Vault City Brewing to adopt a permanent four-day working week in UK first

An Edinburgh-based brewer will adopt a four-day working week in what is believed to be a UK first.

Vault City Brewing, which is known for creating modern and innovative sour beers, has made the move permanent across its brewery, bar and office sites as part of its commitment to a healthy and balanced workplace culture.

The company has been trialling the shorter working week since last year. It is believed to be the first UK commercial brewery to introduce a four-day working week for staff.

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The firm’s 13 employees now work from 8am to 5:30pm Monday to Thursday, with the working week reduced from 40 hours to 35. The new working schedule was phased in over eight months from April last year.

Vendy Rychtecka, Production Supervisor at Vault City.

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Staff at all levels of the business working across Vault City’s office, brewery and bar operations are already enjoying the change, with many hailing the increased flexibility around annual leave, appointments and childcare, improved mental health, and increased energy and productivity levels.

Charlotte Brooke, Vault City’s Brewing’s sales co-ordinator, said: “The work/life balance it affords me allows me to enjoy my time to the fullest and arrange long-weekends away without needing to take time off.

"I feel less tired, more mentally and emotionally well rested and generally just better. I don’t think I could go back to a five-day week now.”

The four-day week concept had been in Vault City co-founder Steven Smith Hay’s mind since he left a corporate career that included spells at BT and TSG to start the firm in 2018.

Despite expecting significant challenges, particularly implementing it around the unpredictable production schedule of a fully functioning commercial brewery, Mr Hay said he knew it was fundamentally important to create the right work-life balance for his team.

He said: “Scaling up something that started small is challenging at the best of times, but committing to a four-day work week when you’ve more than tripled in size, and opened a bar could seem like an impossible stretch.

"However, we believe work-life balance is a big part of our culture and something worth striving for.

“A four-day working week is completely unheard of in the brewing world – an industry that has developed a reputation for long hours and hard graft.

"To be honest, that was part of my motivation – to create a different way of working. It hasn’t come without its challenges though.

“As the first commercial brewery in the UK to offer this way of working to our team, there was no blueprint to follow.

"Initially it takes discipline not to fall back into old habits of a five-day working pattern, especially because many of our customers work in hospitality where weekends are often when they’re most active.”

Although the office teams at Vault City adapted quickly to the work schedule during last year’s phased introduction, the brewing arm of the business threw up more obstacles, particularly as fermentation doesn’t work to a set timetable.

Mr Hay said: “Brewing beer can be unpredictable, especially in the world of mixed fermentation. There are certain situations when brewing and packaging releases which can change quickly and require immediate attention.

"In those moments we’ve had to use overtime pay to make sure we kept things under control.”

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