Switching to a 4 day week and changing the taboo

550 words. 2mins to read

I recently told my story on changing to a 4 day week, to my colleagues on International Women’s Day. I want to change the culture and the taboo that can come with working a shorter week. Switching to a 4 day week doesn’t mean you need to go part-time, you should still be paid the same salary for working differently.

I’ve worked for Co-op for over 15 years, starting as an Asset Planner creating blueprints for Co-op Food stores. I moved to a field based role in the Format Team, designing layouts, negotiating the customer offer & sales uplifts with our Operations Team. I then moved into Project Management within Construction.

I love working in Co-op Property and could never imagine making the difficult decision that a lot of new parents or carers make, to leave and find a more flexible role. Why can’t I be a great Mother and have a career?

A three-month flexible working trial

When my son came along in 2016, my partner and I, who also works at Co-op, knew we would need to make changes to allow us to work more flexibly. I didn’t want to go from spending every day with my son to leaving him 5 consecutive days without me.

Returning to work, I asked for a 3 month trial. The response was slightly guarded to start with as it had never been requested in my role before. I proposed using my holidays to take Wednesdays off each week, to see if this new arrangement would work for both parties and I’d be available if there was a business need.

The trial worked well and was accepted without any concerns. I am glad I had the courage to ask the question and I believe having this conversation opened doors for me. I was selected for a secondment opportunity working on a cost saving project that encourages agile working, developing my skills in a whole new area.

Changing the taboo

Flexible working, especially switching to 4 days wasn’t part of culture when I first raised the request and it came with its fair share of taboo. At first, I heard leaving early? or you work part-time? comments that fed the ‘guilt’ I already felt.

My husband works for Co-op and also has to be flexible. We co-parent with all tasks, for example, drop off’s and pick up’s. It doesn’t affect our workflow, but it’s taking time to change perception in the type of roles we do.

Prioritising workloads

This experience has given me a better perspective on work life balance. I prioritise my workload, I’m more efficient than ever and I’ve identified and cut out any time wasting exercises. I’m delivering some really great results and the wider team is benefiting from my support.

I feel there’s more to do in Britain’s working culture. We work some of the longest hours in Europe and don’t necessarily have better productivity. Many people come to me under the radar to ask about flexible working and my journey. I want to encourage people to have open conversations and give managers the chance to see how they can help you.

It doesn’t work for everyone, but asking for help with work life balance is the best decision I made for me, my family and for Co-op.

Dawn Lyon
Commercial Innovation Project (CIP) Manager