Charlotte Lockhart on her global vision for a better work-life balance

Posted by TEBI on February 13, 2024

Charlotte Lockhart on her global vision for a better work-life balance



Robin writes:

It’s time for the latest in our podcast series Second Lives, in which my co-author JONATHAN HOLLOW looks at the different paths that people choose to take in the second half of their lives and the crucial importance of living with purpose. This episode is different. All our other episodes have focused, in one way or another, about how people can transition to a completely different purpose and a new way of making a living. But this episode asks: what if we could continue in our current jobs, and have much more free time to pursue our other interests, every single week? That’s the vision of the co-founder of 4 Day Week Global, our interviewee CHARLOTTE LOCKHART.

She has a fascinating story. She more or less fell into the role of being a global spokesperson and influencer about the idea of a better work-life balance — because she and her partner tried this approach in the business they built and own: and it worked! The global interest was so immense, they felt they had a duty and an opportunity to spread the evidence and the methods they tried across the world. And businesses all over the world are now experimenting with a four-day week.

Could it work for you? Listen and find out.



TEBI would like to thank the London-based financial planning firm Mulberry Bow for collaborating with us on this series. 
As well as Spotify, you’ll find The TEBI Podcast on all the major podcast platforms, including Apple PodcastsListen NotesPlayerFM and Podbean.



Jonathan Hollow: Charlotte, there are a lot of misapprehensions about the four-day week. What’s the version of it that you advocate?

Charlotte Lockhart: Yeah, it’s interesting because there’s a whole pile of people going, “Oh, no, you’re just about giving people time off.” But actually, no, we’re not.

So, the whole concept has been described that if you give people time off, they will be more productive. That’s just not true. That’s not what’s been proven.

What we have proven is that if you focus on productivity and be clear with your people as to what is expected and ask them to be able to do their jobs more efficiently and better, then they can have the time off. And they are very engaged with helping you improve your business because you’re giving them the one employee benefit that they can spend in the way that best suits them.

Jonathan Hollow: So what’s the relationship between time and pay and hours and compressed hours? How does that all fit in your vision?

Charlotte Lockhart: Despite the fact that we call ourselves four-day week, we’re not really talking about having Fridays off, although that would be nice, but in this international, global economy, it’s just not realistic. But what we’re talking about is how can you have a meaningful reduction in work time. So we talk about our 100-80-100 principle, which is 100 percent pay, 80 percent time, 100 percent productivity. By using that simple mathematical formula, what you’re saying is that if you can give me what you’re contracted to do, which is the productivity bit, then I will pay you the same. And if you can do it in less time, you know, let’s work together to make it happen in less time. And what our research shows that this is entirely possible. So it’s a great thing about the formula 100-80-100 is it doesn’t matter whether you’re working 60 hours, 70 hours, 80 hours or 30 hours, 20 hours. What we’re looking at is how can we help you be more productive, so you can reduce work time.

Jonathan Hollow: Interesting! Well, look, we’ll go on to talk about why this might be good for individuals because the perspective of this podcast series is mostly the individual’s perspective. But if there are any kind of hard-nosed business leaders, what’s the evidence about the productivity and about the bottom line that you think has come out as most compelling?

Charlotte Lockhart: Yes, so there are so many little bits of our research that plug into that answer.

Mainly that the companies that do the pilot programs and those who continue on find that their productivity continues to improve. Now their whole culture within their business has changed to be a productivity-focused business because people are focused on being able to have their time at home.

In our UK pilot programme (I mean, how’s this for a number any business person that’s out there?) absenteeism, so this is people ringing in going, “Oh boss, I can’t come in today”, absenteeism went down 65%!

Now, you as a business owner will know the impact of absenteeism on your business. You know, at best it’s inconvenient, at worst it’s costing you agency staff. So, there is a direct impact and then there are impacts on the ability to recruit and retain good staff. And you know what? There’s a little side effect that sometimes people who are just misaligned in their job … they go work for someone else! And you get the people that actually really want to help you build your business. Because it’s a partnership.

It’s not a clashing. Your business, whether you’re the owner or a leader, your business exists because you need it. But it exists because your people follow you in it. So the two of you are in partnership. They don’t have a job without you having the business. And you don’t have the business without them doing the job.

And the reason why the four-day week works commercially is what I call the “delicious circle of happiness”. You can imagine your boss says, “Let’s do this.” And you go, “Okay, I’m going to give this four-day week a go.” So you’re immediately happier at work. You’re immediately more engaged with what you’re doing at work.

(And everyone is entitled to a life. As business leaders, we need to remember that we borrow our people from their lives.)

You go home, your partner says to you, “Hi honey, how was your day?” You go, “I’ve had a really good day.” So there you go, being nice to your partner! You might even be nice to the children, right!?

And then  what our research also shows is that you will sleep better. Fatigue, insomnia, burnout, all of those things that get in the way of us being able to sleep … you sleep better. Our research shows that. And so you wake up in the morning, your partner says to you, “How did you sleep, honey?” And you go, “I’ve had a great night’s sleep!” There you are, being nice to them again! And you might even be nice to the children.

And then you take that person that’s had a happier home life back to work … and you are happier at work.

However, also what tends to happen is that when people, that they’ve got the time they start to look for other things to do with the time. At first they turn into Mr. or Mrs. Schindler because they’ve got a “list” of things that they need to get done. But then after you’ve fixed all those squeaking hinges, or whatever it is,  you actually start to look to do something meaningful. And so you engage with something outside of work and home.

And so when that circle flows like this, the positive impact in the work environment is with people who are motivated, healthy, happier, more engaged – they are just better productive units. It’s psychology 101. You don’t need to have a PhD. And human behaviorists understand that if you can give people a life where they can feel settled and happy, they will be better units in your workplace, especially in a workplace where you’ve given them true, meaningful, clear direction as to what’s expected.

Jonathan Hollow: Well, let’s dwell on that last point. for a moment. Because you said a very interesting thing a couple of minutes ago, which is people are contracted to be productive. But of course, in many organisations, that’s just not true. The organisations presumably have to rethink what they’re actually telling people to do and how they’re telling them to do it.

Charlotte Lockhart: It is not about time; it’s about being clear. And so what happens when businesses go through this is, each of the staff members looks at how they fit in with their job role, their team, and their division. The managers have all looked at it. It’s not overly complicated, but: “Am I paying you to keep a chair warm? No, I’m paying you for a certain amount that comes in.” It’s not just about you clocking in and clocking out. Ultimately, it’s a business improvement strategy, but the spinoff is that people just have much better lives.

Isn’t that the society that we want? The 40-hour week has been around for a while, it’s a construct of post-Second World War. We had a society that was still very engaged with each other. Children were brought up by their parents, not in care. We engaged with charitable or community things, cared for our aged parents, grew our own vegetables—did so much more of the things that keep us healthy and sane. There are elements of that we don’t want to go back to, for example, women not getting equal pay and women not being welcome in the workforce. There is a whole part of society that has moved forward to a much better place, but we’ve left behind some of the gold.

Jonathan Hollow: There might be some listeners thinking, “This is really attractive. I wonder if I could make this work as an individual negotiated arrangement with my employer?”

Charlotte Lockhart: It’s much better if everybody’s in on the same game. But actually, the key thing is, if you can negotiate with your employer and say, “What is it that you want from me in a week (or a month or a year, a timeframe?), what is the output that you’re looking for?” Let’s work out what that is and then leave me to determine the hours dedicated to it.

I recommend this to returning mothers (but we’re getting more and more fathers taking parental leave too, where they come back to an 80% role being paid 80%. But we all know that they do the full job role!

The key thing is to say, “If I’m going to be in an 80% role, what am I not doing? What is the 100% role? What is the 80% role? What is the 20% that’s not being done?” And then negotiate that. “If I can do that 20% without putting in the hours, will you pay me?”

You’ll get bosses that will probably say no. Then go work for someone else! Realistically, that’s not right, if I pay you 80%, but I expect 100% out of you, that’s wrong on so many levels.

So just walk away. In the current employment market, that is your choice. One of the interesting things is that post-pandemic, as people, we really looked at what are our choices for the way we want to work. We’ve become far more aware of what we want, and less driven by it.

A classic example is in the summer of 2021, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said to his people, “When we get back to work after summer, we’re going to come in three days a week.” His people wrote to him and said “No!”. If he had suggested that prior to the pandemic, they probably would have thought he was a genius.

So there is this requirement now for businesses to consult you on what the situation should be. But then my premise is, well, you’ve got to work together to work out what the better option is – a better life for you and a better business, that’s where the gold is.

Jonathan Hollow: Have you got stories that have come out of the trials that you’ve observed yourself or heard about, about how it’s changed lives for individuals?

Charlotte Lockhart: Yes! There was one woman in a trial early on who had always wanted a dog, but her workload meant that she just didn’t feel that she could do it. So she got a dog; so she had that.

The number one thing that people do is take up new hobbies. I had one chap do a four day week because he was a pianist, but he worked in IT, and he’d found that he was working so hard that he just got too disengaged. He’d lost the desire to play. So he stopped working so hard so that he could bring back his sense of play.

Another business leader said to me that she spent most of her day at work on her open door policy (because we don’t have doors anymore). People could always come and talk to her. She spent most of her day managing people and their problems. When someone comes to you, it’s generally because they’ve got a problem, or they need validation. She found that when she  worked out what productivity was and empowered them to do their jobs, she got her job done during the day. She was doing her job previously on the train to and fro from work and at home, because the rest of her day was full of other people’s problems. And then once she empowered her people and they got their mojo back, she was sayihng, “Where is everybody? Oh, I’ll do my own job then!”

Jonathan Hollow: Do you see a generational divide about the four day week?

Charlotte Lockhart: The Millennials and the Gen Zs are our children. And they watched us overvalue work, overvalue work over them, over our health, over our communities, just over everything, and burned out.

And they’re going, “I don’t understand why you would do that. I don’t want that in life!” They are choosing a different way of engaging with work. They want meaningful work. Our research shows that. There’s heaps of research that says this. It’s meaningful work. They want what they do to be measured, and they want to get counted for what they do.

So what we want to be able to do is give our children and, by extension, our grandchildren better lives. From the 21st-century perspective, what does better look like? My contention is that better is about having more time, meaningful work, but more time to do all of the things that enable us to be engaged people in our families, in our communities … engaged with saving the planet (because, let’s face it, we’ve done a pretty good job of not doing that so far,) – and balancing gender. We’ve done so much to pull women up in the workforce. We haven’t done enough to help men out. We haven’t normalized that I’m off to look after my child because my child is sick, from a male’s perspective. We expect that women will do, and women don’t necessarily want to do it … we just do it.

Jonathan Hollow: So what’s your own story about getting involved in this movement, which clearly fires you up?

Charlotte Lockhart: Well, we introduced a four day week at our company, Perpetual Guardian, back in 2018. Andrew, my partner, read some research that said that people in the UK were productive for less than two and a half hours a day! So he was saying: crikey – why is that?!

Is it because things are happening in our lives that get in the way? So he had this thesis that if we gave our people more time, they would actually be more productive at work because they could come for work and then they had time to get  all of that other stuff done. So he was doing it from a business improvement perspective, from a productivity perspective. All of this wellness, happiness stuff just came as a byproduct of what he was trying to prove.

That got a lot of media attention. Everybody loved the idea of it, and Andrew was in the New York Times, the second story after the Trump-Putin summit. It grew legs. Through that, we established 4 Day Week Global because we partnered with one of the VPs from Kickstarter to do an awareness campaign … just as the pandemic was hitting. We said to him, well, we need to be careful what we wish for because if we create a whole bunch of awareness, then what do we do to help businesses who are interested?

Now 4 Day Week Global runs pilot programs around the world. There is one in pretty much every place that you can think of or you can have access to it digitally. And so, we’re helping to change the world!

Jonathan Hollow: So you’re both involved still in Perpetual Guardian and the 4 Day Week as an organisation.

Charlotte Lockhart: Yes, we still own Perpetual Guardian. We don’t have an awful lot to do with it. Andrew’s on the board. We are both still very much involved with 4 Day Week Global, but we are stepping back from that too, a little bit. We have worked more than our 40 hours a week for a little while … So we’re stepping back. We’ve got an excellent CEO, Dale, who is doing a stellar job driving the whole conversation, has grown us from being a six-person organization to being 12 people in the last year. We were named as one of the Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential organizations this year. Prior to that, Andrew and I were in Forbes’ top 50 most influential people in work. So it’s just great because we’re getting recognition, but more importantly, we’re making a difference.

Jonathan Hollow: How would you describe the state of play of the four day week movement around the world then?

Charlotte Lockhart: It’s a good question. As we went into 2023, we were running our pilot programs, and they were busy! We released our UK data in early January, and it got a lot of international attention. But 2023 has been the year of governments connecting in with us and actually starting to ask questions. It is the year of governments saying, we need to be looking at what this looks like. We’re running a pilot program for the Portuguese government.

We’ve got some work that we’re doing with the Australians and various others, whether they be local or regional or national, they are all asking questions.

Andif you think about it, what are the macroeconomic benefits of a healthier, happier society? The UK loses 18 million worker days to workplace stress and mental health issues. £43 billion is what that costs, according to Deloitte. It’s massive. It’s a huge impact on the economy. What if we could take that down by 10%, or 50%?

What if we could actually be healthier, if we could repair some of this by having more time to look after ourselves, more time to be healthy and more time to be connected? Then we’re actually going to have an impact on the NHS. We’re actually going to have an impact on business and the economy and we’re going to have an impact on society. Because our divorce rates are reflective of the stress that we put ourselves under.

Jonathan Hollow: And yet in Britain, the idea of a four day week has come under fire.

Charlotte Lockhart: Those who do not favour it are not focusing on the productivity focus you need at the beginning. When you’ve done that, then you actually are building your economy at the same time. And you know what? It takes work. So, the interesting thing is you can have governments that are saying: “Macro problem, not sure I’m interested.” But as an organisation, so 4 Day Week Global (and the 4 Day Week campaign here in the UK) do an amazing job with creating awareness, but we’re going to fix it in the micro! We’re just going to bring all these businesses along. So as much as it would be nice for the government to go, yep, let’s back a 4 Day Week, business is doing it anyway. The UK has the most number of businesses doing this, more than anywhere else in the world. And it’s no longer this crazy idea out there. That’s what it was back in 2018, when we walked in the room: “She’s the crazy lady!”

Jonathan Hollow: Do you think it’ll be easier to introduce it more widely in the public sector after it’s become a more accepted feature of commercial business life?

Charlotte Lockhart: People go, “Oh, I’m just not sure it’ll work in the civil service.” Like the civil service is any different from the rest of us, right?! Yes, there are certain differences, but on the whole, the workplace, if you’re a civil servant, is not terribly different from the workplace if you’re a commercial business. It all comes down to: be clear when you’re there, have meaningful work, and then go home. I feel that there was a huge opportunity missed by the Civil Service and the unions by not getting on board with this idea.

Jonathan Hollow: I get the impression that for some people, perhaps a minority, the transition to a four-day week has raised some profound questions about the role work plays in their lives or maybe what’s left of their lives once you take a big chunk of workdays out of it?

Charlotte Lockhart: Let’s face it … a lot of us come to work because we’re avoiding everything else! And that’s not a very healthy way to live and yes, for some people, it’s a little bit confrontational, and they have to work that out, and create a better space for themselves. But if we look at our responsibility to engage with society and contribute, not just to work alone, but to society, then you’ve got to look at: what does me “hiding at work” do, in terms of impact on society?

Jonathan Hollow: And some people have needed to also find other meaningful ways of filling the three days.

Charlotte Lockhart: It might be three days off ,or it might be that you just work five days and you just get home by 3. 30 in the afternoon. Not all businesses give their people the choice around how that works, but not all businesses can just close their doors on a Friday. I’m a big fan of Wednesday. How about this? If your Wednesday’s off, you can always say “I had yesterday off”, or “I’ve got tomorrow off.” It’s perfect! And for a lot of people with health issues, working two days at a time and then having a day where they can recoup and rest and having another two days off actually makes them far more productive because they can get the rest that they need.

Jonathan Hollow: You are clearly having what people would call “a moment”. I can’t believe that it all started only five years ago. You’ve  your validation from Forbes and Time as a global influencer.

Charlotte Lockhart: Oh, and I got a King’s Birthday Honour as well!

Jonathan Hollow: Tell me, how do you manage the ebb and flow of all this (or maybe just the flow!)?

Charlotte Lockhart: I’m fortunate that we have a life that enables us not to have to work full time in our businesses, to make a crust.

So Andrew and I felt that we had that gift (which we worked very hard for, let’s face it) and that we were in a position that most of the other advocates in the four day week space are not –they have to earn a living. They have to find ways to either engage with it in their voluntary hours or monetise what they’re doing. But we were able to create this voice. We could have done nothing. We could have just said, “oh yeah, that was cool!” and then just gone off and retired into, into nothingness. But because we had been given this voice, we felt that it was important to do something with it.

Jonathan Hollow: And do you feel like this is “work”?

Charlotte Lockhart: No, it’s interesting. I’m lucky. I spend my life having really interesting conversations with interesting people. And as Andrew often says, you don’t get many chances to change the world.

Jonathan Hollow: And do you have to rein yourself in or say, well, maybe I’ve done enough of that for now?

Charlotte Lockhart: We do. We are now only doing the things that, that matter to us most. But look, we’ve got a team of 12 people around the world. No matter what time zone you’re in, I can give you someone to talk to who’s equally as passionate about it. And they’ve got energy for these things. I, unfortunately, have secondary breast cancer. So I’m really making an effort to not spend too much time being busy.

Jonathan Hollow: Well, I feel very lucky to be able to speak to you under those circumstances.

Charlotte Lockhart: Thank you.

Jonathan Hollow: You talk about how interesting it all is. When I looked at your role from afar, it looks like you’re pushing ahead in three different areas at once. You’ve got advocacy and persuasion, you’ve got academia, and then you’ve got the practical challenges of an organization in demand all over the globe. Has that combination come to you as a surprise, or do you think it’s a natural fit from what you’ve done previously in your working career?

Charlotte Lockhart: Look, I think  everything in life sets you up for the next part of your life. And we’re fortunate now that while Andrew and I drove all of that in the beginning, we now have Dale and the rest of the team to be able to do the day to day running of the pilot programmes. Our academic team deals with the research side of things. So we just feed the beast, as they say! Largely what Andrew and I do now is just talk about it. We are in the advocacy space, and, you know, as your listeners have heard, I’m quite passionate about that.

I’ve gone from being very clear about the productivity side of things, but now, for me, this is about: what is the world that we’re trying to create? What are we offering our 21st-century grandchildren? And, you know, as a young mother, I said “I’m only being a mother so I can be a grandmother!” And now I find myself in a situation that I might not meet my grandchildren because of this cancer thing.

There’s a part of me that thinks I wasted all that time with that attitude: every wellness instructor encourages you to be mindful and live in the moment, and enjoy what you’ve got. But our lives are so hectic that we often don’t feel like we’ve got the time to be mindful. (We’re just rushing from one thing to another, and the millennials and the Gen Zs are saying, “I’m not having that.”)

Jonathan Hollow: What have you learned about planning and looking forward? Maybe … over the last five years compared to, I don’t know, the previous 15 or 20 years before that?

Charlotte Lockhart: I think perhaps one of the things that we didn’t do b(ecause we were kind of accidental tourists on this whole journey), is, we didn’t really come at it from strategic perspective. It just grew by osmosis. This is one of the great things that Dale is doing, he’s putting all of that structure, strategy and planning in place now.

Therefore, we can be more impactful in a more targeted way.

I encourage anyone who’s listening that is still doubtful to go onto our website,

There’s all sorts of stuff, including our research, which will show you the impact that reducing work time has had, both on business and on people.

Work on your health, work on your relationships, work on your families, work for a charity. You’re all one diagnosis away from being me. I’m only 56, and I’m probably not going to make 66 (but we all believe that we will).

So you’ve got to make sure that you give yourself that time to be the human that you need to be.

Jonathan Hollow: Charlotte, I’m in awe of what you’ve achieved over the last five years, and I’m so grateful for you giving time to this interview. I hope to hear from you for a very long time to come.

Charlotte Lockhart: Absolutely! Pfizer are making great drugs, and they continue to do so. We’ll see how we get on.​



Jonathan worked for the UK Government’s Money and Pensions Service and is a writer and commentator on consumer education and protection. He is the co-author, with Robin Powell, of the award-winning book How to Fund the Life You Want, which is published by Bloomsbury.



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