4-day workweek

Wildbit is a small american Software company with 30 employees based in 6 countries. They are known for developing postmark, beanstalk and conveyor.

In May 2017, American software company Wildbit started experimenting with a 4-day, 32-hour workweek. Founder and CEO Natalie Nagele’s decision to implement the change was inspired by computer scientist Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, which argues that creative minds max out at 4 hours of “deep” (i.e., truly thoughtful and cognitively focused) work a day. “Anything beyond that is either diminishing returns, meaning you are doing less quality work,” said Nagele in an interview with The Observer.

The experiment

Not wanting to make any permanent changes without seeing the effects the new workweek had on their team and customers, Wildbit originally limited its experiment to the summer. Everyone worked four days per week. No hours were tacked onto the workday and there was no reduction in salary. Most of the team took Fridays off, but in order to remain available to clients, the Customer Success team alternated Mondays and Fridays off, and the development team had an on-call rotation for Fridays.

The changes

In order to make the 4-day workweek a success, Wildbit had to change some of their work policies. Because the new setup meant an additional 52 Fridays (or Mondays) out of the office a year, the company decided to reduce paid-time-off from 25 to 20 days. They also did not allow employees to “swap” days (take a day off mid-week and work on Friday so it wouldn’t count against their PTO) because it was too disruptive to the workflow.

In addition to changing work policies, Wildbit had to change their work habits. Shortening the workweek meant the team had to look at how their time could be used most efficiently. The company limited employees to two 30-minute team meetings per week, and used Basecamp’s automated, text-based check-ins in lieu of daily meetings. The marketing team was asked a daily question (“What are the 1-3 most important things you want to finish today?) and the full Front of House team was asked one question at the end of the week (“How’s your weekly goal looking, and what’s your ‘no-matter-what’ for next week?”). Employees also learned to avoid disrupting their colleagues’ work, sending Slack messages only when something was urgent and emails for less important matters. If they needed to focus or were on a roll, employees could close Slack entirely and were not pressured to constantly check emails.

The results

The 4-day workweek was such a success for Wildbit, they’ve extended the experiment indefinitely. Within the first year of the shortened workweek, the company launched more features than it had the previous year. They had become a more productive team; they had learned how to avoid distractions, define their roles and responsibilities, prioritize tasks, plan ahead and meet only when necessary. And most importantly, employees had a better quality of life. Employees had more time out of the office to spend however they wished, which reduced burnout and helped them return to the office happier and refreshed.

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