In March and April 2020, work and life as we know it is changing. I surveyed our team members (all 84 across the globe) to understand how best to help them deal with so many changing things at once.
I especially want to hear from parents about what can help them when many schools close and partners or spouses have to work from home as well.
Result? Most people want more time to overcome the new challenges they face.
As a remote organization, we have provided a lot of flexibility for our employees and that is one of the benefits of remote work. The ideal solution for us at the time was to both rely on flexibility and provide more time at the same time, which was when we started looking at a four-day workweek.
Concept of a 4-day work week has gained a lot of traction by early 2020 because many companies have seen better flexibility and therefore employees are happier switching from five days eight to four. Microsoft has tested this in Japan and have seen a 40% increase in productivityand Unilever New Zealand also deployed a 32-hour workweek.
Given the stress, inactivation, and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is also touted as a helpful way to deal with babysitting, isolation, and more.
This aggregate survey of our teammates and growing global evidence that a four-day workweek can be a good solution is what generates trial for a month. After that test, we found that not only did happiness and stress improved, but productivity didn’t decrease either. We have chosen one 6 months trial to confirm whether this is a sustainable practice or not.
Now, we are continuing the four-day work week for the foreseeable future. Here are some of the things we learned from our group survey of the four-day workweek during our two trials.
Our internal surveys tell us what about a four-day workweek
The four-day workweek leads to steady productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These are the exact results we hope to see and have helped us challenge the notion that we need to work ‘nine to five’ five days a week. It’s worth noting that while we’ve seen a steady level of productivity, we’ve evaluated that based on teammate feedback rather than a company-wide goal, which will change by 2021.
Looking back at the impact of the company-wide four-day workweek for most of 2020, we decide to step up this model by 2021, with some clarifications and exceptions. Here’s how we evaluated our six-month pilot program and why we decided to keep running for a four-day workweek.
Starting in May 2020, I have measured the following:
- The output is based on the deadline and the goal of the area
- your teammates’ personal autonomy
- stress level
- happy general work
Here’s a bit more information about how each of those measurements played out.
Our output is in a four-day working week
In our May test, we found that teammates felt as productive or productive in a four-day workweek as they did in a five-day workweek. It’s only a month-long test, so it can be easily skipped, but we saw the pattern emerge in our six-month test. Nearly 34 percent felt more productive than when we had a five-day workweek, nearly 60 percent felt equally productive, and seven percent less felt less efficient.
While my teammates said I felt more productive, I also talked to the managers. I have aggregated data from our managers around the team outputs to help determine if the data is consistent with the feelings of my teammates, and what my suggestions would be when stepping up. in 2021.
For our Engineering team the total number of coding days has been reduced. However, we have seen a significant increase in output. Our technical director, Ivana, shares: “Weekly coding days increased from 3.4 to 2.7 for product groups and from 3.2 to 2.9 for Mobile and Infrastructure, while collaborating on production increased significantly across product groups and doubled in Infrastructure and Mobile! “
Many of the managers I talked to echoed Ivana’s feelings as they saw yields increase.
The exception to these results in productivity is our customer advocacy team. We had more difficulty maintaining productivity levels, which was expected because this role is unique in that volume is unpredictable.
Typically, our supporters still report feeling that they are about 85 to 90% more productive than they achieved in five days a week outside of the customer’s inbox, i.e. in projects. another judgment. However, customers have waited a little longer to receive an initial response to their email.
As mentioned earlier, we asked teammates and managers to rate overall performance rather than measure it for themselves based on company-wide goals. That will change in 2021 as we set more specific company goals, so we’ll be able to see how well our goals are met each quarter, and that will be another key metric. for the success of the four-day workweek.
Autonomy and flexibility reported in May 2020 was 4.3 out of 5, with 5 being “full autonomy”. This number rose to 4.7 by the end of our six-month pilot:
Recalling that our teammates can take control of their schedules is the primary goal of the four-day workweek.
Our stress level in May 2020 (when we first started testing) was 3.3 out of 5, with 5 being the high stress level. Reported stress levels fell to 2.7 in our June survey and then only slightly increased to 2.9 in our October survey.
Happy common work
Our overall trend of happiness for the entire company remains consistent and given the volatility of 2020’s events I feel this is a good one.
Our exact quarterly numbers are:
- January: 4,1 / 5
- April: May 3.8
- July: May 3.8
- September: May 3.7
The way we continue the 4-day workweek in 2021
Due to the mostly positive data for a four-day workweek, we have decided to continue with this approach in 2021. Throughout the year, I will continue to monitor team productivity and engagement. through our quarterly surveys to ensure that the last four days helps Buffer’s business needs.
Our guidelines for our four-day workweek in 2021:
We’ve made a few adjustments based on our experiences in 2020. Here’s what I sent our team on our guidelines for the four-day workweek:
We will continue with:
- No meeting or communication expectations on Slack on Fridays.
- Friday is the default holiday for most regions.
- The Client Advocate working weeks will vary according to the nature of the role. There will be more communication according to schedule and expectations.
- Better define weekly yield expectations at regional and departmental levels.
- Clear performance rankings. Teammates who fail to meet their selectable goals or are required to work 5 days.
- Rate this schedule at least quarterly on the basis of overall team productivity, evaluate OKRs, teammates stress level, and feel in control of your schedule.
We will continue to reiterate that while this is a special interest, as a company we must meet our general deadlines. Some working weeks may need that Friday a stressful working day to fulfill what we have committed to. Everyone still has to get their work done.
Although as a company we initially adjusted deadlines to the four-day workweek and pandemic exceptional circumstances, we have moved forward with the establishment of ambitious goals for next year and realize that this will likely push the limits of how we’ve been operating in a four-day workweek and force us to continue adapting to this new way of working. . Personally, I know that every teammate at Buffer is capable and has passed the challenge.
Because our Client Counselors don’t have as much project-based work as other roles, we have specific goals to meet:
4DWW Strategy for Customer Advocacy 2021
Target: Work successfully a four-day workweek as a team while providing a bar-based customer service experience customers fall in love with.
Measurement: Team members are expected to reach their ticket goal per week (number of tickets are answered based on level + individual commitment / goal agreed with the team leader) as well as 2.8 Average ACE scores on tickets and / or team members outside the inbox will be expected to complete the projects, on time and achieve the main results.
We will continue to craft and repeat ways to both serve our customers well and provide flexible work weeks for our teammates.
I will continue periodic surveys of team productivity, personal stress level, autonomy and happiness. Buffer is also returning to using OKRs as a tool to track our productivity and progress, which will give us another metric to use in our overall review of the workweek. our four days.
We’re not sure we’ll continue with the four-day work week forever, but for now, we’ll stick with it as long as we can still hit our ambitious goals.
Want to keep talking about the four-day workweek? Join the conversation on Twitter. 😊