2 years post-lock down and Zoom (or Google Meet in our case) fatigue is real. For many, the lines have been blurred between home and work life. And although we were a company with remote policies prior to COVID, we haven’t been immune to the effects.
Around the middle of last year, I started to notice that our employees were generally pretty checked out by midday on Friday. Our output wasn’t decreasing and all of our work was being accomplished on time, but Slack became eerily quiet around noon on Fridays. With a third of our team on the east coast at this point anyway, I could tell it wasn’t our most productive time of the week.
One Friday I was at Groundwork Coffee with our CTO, Jason, for our Donut meeting. I mentioned my observation to him and added that in my past-life at Mattel, we were offered half days on Friday year-round. I floated exploring this at Use All Five, considering my inkling that work wasn’t really being accomplished Friday afternoons, anyway. To be honest, I didn’t really think the conversation would go anywhere.
Fast forward a week, Jason and our CEO Levi pulled me aside to tell me that they had been thinking a lot about my idea, but that they had come up with a slight twist on it. What if we gave employees the entire day off, but only every other week. We could split the team in half, so that there would always be team members available on each project from each discipline. That way employees could take longer weekends, maximize their productivity throughout the week without any ill-effects on output. This way, our clients wouldn’t feel the burden, but we as a collective group would feel the benefits.
Our Director of Technology, Bret Morris, out at sea on his day off
For me, this was a no-brainer. The idea not only fit my management style perfectly, but it had the potential to uplift our entire company and make good on so much about our philosophy.
Work the West Coast Way: no better way to make my Uncle in South Carolina believe that we really do just surf all day than to have every other Friday off. But truthfully, this easy breezy laid back approach does guide every decision we make. Our company is made up of people, ideas are our currency, and people and their ideas thrive in different environments. So as part of this announcement, we also let employees know that they could work flexible hours, as long as their work was completed and they attended every necessary meeting.
Goodbye 9-6 straight-on, grind through the day. Hello working 8-12, surfing 12-2, and then working 2-6. Doesn’t that somehow manage to sound both better and the same?!
We checked this new idea against our values and found that it was a seamless fit.
Stay Cool, Stick Together: When you have more time to be yourself and recharge, it’s easier to be honest and empathic. And when you know that time off is coming, you work extra hard to ensure your team members don’t have to pick up your slack.
Take the Scenic Route: We heavily contemplated offering unlimited PTO, but heard from our friends and other studio leaders that this caused more heartache than positivity. So we thought we’d embrace the unknown and try just giving people 26 more days automatically.
Give More, Go Further: How many times have you heard a co-worker complain that they can’t get any work done because they’re in meetings all day? Not only did everyone receive extra Fridays off, but the Fridays they spend working suddenly became their own to manage. A day just for focusing has expanded our technology stack, our prototyping capabilities, and how we use Miro for processes. And managers who are generally meeting for 75% of a normal day now have one day a week with an empty calendar to dig deep and execute on big ideas.
Make Room at the Table: We pride ourselves in being a part of, and giving back to the Arts & Technology communities. Our employees have started taking framing lessons, learning how to DJ, maintaining Medium accounts, and much more on their Fridays off. They’re happier, more well-rounded, and more productive. I’m sharing this with you today because we truly aspire to create an environment that reflects the world outside, and we want to proactively be a part of this new, global employee-first work culture.
The biggest hurdle for us with this proposition was resourcing. As a 25 person company, we don’t always have backup designers and developers for each project. Our employees also float between projects pretty frequently, to the extent that we meet weekly on resourcing in addition to monthly and quarterly at a higher level. I spent the next 4 weeks plotting out how this could work in Miro and split the team in half for our first trial period.
We also set a few norms to ensure success:
· Friday is a focus day - Avoid client meetings on Fridays as much as possible
· Management may ask employees to switch Fridays based on deadlines
· Employees may be switched from month to month
· If employees want/need a specific Friday off, employees must request it 2 weeks beforehand so management can try to accommodate
· If employees need to switch a Friday with another person, employees are responsible for finding that person and communicating to management for approval
· Management will plan Fridays for a month at least one week ahead of time
· Management may need to be available on their Friday off
· If employees already had requested a Friday off via our official time off system, and it now is their day off per the schedule, employees can remove it from Gusto (so they get the vacation day back)
Once the process was set, implementation was pretty smooth. In the middle of each month, I look at upcoming resourcing and adjust the Fridays off for the next month accordingly. I get that approved from the management team first, and then post (and pin!) in our Office slack channel to see if any employees need adjustments. Once everyone is on board, I add the days off to the calendar so it’s easy to see who’s on and off which day.
While there have been a few really minor hiccups, we optimized through them, and today I am proud to highlight what a success this has been for us. We just finished our yearly reviews and employees are thrilled and committed to Use All Five’s vision. With our open job postings, we’ve been able to source more talented and diverse employees now that we offer a truly flexible and remote working methodology. And most importantly, the work hasn’t suffered one bit.
I can’t predict the future, but I like to envision a world where this style is the norm as opposed to the outlier. So much of work-life is about understanding when you are maximally productive and focusing heavily on those time periods. By allowing employees to set their own schedules and take time for themselves, the work gets better, more interesting, and is fueled by actual passion.
If you’d like to chat more about what this could mean for you, or how this could be implemented at your company, my LinkedIn inbox is always open.