CLES is a four day week organisation

CLES is now an accredited four day week organisation, with our full time team members working from Monday to Thursday. Our Chief Executive, Sarah Longlands, explains more about why we have made this move and what we learned from the 12 month trial period that led us here.

Lately, when I wake up my four-year-old for the morning she will ask “is it Mummy day?”

Mummy day is a thing in our house because I no longer work on Fridays – between October 2022 and the end of September 2023, CLES trialled a four day, full pay working week. We’ve now decided to make the trial permanent and, as of today, CLES is a four day week accredited organisation.

The concept of the four day week is not new by any means but – post pandemic, and with many organisations looking at how they can improve staff wellbeing and make themselves more attractive in a hiring crisis – it’s certainly having a moment.

CLES has always been an organisation where we’ve tried to live our values, which centre around creating the conditions for economies which work in the interests of communities and ensure that people have the chance to live good lives. To do this, very often, our recommendations challenge conventional wisdom and advocate for piloting new ideas. The four day week was a moment for us to demonstrate our own organisational commitment to not only thinking differently but doing differently, and part of our rationale for doing so was that it meant that we could advocate from experience to councils considering making the same move.

“Like many small organisations with big ambitions, the pace of our work is often fast and furious”

Like many small organisations with big ambitions, the pace of our work is often fast and furious. We juggle deadlines, have to be responsive and opportunistic and we think on the spot as policy and politics changes. Our commitment to our work is often personal and all of this means that we’re vulnerable to overworking and burnout. A four day week gives us a chance to better regulate our work: the space for rest, to recharge and reflect. Whilst some members of the team have – like me – used the time to care for children and older relatives, others have used the opportunity to pursue neglected hobbies, including walking the Pennine Way and kick boxing, or more domestic pursuits like, learning to drive, getting ahead with gardening, DIY and life admin.

“The trial has forced us to think more carefully about our culture”

After a year of trialling the four day week, it is exciting to be adopting it permanently but it has taken careful planning and discussions across the team to get us to this point. The trial has forced us to think carefully about our culture, about how effectively we communicate and about how we can support each other to collaborate more. We’ve also begun to think differently about how we use our time and how working differently can help us achieve different kinds of impact.

“our work remains as high quality and responsive as ever”

Whilst we’re now committed to adopting the four day week permanently, we will continue to monitor and evaluate how it works as well as exploring the impacts on our wellbeing, our relationships and our ability to deliver our mission and purpose. We’ll also continue to work with our funders and partners to disseminate the lessons as well as ensuring that our work remains as high quality and responsive as ever.

The pandemic was a moment when many of us started to question traditional working patterns. Undoubtedly, it’s easier for an organisation like CLES to adapt to a four day week than those in many other sectors but, for those that are considering taking the leap: I was a sceptic and now stand ready to extol the virtues…just not on Mummy day.