. They have an extra day to play with. But those who prefer to take things at their own pace, or put in extra hours, also have that option.

Ryan says:

“If you’re in a production role, then the hours don’t matter. It’s just about producing.”

“But there has to be a productivity metric for the job to be done. If you can achieve x results then it shouldn’t matter in what timeframe.”

“It’s the job to be done versus the number of hours you’re paying for.”

This output approach could also offer an opportunity for overtime or achieving above quota for output, meaning those who want to put in extra time to go above and beyond are able to.

Ryan adds:

“One thing I’d caveat is that no one becomes an overnight success. It takes hard work. And the people who are really successful, making it to the top are the ones who worked harder.”

 

Press play below to learn more about building a sales process and successful sales team. ⬇️

Find out for yourself

The reality of the four-day week experiments is that it will have a different impact on each individual company introducing it.

It depends on the industry. The workplace culture. The workflow pace. The stage of growth the company is at. The availability expected from clients. The goals and ambitions of the company - and the goals and ambitions of the individual employees.

David says:

“You just have to try it out for yourself and find out if it works for you. If it does, then that’s great.”

After all, many of the participating companies in the study report really positive results. So there must be something in it!

David adds:

“It’s a really great narrative, and it’s great that everyone’s talking about it because if the majority of people want to work this way, then that’s totally fair.”

“But I think if you want to implement something like this, you need to test it out for yourself to find out the impact in your specific set of circumstances.”

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