Mental health

The nine day fortnight and 26 extra days off a year: how it works in reality

If you are a full-time working adult, you’re probably longing for a bit more you-time. Time to exercise, time to start that pipe-dream side project, or simply more time spent with friends and family. The nine day fortnight could make that happen.

By Reason Digital · October 5, 2021

As Scotland plans to trial a four-day working week, discussions about work-life balance have flooded social media.

This often-passionate debate coincides with ongoing talk about what a post-Covid ‘return to work’ looks like, with many organisations using this transitionary period to overhaul their policies and rethink how, where, and when their teams work.

While we’re not a four-day agency, we do offer our team a nine day fortnight (9DF), and it’s safe to say, we (and the Gods of productivity) bloody love it.

I love 9DF. So much so that I think it'd be hard to go back to a regular working week. It gives me a long weekend to look forward to, and allows me to make the most of the time when everyone else is working; supermarket is less busy, I can just walk into a cafe for lunch without waiting, cinema isn't packed. Best of all allows me to have a me-day.

Dave, app developer

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What is a nine day fortnight?

Simply put, you work the same amount of hours, but condensed over nine days instead of 10. For example, instead of working 8am – 4pm, you work 8am – 4:45pm. Every other Friday is then your own lovely day off!

Those on the scheme at Reason Digital are split into two teams; A and B. Team A takes the first Friday off, and B the next. That way, every role or department in the organisation always has a contactable representative on Fridays.

The scheme means we can offer the team 26 more days off per year without affecting our business model or productivity, which is awesome!

A photo looking down on a herefordshire wye valley
a yoga room with a purple wall containing lit up shelves of buddhist statues
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View of a desk showing a mac laptop and a monitor which is being used to make music on Logic

It's an absolute game changer for me! Three main reasons I love 9DF. One: It means that I can use my actual weekend to properly relax and have fun because I get any life admin done on the Friday. Two: 9DF means you use less annual leave. Just time your holidays over the weekend that you've got your Friday free and you use one less annual leave day each time. Three: My family all live down south. When I visit them, I get an extra day to travel down meaning I more spend quality time with the people I love. Winner.

Emma, Head of Marketing

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The lightbulb moment: Why we started 9DF

What feels like 3,000 years ago – back in 2018 – we were reviewing our employee package; looking at what benefits we offered compared to other organisations. Which could we adopt? And which were out of the question?

During that time, our co-founders Ed and Matt were floating the idea of a four-day week for the team at Reason Digital. Dreamy, right? Whilst we explored this idea in a bit more detail we had to consider that as an agency, ultimately, we sell time. To move to this structure would change our operating model completely, causing disruption for our charity partners. It also would affect our pricing model due to reduced resources – something we were keen to avoid. 

So the nine day fortnight concept emerged from that middle ground. It provided some of the benefits of a four day week, without reducing capacity, work quality, or client happiness.

Having a 9 day fortnight has been a massive breath of fresh air for me. There’s so many benefits I struggle to list them all. I get an extra weekend day with my partner; living in Devon, it makes travelling round the country to see my friends and family much more manageable; I get to embrace my introverted-ness by going out on a day that is less busy; I do all my chores and life admin so I actually manage to socialise AND relax on a weekend. I woke up on Monday this week following a 9DF thinking “I feel so rested, I actually feel like I’ve been on leave for a few days”. It also means a lot knowing that I have an employer that recognises the importance of work/life balance.

Jasmine, Digital Partner

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The impact of the 9DF

Concern over whether extending the working day would have a negative effect on the team’s wellbeing made us tread cautiously, so we avoided a full-steam-ahead implementation of the 9DF.

We ran a pilot for three months with team volunteers who gave the scheme a try, fully aware that it was purely a pilot.

But long-term 9DF plans were quickly realised. The worry we had around the impact of a longer day was outweighed by the benefits. Productivity actually increased slightly and pilot volunteers reported the mental health benefits that come from having an additional day off every fortnight.

9DF became a permanent, opt-in feature at Reason Digital in early 2019. 

From then on, it’s been slightly difficult to measure the long-term impact. We’ve had the minor inconvenience of a pandemic, and all the workplace changes that brings. There’s a haziness between what’s happening as a result of 9DF, what’s happening as a result of remote work, and what’s happening as a result of everything else the world has dealt with since 2019.

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Outdoor garden scene of a table with knitting, knitting patterns a relaxed cat and a glass of coca cola.
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a panoramic view of the Lake District

When I was going through my hiring process with Reason Digital, I was so shocked and happy to find out that I could have every Friday off with the nine day fortnight scheme. I love to travel, and despite being unable to at the moment, I look forward to having small holidays away with my long weekends. For now, I use those Fridays to focus on my mental health and do things I enjoy so I can be refreshed for the week ahead.

Caity, UX Designer

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Here to stay

As our team has said, it would be incredibly difficult to move back to a regular five-day week. The nine day fortnight has made us more productive, more flexible, and most importantly – happier.

We’re proud to say that our team’s wellbeing is our top priority and since we can offer this benefit without negatively affecting our projects, we don’t feel like we’ll be ditching 9DF anytime soon!

Finally starting that gardening project, making new music, taking on an all-day hike, meeting with friends who work weekends, or simply recharging and owning that role of couch potato; We love hearing what our colleagues use their 9DFs for. What would you do with 26 extra days off a year?

I LOVE that we get every other Friday off. It means that I can actually get all my life admin done on a weekday so that my weekend can be spent relaxing or seeing friends and family. It makes such a big difference to my mental health. An unexpected result of the 9df is that Fridays are relatively meeting free because half the company is off, so you can be really productive when you are in.

Lucy, Head of Partnerships

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