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Is a four-day week feasible in the advice industry?

Is a four-day week feasible in the advice industry?
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Two years ago the ability to work from home for one day of the week was likely considered quite a luxury for many. And the concept of a four-day working week probably seemed just that – a concept.

Indeed, just 5 per cent of SMEs operated a four-day week, according to a survey last year from Be the Business, a not-for-profit organisation. However, 17 per cent said the idea was under consideration, and 29 per cent said they would consider it in the future.

But in a client-oriented industry – in which almost a quarter (23 per cent) of clients say the pandemic has changed what they want from their adviser, namely more frequent and proactive communications, according to a report from St. James’s Place and Boring Money – is a four-day week compatible with client expectations?

Adopting a four-day week

Simon Harrington, senior policy adviser at Pimfa, says it is increasingly difficult to look at a working week in terms of “allotted blocks of time behind the desk”, given the level of flexibility recently introduced into the workplace.

Uniq Family Wealth is starting to trial a four-day week this month, during which the business will continue to monitor service levels and key performance indicators.  

Marlene Outrim, Uniq Family Wealth founder and managing director, says: “Our view was that we did not anticipate such emergencies as you would have in a hospital or doctor’s surgery that would require immediate attention.

“A client requesting a cash withdrawal, say on a Friday, would most likely not have the instruction executed until the following Monday, which is within the bounds of ‘best execution’.”

Amy Butterworth, consulting director at Timewise, a flexible working consultancy, highlights the importance of setting clear expectations of a four-day working week.

“Are you talking about advisers working longer hours across four days, or working more efficiently to deliver their role in four days rather than five, or some combination of the two? You need to be sure that the job is the right ‘size’, ie achievable in the number of hours allocated to it.

“You must also consider what your clients expect and require – how accessible and available do advisers need to be?

“At Timewise, we advocate taking a team-based approach to designing the working week – this will help you agree how to substitute or cover for colleagues on their non-working days and when it is and isn’t appropriate to contact team members on their days off.”

Themis Wealth Management has adopted such an approach, where staff have either Monday or Friday as their non-working day.

“This ensures that the service and everything required is being delivered to the clients. Everyone works one extra hour a day and there is always someone in the office,” says Kate Gannon, director and chartered financial planner at Themis.