Case Study 03. Mark Jephson

Mark Jephson is General Manager for Corporate Trusts at Guardian Trust, part of the Perpetual Guardian group of companies that also participated in the Four-Day Week trial. He sums up his experience and learnings that arose from the initiative.


Top recommendations

  • Give clients a heads-up that you are introducing a flexible working week and an assurance that there will be no drop-in client service.

  • Plan for staff to take different ‘rest days’ to ensure clients and customers always have access to key personnel during standard business hours.

  • Be clear that the policy has to benefit shareholders as well as employees.

  • Understand that there are better ways to work than the traditional nine-to-five work week.

  • Don’t introduce a flexible working week just to look good.

  • Be consistent in your messages to staff and clear that staff must meet, or exceed, performance expectations.


In every workplace there is some excess capacity and that for every worker, there is a part of your workday where you’re not as productive as you could be.
— Mark Jephson, General Manager for Corporate Trusts, Guardian Trust

Full interview with Mark Jephson

My initial reaction when I first heard the company was trialling the Four-Day Week was that it was an interesting concept but one that did raise a few questions, especially from a shareholders’ perspective. If everyone’s working full-time, five days a week, then why would you reduce the number of hours worked?

So the first thing you need to think about and accept is that in every workplace there is some excess capacity and that for every worker, there is a part of your workday where you’re not as productive as you could be.


We did a lot of pre-planning to make sure there was always coverage during our standard business hours in terms of relationship managers and analysts.

Pre-planning

The first thing we did before implementing the trial was give our clients a heads-up as to what was happening and give an assurance that they would continue to receive the high client service they’ve come to expect from us. We also did a lot of pre-planning to make sure there was always coverage during our standard business hours in terms of relationship managers and analysts.

This meant making sure staff took different ‘rest days’, never put their out-of-offices on and always ensured urgent emails were forwarded on to someone who could deal with it. The belief was that clients should never be affected, or have to wait for something, because of the Four-Day Week.

Benefit to shareholders

The important thing to remember is that the introduction of a policy like this has to benefit the shareholders and it’s got to work for the employees. The best way of ensuring the trial works and determining how good your people are is to not be too prescriptive in terms of how it works; let your team come up with a way of making it work. Of course, they have to stick within the parameters of your company’s values and vision, but really there is no rule other than you’ve got to be accountable and it’s up to you to try and make it work.

Better ways to work

The biggest thing we’ve learned is that there are potentially better ways to work and the traditional nine-to-five work week is not necessarily the most productive way to work. If you don’t accept that concept from the outset it’s probably fair to say it’s not worth trying to roll out a similar policy because really you’ve got to be open-minded to start with. 

The risk for some businesses is that they try and introduce the policy because it might look good, but if you’re fundamentally not prepared to change the way you think about the culture of your organisation then it’s probably best to carry on as you are.

One of the best things about the trial for me as a manager is that it really made me think about the expectations I have of my team, what it is that we want to achieve and how we can know that we’re actually achieving it. 

Carrot and stick

You do need to be consistent in your message that this is a ‘carrot and stick’ policy in that it does come with an expectation from management that employees will be meeting, if not exceeding, performance expectations. It needs to be clear that if performance expectations aren’t met, there might be other people out there that would be better suited to this type of flexible work policy.

The benefit of a flexible work policy is that you’ll know people will want to work for your organisation because you’ve created a high-performing at-work culture which also offers a really good work-life balance.

From a business perspective this means you’ll retain good talent and you’ll give existing people an opportunity to improve and get better – so long as they’re willing to turn up and really do a great job.