Unstructure the Structure: Why a 4-day week is best

Jess MacIntyre

The great thing about running your own business is you get to decide your own rules and what works for you. Flexible working has always been ingrained within Mac+Moore right from the start of our business journey. When you steer your own ship you prioritise what’s important to you, and placing a high value on our time and minds is paramount. Six years later this ideology still runs true to us both, through award-winning work, a global pandemic and recently becoming a new parent.

When I recently returned from maternity leave my appreciation for our set-up has grown tenfold. Running a business and raising a small human at the same time is extremely rewarding but also tiring, challenging and downright hard. However, knowing our business has been built upon foundations that allow us to bring our best selves to work (and not at the expense of our personal lives or mental health) has meant that since my return we’ve been able to go from strength to strength. Now, I see a future where being a parent and having a successful career as a woman is possible. Something not everybody is sadly afforded.

As much as we’d love to take all the credit, it turns out we’re not the only ones who are promoting flexible working as recently there have been broader discussions at large scale organisations about the benefits of switching to a 4-day week. It comes as no surprise that it’s time for change. With all the talk of businesses reviewing their working procedures post pandemic alongside the working week not being updated/re-thought in over 100 years we wanted to write this post to give you an insight into how flexible working has enabled us to both survive and thrive as a small business. That it is possible to work smarter and not harder when you’re a smaller outfit and how the outcome can result in a supportive work environment that can help make us happier, more productive and efficient.

Unstructured Structure

There is often the misconception that in order to offer flexible working you need to be unstructured in your approach. At Mac+Moore we follow a 4-day week with working hours based loosely on the typical 9-5. We understand most of our clients operate within these times and it’s important they know when we are available. However, we make a point of not clock watching when we start and finish work in order to allow autonomy and individual working styles dictate how to use our time best. My Fridays are spent helping my son to learn sign-language and spending quality time together which feels like a special end to my week. Nat chooses to focus her time on making space for her creative writing. A craft that used to fall through the cracks between work and personal life.

Deep work = Your best work

Creative work often requires deep work. A switch off from the outside world and all the distractions that come alongside WhatsApp messages, Instagram and endless emails. I remember listening to a creative colleague who worked at a large well-regarded agency talk with despair about how creatives were either chained to their desks (a problem with trust) or pulled into meeting after meeting with little time to think and feel inspired.

When do you feel most creative? For us, it’s not sitting at a desk. It’s when we’re outside, listening to our favourite records, travelling, being immersed in culture, or even in the bath. So, we prioritise these moments. Even if it’s just a walk in the fresh air. And then when we do the work we switch off the outside noise. Last year we launched a Creative Thieves exercise book to encourage more people to get out from behind the desks and get creative. So have a peek and get started!

Your environment dictates your output

We’ve also recently joined The Hoxton’s co-working space in Southwark. This allows us to have an effective working environment when we’re not at home, something that was important to us both after being stuck at home throughout the pandemic. As the space caters for businesses like ours that want to divide time between home and the office it works beautifully. We’re able to take the benefits of having a central London office environment (hello views of The Shard) where we can host IRL meetings, workshops and chats and then work from home when it feels convenient and more effective to do so. We recognise it’s a privilege to afford this set-up but it’s brilliant to see so many affordable new co-working spaces throughout the country popping up too. Plus the water cooler chats are back, and we’re totally here for it.

Strong Boundaries + Respect = Results

We learned early on in our business journey just how important boundaries would be in order to keep sane (important) and maintain healthy positive relationships whilst getting the job done well. Here are a few of the boundaries that we’ve felt are necessary when setting up a successful flexible work environment:

  • No client interaction on WhatsApp or other informal messaging services unless on agreed channels
  • No responding to communication outside of agreed work hours (there is always an exception here and there but only do it when you really must and ask yourself the question – can it wait until the morning?)
  • Respect for each other’s time away from work and only asking for help if very necessary
  • Permission to switch off from day-to-day communications to get the work done
  • Transparency as to what we’re doing so that everyone is aware and up to date on each other’s whereabouts/schedules


It’s tough getting the balance right when it comes to communication. Especially when you’re managing a team all working remotely. We’ve found that digitally it becomes a lot easier to get crossed wires and misunderstandings and therefore you need to set-up some practical ways to overcome this. Here’s how:

  • We don’t do important decision making over instant messenger, slack or email. If we can’t do it in person, we jump on a call/Zoom. Important decisions often involve a lot of nuances so give yourself the best chance of having a productive conversation by seeing and hearing who you’re talking to.
  • Understand that everyone communicates differently. It may be easier for you to work from home if you have a young family or perhaps you want the office chats and interaction to help you be more productive. It’s important to allow for both but also for everyone to understand that coming together as a team IRL is beneficial for all.
  • Know that sometimes, even if it’s not what we want to do, if we know we’re going to have the best outcome then it’s worth doing. That could mean commuting in to attend an event, making the effort to have an IRL coffee meeting. No one wants to go back to pre-pandemic bad habits but it’s important to remember the positives of IRL connection when building relationships.

Work with good people and create a culture of trust

As a small business we are lucky to have a fair amount of control about who we work with. Whether that’s like-minded partners in the creative field or clients. All the above would not be possible unless our partners and clients had the same respect that we do for our work processes, structures and boundaries.

We appreciate not everyone can pick and choose who they work with. But managers and decision makers in bigger businesses should prioritise work practices that empower and enable their staff to work in a positive working environment.  

We completely appreciate that larger organisations require structure and a different set-up to a business like ours. But that doesn’t mean that there are not learnings and ideas that they can steal from us smaller challenger businesses. Especially when it comes to setting boundaries and mental health.

We hope you find these learnings useful. Be prepared to make mistakes, listen and learn. Along the way your business and your employees can only go from strength to strength if you allow a culture of trust, creativity and respect to flourish. If it’s one positive outtake we can take from the pandemic, it’s that there isn’t one way to do work well.





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