Four-day week proves heavenly for staff

With much debate in the news about the pros and cons of a four-day working week, one Shropshire business leader says she has only seen the benefits with her staff.

For Deborah Mitchell, introducing a four-day week for her head office staff four years ago was a bold move. The founder of the global beauty brand Heaven Skincare originally instigated the working practice as a temporary measure – but it proved such a success to both morale and production levels that it has remained in place ever since.

“We started doing a shorter day every Friday, leaving an hour early and then a couple of hours early, and I saw how much the staff benefited from such a simple change,” explains Deborah, who can count Royalty and A-list celebrities among her top clients. “We then decided to try a four-day week, finishing on a Thursday. It was temporary at first, to see what the effect would be.

“It didn't take long to realise just how happy everyone was. I noticed staff worked harder and more efficiently, making sure everything was done by the time they left their desks on a Thursday evening. They were happy to put in more hours throughout the week if needed, as well as help each other finish off tasks so we could all benefit.”

With an all-female workforce at Heaven, Deborah says that staff morale has seen a real boost while the number of sick days has fallen.

“Many of my staff felt that their weekends were taken over by housework and activities with the kids, leaving very little time for themselves. Working four days rather than five means they get a chance to recharge their batteries on a Friday, maybe spending quality time catching up with friends or treating themselves, before enjoying a weekend with their family.”

To further improve working practices, the family-run global skincare brand recently moved to a new HQ at Access 442 in Telford. The first floor of the new premises houses a stylish head office, boardroom, and training academy; the ground floor space is where Heaven's world-renowned range is produced and bottled.

“Post-pandemic, the idea of quality work-life balance is more important than ever, especially if you want to hold on to staff. I think the combination of our four-day week and our beautiful head office means everyone is much happier when they are at work. They receive a higher hourly wage and everyone mucks in and does their bit. Production has increased, energy levels remain high and, most impressive, our staff retention is 100% with very few sick days. We did have to allow customers time to adapt to us not being in the office on a Friday, but they quickly got used to it and we have seen our sales continue to rocket.”

Renowned for always being one step ahead of her industry competitors, it's not just Deborah's working practices that demonstrate her innovative thinking. She was one of the few people in the beauty industry trailblazing the use of organic ingredients sourced locally where possible and against excess packaging.

“Go back 25 years and my customers were forever asking me why my products didn't come in boxes. In fact, I was told people would refuse to buy them simply because they didn't come wrapped in an extra layer of cardboard. Even then I couldn't justify the idea that it would just be thrown in the bin when they got home. What a waste of trees!”

Heaven's strong commitment to the environment means any packaging used is recyclable. “Our skincare is fragrance-free, free from parabens, SLS, petroleum, silicones, or derivatives and I carefully select essential oils and organic ingredients that work together without causing irritation. Where we can, we use bamboo lids due to their sustainability. Even the packing peanuts we use to ship orders safely are eco-friendly.”