What we’ve gained from working fewer days

Gemma Ballinger

An illustration of someone arranging flowers. Their body is a battery charging up
If you’re curious about the four-day week but not sure it’s for you, a nine-day fortnight is a great way to test the water.

Back in 2021, some tough projects and an even tougher lockdown were taking their toll. As a team, we realised we had to start working differently, to avoid burnout and create space to take breaks, refresh and reflect on all the good work we were doing.

Our first idea was a late start and early finish to the week, giving people more time to recharge. The 10am Monday start helped, but finishing at 2pm on Friday just wasn’t happening. Although we didn’t book in client meetings, a lot of the team were still finishing off projects and catching up. We needed to try something bolder.

We’d talked about the four-day week as something to move towards in the future. And we watched the recent trial with interest — who wouldn’t want more free time, particularly if there’s no cut in pay?

But it didn’t seem achievable from where we were. Everyone was stretched working five days a week, so to lose a whole day would either extend our timelines too much, or put more pressure on the team to deliver in a shorter space of time. But feedback from the national trial suggested it was working.

Because it’s an uncommon perk I don't share with my friends outside work, I find those days are often just about time to myself. And that’s not something I had much of at all before.”*

*Quotes from the Output team

Test and learn

So, over last summer we trialled a nine-day fortnight. Perhaps it would be an achievable middle ground, a chance to try a new way of working without a big drop in billable hours? At the time we were reviewing our ways of working, so we briefly experimented with four-day sprints, but it wasn’t flexible enough to meet various client needs. By testing and learning, we managed to build the nine working days into our project planning, so the team would benefit from every other Friday off, without any negative impact on projects in the studio.

It feels like a small refresh every two weeks, which has helped greatly throughout the year. It’s always good to spend time away from your desk, to inspire creativity and this allows us to do that.”

With new clients there was a chance to add in some extra time to accommodate it. Where timings were tight, we’d expand the team and get to the result quicker. Putting this structure in the background meant existing clients would see no change to their timelines or delivery dates.

After some hard work wrangling timelines and planning things out, we took a deep breath and spoke to clients about the plan.

There were a few nerves from our team, based on an expectation we should always be available when they are. But we were pleasantly surprised at how supportive our clients were. Lots of startups we work with are watching with interest to see if they could do it too.

Having a baby, it definitely helps. I get to spend more quality time with my daughter, which is so important to me. As a family we always make a point of doing something on that day off, to make sure we spend it in the best way possible.”

In our dream scenario, we imagined using the ‘working Friday’ on Output marketing, content and case studies. That hasn’t happened as we’re busy on client projects, but it was a solid idea, which might become reality one day!

Making it work

Why make this move? We felt the old ways of working five days a week, in the studio, don’t always lead to the best results. Most people don’t want to work that way and have different expectations of what working life means for them now.

Small, independent studios can’t pay the biggest industry salaries, but we can try new things. In a competitive industry we hope flexible ways of working will help us attract and retain the best talent. And it benefits us all. The team have more time to relax, spend time with families, even just get some dull life admin done. And we know it’ll help them produce their best work while they’re with us.

It’s had a positive effect on my mental health — I use the day as a mindfulness day: cleaning, cooking, exploring. Motivation has gone up.”

Some members of the team already work three or four days a week and that was one of the biggest things to work out — how did we make it fair to them, when the full-timers have essentially doubled their holiday allowance across the year? We’ve offered those team members the chance to use the time off when they need to, in school holidays or when it’s most useful to them, so they can feel the benefit too.

Probably the best perk I’ve had from any job.”

We’ve now made the nine-day fortnight permanent. I speak to other agencies working this way and although it’s not the norm yet, it’s something we’d really recommend others try. If you want to build a working culture that focuses on team happiness and values their lives outside the office, as well as encouraging them to do their best when they are in it, then a new pattern of working is definitely something to consider.

Tips for success:

  • Let clients know you’ll be unavailable on Fridays, but will respond by Monday
  • Avoid scheduling meetings on the Fridays leading to launch, so there’s no expectation of communication or work deliveries
  • Adjust sprint planning to avoid work on Fridays while meeting project deadlines
  • Test the new schedule as a trial first and make adjustments as needed
  • Gather feedback from the team, identify areas to improve and adapt accordingly.


If you’d like to hear how it’s going for us, and the nitty-gritty of how it can work for part-time employees, give me a shout.


Ben Hickey | @benzohickey


Gemma Ballinger

From a junior role to running the place, Gemma (she/her) joined Output as a Business Development Executive and worked her way up to Managing Director and Partner. The journey has given her a wealth of stories to share, from solving business challenges through design, to creating a positive work environment and being a woman in a leadership role.