Hours cut but pay stays the same as stone company decides its employees are ‘working too hard’

Cumbrian Stone at the Natural Stone Show
Sam Morris with Cumbrian Stone's virtual reality headset at the Natural Stone Show in London in 2019. Cumbrian Stone has decided its staff are working too hard and has cut the working week to four days.

Cumbrian Stone in Penrith, Cumbria, has increased productivity with machinery and computers and is sharing the benefits with staff by reducing its working week to four days.

The idea of Friday POETS days is not exactly new and many companies have condensed a 40-hour working week into four days. But Cumbrian Stone says its employees will be working fewer hours with the company making up their pay so they receive what they would normally earn in a five-day week.

It says it has always had a generous salary package reviewed annually. “All of our employees have benefited from a pay increase almost every year since we started and our current pay rates are, and will continue to remain, well above the national living wage in order to help our employees with the rising costs of inflation,” says Sales & Marketing Manager Sam Morris.

The company employs 10 people in its factory and four in its offices. It says they have always worked long hours – 7am to 5.30pm with half-an-hour for lunch and 15-minute breaks morning and afternoon. But the company felt they were working too much, given the physical nature of stone production, so it decided the best way to combat this was to give them all a three-day weekend.

The new working week begins on 3 October and is introduced for a six-month trial, although Sam Morris says Cumbrian Stone does not expect to go back to a five-day week at the end of six months.

Cumbrian Stone expects to be leading the way in a new way of working that it anticipates could spread throughout the stone industry and to other industries in the years ahead.

In France, when working hours were reduced by the government, productivity and output increased. Cumbrian Stone is hoping for a similar outcome. “We’re quite excited to see how it all pans out,” says Sam.

He adds: “The company wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the work the guys have put in. They built the company up from scratch. It’s a blooming hard industry with heavy materials and they work hard.”

The company was formed in 2006 and some of the people working there have been there since the beginning.

“We like to do things differently,” says Sam, “and always like to put ourselves at the forefront of innovation and change within the natural stone industry.” 

Cumbrian Stone concedes that some people will say it’s crazy to cut the working week to four days and will wonder why a manufacturing business would want to pay the same amount for fewer hours worked? Surely, they will say, a four-day week will harm production, put prices up and reduce the level of service? But Cumbrian Stone is questioning that orthodoxy.

During the past decade the company has invested heavily in new technology and machinery, developing its own computer programmes and equipping with GMM CNC saws and a Donatoni Quadrix CNC workcentre, improving processes and efficiency levels.

This has allowed it to drive up production levels significantly without needing to increase the number of people working there. At the same time prices have remained competitive and the company is known for the high quality of stonework it supplies.

Sam: “These efficiency improvements mean we’re confident we can maintain our current production levels in terms of both volume and quality while operating over four days rather than five, meaning there’s no increase in price or loss of service to our customers.

“Our team will continue to deliver an industry-beating turn around on new enquires and we’re 100% committed to ensuring that our lead times for our natural stone products still come in faster than the industry standard.

“So why not simply pocket the additional profits from these efficiency savings and keep operating over five days? The blunt answer is… because our employees deserve the rewards for their hard work!

“We firmly believe that our stonemasons and sawyers are some of the best in the industry, and our team has given 110% to building Cumbrian Stone into the success it is today.

"However, the last few years have shown all of us that there’s far more to life than just work, and with the work-life balance being debated more and more we decided to help our team make the most of their well-earned salaries by making every weekend a three-day weekend (because who doesn’t want a Thursday to be the new Friday?).”

Cumbrian Stone believes longer resting and recovery times during busier periods will increase employee happiness and, combined with job security, should make working at the company an even more attractive prospect to aid recruitment – and many companies are finding it hard to recruit people to the stone industry.

Cumbrian Stone is also keen to explore the benefits the shorter working week will bring to the company’s carbon footprint – a factor that is increasingly influencing developers and designers when specifying natural stone on their projects.

Because everyone is having a four-day week, the showroom on Gilwilly Industrial Estate will only be open Mondays to Thursdays, but Cumbrian Stone says customers can take a virtual tour of its premises on its website.

It showed its level of sophistication with the use of technology at the Natural Stone Show in London last time, when it had a virtual reality headset that allowed visitors to explore its premises in Penrith without leaving ExCeL, where the Show is held.

For more information about how Cumbrian Stone’s award-winning natural stonemasonry is used, opportunities to join its team and how the company can benefit clients, developers, architects and designers, email [email protected] or call 01768 867867. Or, if you are nearby Monday to Thursday, 8am to 5pm, call into the showroom on Gilwilly Industrial Estate, Penrith.

Cumbrian Stone premises
Cumbrian Stone's site in Penrith, Cumbria.