Case Study: South Cambridgeshire District Council
A Bold Experiment: South Cambridgeshire District Council’s 4-Day Working Week Trial
South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) is a local government organisation facing acute recruitment and retention challenges, reflecting the broader public sector’s nationwide situation. Prior to implementing a 4-day working week trial, the Council grappled with significant expenses related to agency staff, amounting to approximately £2 million annually. These temporary hires often filled specialist roles with higher salaries in the private sector. Seeking to address these issues and explore new approaches to employee wellbeing and performance, SCDC turned to Robertson Cooper for our expertise in measuring and collecting health and wellbeing data.
Addressing Challenges: Recruitment and Retention Issues in the Public Sector
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s recruitment and retention struggles prompted the decision to conduct a trial of a 4-day working week. The Council aimed to reduce its reliance on agency staff, decrease costs, and enhance employee health, wellbeing and satisfaction. However, the success and impact of this trial needed to be measured, particularly in terms of employee performance, wellbeing, and retention. To accomplish this, SCDC engaged Robertson Cooper to conduct a comprehensive survey before and after the trial, utilising our industry-leading methodology and benchmarking data.
Choosing the Right Partner: Why South Cambridgeshire District Council Chose Robertson Cooper
Robertson Cooper collaborated with SCDC to implement a health and wellbeing survey, distributed to all employees, to evaluate workplace wellbeing perceptions both before and after the 4-day working week trial. Leveraging validated and researched scales, our Good Day at Work questionnaire provided a comprehensive framework to understand the multifaceted landscape of employee health and wellbeing.
Our solution included personalised Wellbeing Snapshot reports for all participating employees, offering individualised feedback, tips, and insights to drive more Good Days at Work. Additionally, anonymised organisational data was aggregated to support the Council in their strategic approach to wellbeing.
TAMARA HUGHES, BUSINESS PSYCHOLOGIST
By collaborating with Robertson Cooper and effectively measuring the impact of the 4-day working week trial, South Cambridgeshire District Council can clearly see they have achieved significant improvements in performance, employee wellbeing, and intention to stay. The trial's success and positive outcomes reinforced the importance of strategic initiatives to address recruitment and retention challenges, positioning SCDC as a forward-thinking organisation committed to enhancing the health, wellbeing and productivity of its workforce.
Surpassing Expectations: Positive Results and Insights from the Trial
The trial of the 4-day working week at South Cambridgeshire District Council yielded positive outcomes across multiple areas, confirming its success and recommending an extension for further evaluation of its impact on recruitment and retention challenges. The results obtained from our health and wellbeing survey, administered at two time points, Time 1 (pre-4DW Trial) in August 2022 and Time 2 (post-4DW Trial) in March 2023, revealed the following:
- Performance Improvement: Overall performance levels increased significantly by +13% from Time 1 to Time 2, surpassing Robertson Cooper’s General Working Population (GWP) benchmark*. Notably, intention to stay exhibited the largest improvement, with a notable increase of +20%.
- Health Enhancement: The wellbeing survey indicated substantial improvements in both physical and mental health, transitioning from an “at-risk” level to align with the GWP benchmark. This improvement positively impacted employees’ overall health and wellbeing experience.
- Increased Good Days at Work: SCDC employees reported a notable increase in the number of Good Days at Work (GDAW) experienced, with the average score rising from 3.90/5 at Time 1 to 4.40/5 at Time 2. This increase was primarily driven by employees feeling more energetic and engaged.
The Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith, expressed confidence in the trial’s success. The positive impact on staff wellbeing and the ability to maintain or even improve services for residents and businesses supported the decision to explore the long-term potential of a 4-day workweek. The cost savings achieved from the trial would further aid in delivering essential frontline services, particularly for those impacted by the cost of living crisis. Additionally, the trial aligned with the Council’s objective of becoming a modern and caring organisation while pursuing enhanced productivity through smarter work practices.
*Robertson Cooper’s General Working Population is made up of ~90,000 employees from a wide range of organisations (across the private and public sector) who have completed the same health and wellbeing survey within the last five years.
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