A COMPANY has introduced a four-day working week – and staff say it is “fantastic”.

Recruiter MRL Consulting Group in Hove believes it is the first business of its size to cut down on work days without reducing pay, benefits or holiday.

Staff have Fridays off. They work 8.30am to 6pm, Monday to Thursday.

The firm has reported a five per cent reduction in people taking time off sick and said employees are happier since the scheme was introduced five months ago.

The company’s Ellen Street office is like any other. There is a water cooler, a house plant and a large digital clock. Staff are relaxed.

“Every weekend feels like a bank holiday,” said 52-year-old employee Neil Ward.

“I visited London with my girlfriend on Friday, we went to the theatre, and I came back on Sunday. Usually you’d be rushed, but it was so calm.

“There’s less down time in the office, and we’re more focused. It was only meant to be a trial, but everyone’s taken to it. I can’t see us going back.”

The recruitment company, which has 60 staff in the UK, France and Germany, took inspiration from Europe, where lower working hours are common.

Chief executive David Stone, 48, said: “The idea came from our German office. The stereotypes are true: the Germans are massively efficient. There’s less mucking around.

“In Britain we have the longest working hours in Europe and the worst productivity. There’s something out of kilter there.

“The average employee is thought to do about three hours of actual work in an eight hour day. If we take out the time spent scrolling, socialising and procrastinating, it is absolutely possible to complete the same amount of work with one day fewer.”

David saves money by closing the office on Fridays and the initiative comes with personal perks too.

“Families with kids are the ones who benefit the most from this.

“I have five children aged nine to 26. When you’ve got kids you basically lose all your time, money and weekends.

“You’re taking them to ballet, football, hockey club and still going to the supermarket, ironing your shirts and doing all your chores.

“But now, Friday comes around and I’m thinking “wow, I’ve got some me time”. I can go for a walk, head to the gym, read a book. I get this strange feeling I haven’t known for years – I’m at a loose end.”

David thinks the scheme works well in his industry. He said: “In recruitment, companies are always looking to pinch your best employees.

“So we were wondering, how do you hold on to your good employees and how do you attract good new ones? A four-day week was the solution.

“It may sound selfish, but I’m not trying to save the world with this.

“I’m not interested in that. I just care about my business. And if everyone goes to four days a week I’ve lost my advantage.”

At its conference in Brighton earlier this month, the Labour party made headlines by backing a 32-hour week.

But David thinks some jobs are better suited to a four-day week than others. He said: “If you’re a surgeon, you can’t cram five days’ worth of operations into four. Recruitment is a sector where it really works.

“There were a few cynics initially who thought they’d have to work longer. But they haven’t found that.

“Their hours each day have remained the same, and all the targets and expectations are the same. Everyone is just more focused.”

Staff still take business calls over the weekend and are welcome to go in on a Friday.