ACT News


Canberra business has been four days a week for seven years - and the bosses and employees love it

All the bosses and employees at Canberra creative agency Icelab work four days a week and have been doing so successfully for the past seven years, saying it beats presenteeism - being in the office for the sake of it.

As the Greens called for a national conversation to start on whether a four-day working week should be the norm,  Icelab director Michael Honey said people in his company already worked a 32-hour-week,  Monday to Thursday.

Creating more life-work balance was the motivation.

"I get 52 three-day weekends a year. That was really the reason for doing  it," he said.

"I do what everyone else does on their weekend but I get three days to do it. I read, and I think and I'm outdoors. It's just more time and more space.

"While you were working on Friday, I was running 20km in Thredbo."


Mr Honey said it was not a case of being paid four days and squeezing five days' worth of work in that time.

"Nobody's allowed to work five days, that's the deal," he said.

"We probably have phone calls after hours or emails on Fridays we attend to as much as anyone does work outside their hours. There's no point in pretending that other people don't work on Fridays, but our clients are usually very cool about it because they kind of like the idea. They get to partake in your coolness.

"And there's something kind of nice about saying, 'Look we don't work on Fridays'."

The company creates websites, apps, mobile phone apps and touch-screen interactives for museums and has been around for 11 years. It has 16 employees, some of whom also work remotely.

Mr Honey said they initially tried working 40 hours in four days but found that was too exhausting.

"You work 10 pretty crappy hours and that just doesn't work," he said.

"Bums on seats is not the important thing. I would rather someone work five good hours than 10 bad hours."

Jojo Hall, a developer at Icelab, said she didn't have to take a pay cut when she joined Icelab almost three years ago and went from working five days to four days.

"I know some other companies reduce your income by 20 per cent but that wasn't the case for me," she said.

She likes to use Fridays to cook, run, and potter around the house.

"My friends definitely are jealous. I think most people would not work as much as they do if they had a choice about it but we just have this cultural force that says, 'You have to work five days a week and if you don't work five days a week, you're not a productive human'. And I just don't think I agree with that, Ms Hall said.

Icelab also allows employees to work remotely from as far afield as Poland to downtown Braddon. Director and developer Tim Riley works four days a week, half of them at home in Braddon with his young family.

"It's not so much about the four-day week but rather a company that values their humans and is willing to do unconventional things," Mr Riley said.

"If I was mercenary about it, I could probably find a job that paid me more but we have enough. The 50 per cent longer weekend really counts for a lot."

And there were definite benefits to having more time with his family, including daughters Clover, two, and Iris, four months.

His wife Misch said: "I remember when Clover was a baby, Tim was here to see her first steps. I mean, how many people get a chance to do that? You can't plan those things."

Meanwhile, Canberra Business Chamber CEO, Robyn Hendry, said there was already enough flexibility in workplaces for employees to work a week that suited them and a mandated four-day week was not the answer.

"Why are we returning to the 'one-size-fits-all' thinking?" Ms Hendry said.

"We have spent years, really, trying to work towards what we recognise as the flexible workplace. One size doesn't fit every employer and one size doesn't fit every employee."