When Rusher Rogers Recruiting talent director Susie Rogers told her staff she would be introducing a four-day working week, the response was overwhelming.
“Some of them even did the Toyota jump – they literally jumped for joy. It was a big hit,” Susie laughs.
“We were prepared for mixed reactions; for people worrying how they could get their work done in four days or how it would impact on their personal lives.
“But there was none of that. They absolutely embraced the idea.”
That was December last year – at the staff Christmas party, no less.
Almost 12 months later the results have been even better than Susie and her husband Steve, a director of the firm, could have hoped. Staff morale is at an all-time high, productivity is up, clients are happy and there is a queue of people wanting to join the team at the boutique Melbourne recruitment firm.
The four-day week is believed to be a first in the Australian recruitment industry and definitely wasn’t introduced on a whim.
Susie and Steve spent countless hours researching the idea, speaking to other businesses which had introduced it and coming up with their own model.
The logic was simple. Staff working long hours in a sometimes stressful role were at risk of burning out or becoming jaded but the incentive of an extra day off each week would stimulate and encourage them.
“It’s all about staff wellbeing and providing them with a better work/ life balance,” Susie says.
“One of the great challenges for working families is finding time. Time to go to a dentist’s appointment or be at the kid’s sports carnival or just time to unwind.
“An extra day off each week gives people that time and, as a result, they are better focused when they are actually at work.”
Understandably, there is a focus on staff needing to complete their five day’s work in four days, but Steve says that hasn’t been a problem.
“The carrot of having three days off each week is a huge incentive for people to work smarter,” he says.
“I have never seen a team of people so keen and invested to make a project work. They have come up with all sorts of initiatives to make it possible to get as much work done in four days as they used to do in five.
“They are still doing the same amount of work and making the same money – they have just compressed what they do into four days.”
The new structure has also resulted in greater cooperation between staff as when a team member is on their midweek day off, they have to be confident their colleagues are familiar enough with their clients and contracts to step in if needed.
It also means the firm’s database is being used to its full potential.
“If we don’t use the data base appropriately and keep it updated, we risk throwing each other under a bus when we have a day off,” Susie adds.
“There has been a phenomenal turnaround from the point of view of staff supporting each other and we are a lot more organised than we used to be.
“If a client calls for a staff member who is on a day off, we know all of us are across all our projects and all our clients are happy to speak to someone else because they are confident they are all across everything.
“We are working together as a team more than we ever have. We have become an incredibly efficient little machine and it’s a point of difference when it comes to attracting good staff.
“As a boutique agency we sometimes find it difficult to compete against the industry’s larger players, which offer things we can’t.
“Now we have something they don’t have.”
But while the four-day week is proving a huge success for Rusher Rogers Recruiting, Susie isn’t about to encourage others in the industry to follow her lead.
“Absolutely not,” she laughs. “Our message to them is ‘don’t do it – we want your people to come and work with us!’.”