TGIF - The UK's First 4-Day Work Week Brewery

Vault City Brewery, Portobello Edinburgh

TGIF

You’d imagine a typical Friday at Vault City might consist of weekend preparations, kegging new releases and maybe even a beer or two for ourselves while we wrap things up. What you’d find if you popped by today would be a little different… You’d find a near empty brewery, and a team full of automated, out of office replies. The reason why? Our 4-day work week, which is now as of 2022, a permanent benefit to being part of team Vault City.

This time last year we started talking about the idea of a 4-day work week, something which at the time we described as feeling like standing at the bottom of a mountain. We knew instantly that there would be challenges with this, but for us, the benefits of building this culture which prioritises our team’s collective well-being made it an easy decision to make.

 

A Phased Approach

We knew even as a small team that a 4-day work week could be problematic. Plus, as far as we’re aware, we’re the first commercial brewery in the UK to offer this way of working to our team, so there’s no blueprint to follow.

We decided that a phased approach would help iron out any kinks without causing too much disruption to production. In April through to June last year, we took the first step in making this dream a reality, trialling the 4-day working pattern once a month.  In July to September we ramped this up with every second Friday off, then in the remaining months of the year we had only one 5-day working week each month.

This phased approach gave us the confidence that our 4-day working week could be possible, but it wasn’t without its challenges...

 

The Challenges

Brewing beer can be unpredictable. Especially in the world of mixed fermentation. This meant that implementing a 4-day work week was significantly harder for our production staff than it was for everyone else - something which we’re still working to perfect. We said in our original blog that we’re considering book-end working models which means some team members work Monday to Thursday and others Tuesday to Friday. This still might be the best option to give the working balance we’re looking for but with a little more time to keep an eye on our beer so it's something we're still considering. 

The other challenge is that we’re a growing team, and there’s now 13 of us at Vault City. Scaling up something that started small is challenging at the best of times, but committing to a 4-day work week when you’ve more than tripled in size, and opened a bar could seem like an impossible stretch. However, our co-founder Steve believes that work-life balance is a big part of our culture, and something worth striving for.

 

The Benefits

We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so an additional day off can have as many benefits as you want! Don’t take it from me, here’s how the team spend that extra day:

 Joe with a cute dog on his shoulder

“4-day work weeks mean that I can escape Sour Beer for a few days and focus on other ventures, like drinking imperial stouts and pilsners instead. In fact, it means I can drink stouts on Fridays, pilsners on Saturdays and prepare for the next working week with Sours on Sunday (#SourSunday).”

Joe Cruickshank, Business Development Manager

 Charlotte enjoying a drink in the sunshine

“A four day working week for me means a more balanced week. I use my Fridays to catch up on things that fall by the wayside during the week (like sleep + general 'life admin') - leaving the weekend free for extra fun!”

Charlotte Brooke, Sales Coordinator

 Steve and Louie, his faithful pooch

“My wife and I are expecting our first child at the end of January, so an extra day off will make a huge difference. More time for changing nappies in-between running the business!

Steven Smith-Hay, Co-Founder