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Business & Economy

Jackson Hogg: redefining the working week

Specialist recruitment and outsourced people services partner Jackson Hogg is switching to a four-day week. Beginning today (August 1), the company says the move will increase productivity, provide even greater quality of client service and deliver a significant boost to employee mental health and wellbeing. Here, Steven Hugill speaks to company founder and chief executive Richard Hogg, chief operating officer Anthony Broadhead and associate director of people Aoife Owens, to learn more about the change.

The commercial world is full of terminology.

Across every sector, in every business, jargon flutters like confetti through factories and office blocks.

Yet for all the language, we’re increasingly finding ourselves in danger of becoming lost in translation.

Because while we may comprehend the lingo, do we actually understand what the employment landscape – and specifically the working week – means anymore?

The pandemic has done many things to our everyday routine, not least introduce a paradigm shift in the way we earn a living.

We work differently now – whether its location, method or time – with our verbal shorthand increasingly drowned out by talk of operational change to meet these new norms.

And the phenomenon is no more emphasised than at leading specialist recruitment and outsourced people services partner Jackson Hogg, which has introduced a four-day week.

The firm – which helps clients across the science, technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) sectors secure appointments from professional entry to board level – says the venture will increase productivity and deliver an even greater quality of service.

It also says it will afford staff – who have dropped from five days to four but are receiving no salary reduction – extra time for “rest and recuperation and self-development”.

“It’s somewhat of a leap of faith, but it’s one we’re very confident in taking,” says chief executive Richard Hogg.

He adds: “We will be increasing the focus between Monday and Thursday, condensing each working day to provide even greater emphasis on supporting clients’ needs.”

Richard Hogg, chief executive

Under the plans, the company’s recruitment consultants will take each Friday off, subject to operational commitments.

Staff will also continue to assist clients with urgent enquiries, with flexibility in place to work a short number of hours on a Friday, rather than a Thursday afternoon and evening, if needed.

Meanwhile, its Talent Partners – who deliver headcount plans, increase the speed of recruitment and control costs for clients – and its HR Partnership team – which provides everything from day-to-day assistance to fully outsourced support – will alternate days off between Fridays and Mondays.

Jackson Hogg’s offices, which are based on the banks of the River Tyne, on Newcastle’s Wincomblee Road, and in an offshore sector manufacturer’s plant at Belasis Park, in Billingham, near Stockton, will remain open five days a week.

Ahead of the launch, the business – which helps clients find staff in spheres such as manufacturing, heavy engineering, life sciences, food production and digital – carried out extensive research on the benefits of a four-day week.

Led by Aoife Owens, the firm’s associate director of people, it looked at case studies from a number of global organisations, including Microsoft, which has seen productivity across its Japanese arm lift by 40 per cent on a four-day schedule.

Closer to home, it assessed the model rolled out by Durham-based lender Atom Bank, which says its switch to four days has increased worker engagement and lowered stress levels.

And bosses took further lead from Denmark and Germany, which both have shorter working hours than the UK but are 23.5 per cent and 14.6 per cent more productive, respectively.

Richard says: “The data shows a four-day week can increase activity, and we fully expect productivity to increase, not decrease.

“Services, the standard of support and the outcomes we deliver, will all be amplified.

“We’re an output-driven business; ultimately, our success is through delivery of talent to clients, and we’ll never stop doing that.”

Aoife adds: “Moving to a four-day week won’t compromise any of the qualities clients have grown accustomed to receiving – in fact it will do the opposite, because people will be far more efficient and productive.”

And chief operating officer Anthony Broadhead says the increase in output will be spurred by a legacy of the pandemic.

He says: “We’ve always used technology; we had Teams and Zoom before COVID-19, but we are using those platforms, and other methods, to a much greater extent now, having had to rely on them during the health crisis.

“And that makes us incredibly flexible.

“We will continue to see clients in person like we always have – face-to-face meetings and conversations remain incredibly important and integral to operations.

“We know how much clients value our personal approach, and the benefits it brings them and their businesses, and we hold it very dear too, so our commitment will stay as robust as it always has.

“However, because of the technology we have to hand, we can be with them anywhere, and at any time, when they need us, therefore boosting further our service offer.

“For example, the technology means we can hold numerous digital meetings in a day, raising even higher our efficiency and output,” adds Anthony, who confirms flexible working will continue under the new system, with staff attending the office three days a week.

He also says the move – which has been fully detailed to clients in letters and emails, and welcomed with overwhelming positive support and excitement – will deliver significant benefits to employee mental health and wellbeing.

Anthony says: “We’ve always had 37.5 hours as the standard working week, but is it fit for purpose any longer in the modern world, where life is extremely busy outside the office?

“I don’t see how we can maintain the increase in activity across day-to-day life alongside work and not become exhausted.

“As a society, we’re doing so much more with our lives, but there aren’t any more hours in the day.

“We need a better balance, and providing staff with an extra day will do that.

“It will allow space to get the odd jobs done they’ve been putting off, and to attend the appointments they’ve been meaning to book.

“It will also allow them to properly refresh and recharge.

“Ultimately, it’s about self-development.

“The extra day is going to help improve employees’ mental health and fitness, because they’re going to be less tired, and they also have the opportunity to use the time to learn or build friendships and relationships.

“It will create an atmosphere where people can relax and then really flourish at the start of the next working week.”

Anthony adds: “We are committed to fostering a place where people love coming to work.

“Our core value is care, and having a three-day weekend will take us much closer to having a better work/life balance.”

Anthony Broadhead, chief operating officer

And with such an environment, the company – which celebrates its tenth anniversary in October – says it expects to further bolster employee numbers, to cater for demand in what is an increasingly busy, and competitive, marketplace.

Richard says: “We want to attract – and retain – the best talent, and switching to a four-day week provides another reason to join the business, and another reason to stay.

“We’re growing at a phenomenal rate; we were at 32 people last January, and we’re now at 110.

“We’ve grown massively, but we still need more people to service clients’ needs.

“The plan is to hire ten people a month from now on – and we believe our four-day week will really help us do so.

“And by having more people, we will become even more efficient, meaning we will be able to increase our provision of care and top-class service.”

Anthony adds: “This isn’t a publicity stunt – it is a genuine move to improve the business and create even better support.

“And we wouldn’t be pushing ahead with it if it wasn’t for the culture we have.

“As a business, we really care about each other, our clients and our candidates.

“We are all responsible and accountable, and our teams will never let their standards diminish – it isn’t in their DNA to do so, which is why I know a four-day week will be a success.

“We will constantly measure our productivity and outputs to ensure we are maintaining the highest of standards for clients.

“It’s on us to make it work.

“And it will work.”