Flexible working: the law and best practice

Introducing a four-day working week - Smiley Monroe

Case Study

Smiley Monroe is a manufacturer of customised endless conveyor belts, cut rubber, and plastic parts supplying mobile equipment manufacturers in the crushing and screening sector. Smiley Monroe has three global production facilities and is headquartered in Lisburn with 128 employees.

Jayne Peters, Director of People and Culture at Smiley Monroe, explains how the company has adopted a four-day working week with all staff enjoying Friday off. She outlines how they have addressed challenges along the way and the benefits this has presented to the company and their staff.

Encouraging and acting on staff feedback

"At Smiley Monroe, we value feedback from our employees, and one of the mechanisms to gather ideas is through our engagement team, who meet regularly. This group comprises representatives from all areas of our business. They are responsible for planning employee events, communicating updates throughout our teams, and finding ways to develop and safeguard our company culture. A four-day working week is an example of an idea suggested during one of the engagement meetings."

"While it took some time to work out the practical aspects of how this would work for our business, we were keen to explore how a change in working patterns could help our employees achieve a better work-life balance without negatively impacting our customers. In a challenging labour market, we also identified that this could give us a competitive advantage when recruiting and retaining talent."

Addressing the challenges of a four-day working week

"We initially implemented a six-month trial period for a four-day working week. This approach was crucial to minimise potential inconvenience to our customers during its introduction. While planning, we made gradual adjustments to address possible adverse impacts of the new working pattern. For example, we reduced Friday deliveries as many customers had already adopted Friday as a shorter working day. By doing so, we could maintain production and not negatively affect our customer service."

"To streamline the transition to a four-day working week, we gradually implemented it across different teams. The customer support team was the last to adopt this new work schedule. We informed our customers about the future changes, and the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. Many customers showed interest in adopting this new work schedule within their operations."

"In taking a phased approach to reduce Friday working hours, we had already made changes to our delivery and export schedules. This strategy managed customer expectations and meant when the four-day week finally came into effect, the change was minimal."

"An additional consideration included making efficiencies within our processes to maintain the same level of productivity in a shorter period. We made gradual changes to ensure that our operations remained unaffected."

"We considered how to ensure a four-day working week would positively impact our employee work-life balance. It was not an option for staff to condense their traditional five-day working week into four days, as this would have the opposite effect. It was important for staff to still find time between Monday and Thursday to fulfil family commitments and enjoy their hobbies."

Better employee work-life balance

"One of our central values is 'One Big Family' - meaning our employees' families are an extension of our business. Our decision to reduce the core working hours in all departments instead of just condensing them into four days is based on company values of a healthy work-life balance for all employees every day of the week."

"Some businesses choose a staggered approach to a four-day week, where different employees are off on different days, but the business stays open across the five days. However, we believe our approach and closing on a Friday allows our staff to switch off without the urge to check emails, for example."

"Overall, our current employees love the new-working pattern. Whether to spend an extra day at home with their kids, carve out time for a hobby that has been side-lined or even do volunteer work."

Competitive advantage in the jobs market

"The new four-day working pattern combined with an attractive benefits package and a positive company culture has been a competitive advantage when attracting talent. In today’s job market, employees want more than a competitive salary. Candidates are increasingly choosing employers who align with their values and ambitions."

Success of our four-day working week

"We opted to reduce the core working hours, with no reduction in salary. Again, the motivation here was to maintain high levels of employee satisfaction and ensure they could fully enjoy the benefits of a shorter working week. We are pleased with the positive reception of the new four-day working week by staff, customers, and suppliers. Since its introduction, we have found employees to be more motivated to get the job done more efficiently."

“We have been able to measure the success of our four-day working week through the positive customer and employee feedback we have received. We have identified that tasks are being completed within expected timeframes while maintaining operational efficiency levels since the introduction of the four-day week. We will continue to monitor the success of our new way of working through employee engagement surveys.”

Case Study

Jayne Peters

Smiley Monroe

Jayne's top tips:

  • "Plan for every eventuality."
  • "Prepare your people and your customers for changing working patterns."
  • "Communicate clearly with all stakeholders to manage expectations."