Four day working week pilot: Sheffield boss Richard Pitchfork of Maxons says strategy requires 'discipline

The boss of a Sheffield firm working four-day weeks says it’s good – but on the fifth day you have to be ‘rigid’ about not answering the phone.

By David Walsh
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 4:09 pm

Richard Pitchfork, managing director of traditional sweet-maker Maxons, said he and brother Chris don’t give out their mobile phone numbers and don’t answer emails on Fridays because they ‘don’t want to give the impression they are working’.

The company, on Bradbury Street, in Meersbrook, switched over to Monday to Thursday operations in 2006 and would never go back, he added.

WHY DID THE COMPANY SWITCH TO A FOUR-DAY WEEK?

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Made in Sheffield - Maxons Sweets, Bradbury Street. Pictured is MD Richard Pitchfork. Picture: Chris Etchells

It saves on fuel and climate change levy costs and gives staff time for jobs and appointments they might otherwise have to take time off for, affecting production.

It also saves on childcare for some and means everyone has the weekend to enjoy themselves and relax.

Mr Pitchfork commented as 30 firms across the UK start a four-day week trial to see if it boosts productivity and staff wellbeing.

WHAT HAVE BOSSES LEARNED TO DO TO?

Maxons Sweets, Bradbury Street. Pictured are Peter Frost and John Burton. Picture: Chris Etchells

He said: “It’s going very well. But we have to be disciplined, we don’t send emails on a Friday - or we might write it but not send it.

“The real fear when we started was customers expecting to get hold of us on Friday. But they got used to it and we have never lost one due to our four-day week.”

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Bosses are contactable on a Friday in an emergency, just as they are the weekend, he added.

Factory assistant Bruce Davies at Maxons.

And nine out of 10 queries aren’t so urgent they can’t wait until Monday, he believes.

Maxons, which employs 18, works a full 37-hour week in four long days, from 7.15am to 5pm.

HOW IS THE NATIONAL TRIAL RUNNING?

The national trial is testing whether companies can be just as productive in four days as they are in five, working 20 per cent fewer hours.

Production supervisor Andrew Jones (right) and Bruce Davies at Maxons.

Several studies have shown that moving to a four-day week boosts productivity and the wellbeing of staff.

When Microsoft trialled a four-day week with no loss of pay in their Japan office, productivity went up by 40 per cent, it is claimed.

Maxons can trace its roots back to 1885 when Henry Dixon began making sweets and toffees.

In 1927 the MacDonald family started making sweets in Bents Green under the name Maxons (Mac and sons). Ralph Pitchfork was a wholesale confectioner. All three came together in the 1950s.

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