Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in June 2022 and has recently been updated to show changes to our ongoing experimentation with a 4 day work week.
In January this year, our team began a conversation about the possibility of adopting a 4-day work week. As of late May, after a 3-month experiment with a 4-day week (what we call Flexible Fridays), InsightPact has officially become a 32-hour work week organization. And, we’re making this change without a single reduction to team members’ salaries and benefits.
“Our post-experiment survey results indicate that after this 3-month trial run, our team has gotten better at organizing and prioritizing tasks as well as setting boundaries, especially around meetings. We show up to work more energized, and have the time to be able to pursue personal interests. We have more time to connect with our friends and family. We are generally more rested with the additional day off.”
Here’s how we designed and ran the experiment, and finally made the decision to adopt Flexible Fridays permanently:
I planted the 4-day work week seed with InsightPact’s leadership team back in January. The idea was met with both excitement and skepticism:
After much deliberation and debate, we decided that the only way to know if a 4-day work week is for us is to try.
And try we did.
From the outset, we approached this experiment as exactly that, an experiment. This may seem like a trivial point to emphasize but it’s one that is often overlooked. As an organization, we understood that for three months we were going to try something new, measure its outcomes, and then make the decision. Using this exploratory and experimentation mindset, we approached the experiment with 2 main questions
One of the main points of concern from our leadership team was the potential effects of a 4-day work week on our ability to deliver our services in an environment that operated on a traditional 5-day work week. As service providers, it was (and still is) important for us to be as available as we can be to our clients throughout the duration of the experiment. So rather than strictly starting our weekends on Fridays, we experimented with ‘Flexible Fridays’ instead. This meant that team members who felt that they needed to work on Fridays (while working no more than 32 hours a week) in order to complete their work at the desired and expected quality felt supported in doing so.
Here’s a screenshot of the one-pager that was sent out to announce and describe the experiment:
What was not shared with the whole team but was critical for the success of the experiment were our 7 hypotheses, each of which corresponded to a number of survey questions that were asked before and after the experiment. These hypotheses were - If Flexible Fridays are implemented, then:
In order for the Flexible Fridays to become a permanent policy at InsightPact, 50% of the questions corresponding to each of these hypotheses needed to be proven true.
Explore what works and what doesn’t, together. While many of us were excited to see what would emerge from the experiment, we were also new to this way of working. It helped to communicate the learnings that came up for us along the way, and to make sure that everyone in the team felt 100% safe communicating what they were enjoying as well as what they were finding hard. The 20% reduction in calendar real estate was harder for some than others. Some needed further clarity on what counts within the 32-hour work week; for example, if a team member wanted to have a 1:1 with another team member, does this time count? (yes, it does!)
Give the experiment sufficient time. We quickly learned at the beginning of the experiment that two month duration would not be enough. The first month of our experiment was busy season, and team members were fully dedicated to programs that we had committed to before experimenting with Flexible Fridays. The experiment was, in the end, extended to 3 months in order to give our team more time to experience this way of working.
Communicate the experiment to new and existing clients, and invite them to be part of the exploration. We were nervous to let our clients know that we were experimenting with Flexible Fridays. Our work requires us to be responsive and attentive to ever-changing logistical and people needs. Since we pride ourselves on our reliability and responsiveness, we did not want to let our clients down. To our surprise, we received only enthusiasm and support from our partners - new and old - all of whom saw the value in what we were trying to do and were happy to work with us to make sure that our collaboration would remain as fruitful as can be.
Consider Flexible Fridays within a larger ecosystem of policies and processes that promote wellbeing and people-centeredness. We would be naïve to think that working one day less a week would solve all of our problems. Flexible Fridays alone won’t get us to where we want to be in terms of business growth, brand reputation, and team member fulfillment. The experiment ended up sparking and accelerating deeper conversations about how we plan and price our work, how team members’ capacities are integrated into business development processes, how our team members navigate difficult conversations around scope creep, and so much more. As a result of these conversations, a significant amount of our processes have been refined and enriched through the experiment.
And when the results came in in mid-May, we were delighted to find out that a shattering 100% of our hypotheses were proven true, with all but one team member expressing a desire for the policy to become permanent.
Our post-experiment survey results indicate that after this 3-month trial run, our team has gotten better at organizing and prioritizing tasks as well as setting boundaries, especially around meetings. We show up to work more energized, and have the time to be able to pursue personal interests. We have more time to connect with our friends and family. We are generally more rested with the additional day off.
And all of this while maintaining the same level of productivity.
While we strongly believe that 4-day work weeks are the ‘way of the future’, this experiment worked for us because we had a strong foundation to build on. Wellbeing is central to how we approach work at InsightPact. Structures around clear and honest communication, efficient use of time, personal connections, and so much more have been in place at our organization for some time, allowing this experiment to fall on fertile ground. Over and above this, we place culture as a central part of our hiring process, allowing us to have a team that also highly values wellbeing. What this functionally means is that any 4-day work week experiment or policy needs to be a part of a wider conversation of team wellbeing and the future of work.
After implementing this new policy, we’ve grown even more confident in our people-centered and wellbeing-driven approach to growing our organization. As a self-funded distributed organization of 15 people, we have the unique privilege of experimenting with new ways of working autonomously. But this autonomy is not common: most other organizations need to go through a deeper and more complex buy-in creation process before such a policy could be piloted, let alone be put into place.
That being said, the results from our experiment are a clear indication that 4-day workweeks help facilitate a happier and more efficient team who feel excited to come to work and produce at high levels. If you are interested in trying this experiment with your organizations or would like to connect about how our team is continuing to experiment, give us a shout.
InsightPact has increased our weekly work hours from 32 to 36 hours until the end of 2022 in order to set ourselves up for success during times of global instability. These additional hours will be used to deepen our expertise and accelerate our business development efforts, both of which will contribute directly to our financial resilience.
We are sharing this decision with you to
In March 2022, InsightPact shifted to a 32-hour work week. This policy, what we call “Flexible Fridays”, enables each team member to choose their own work schedules. Most of our team have chosen to work 8 hours a day from Monday to Thursday while still having the flexibility to do work on Fridays as needed. Flexible Fridays, together with our unlimited paid time-off and unlimited care time-off benefit (including a minimum time-off requirement), and supported by our organizational culture of consideration and openness, has ingrained flexibility and agility for both the organization and our team.
As organizations around the world and across sectors are feeling the effects of volatile economic conditions, increased inflation, spikes in resignation rates, and the COVID-forced adaptation to new ways of working, it is exactly this flexibility that is allowing InsightPact to stay resilient.
In response to global uncertainty, starting in October, our team will be moving to a 36 hour work week for the rest of 2022, a decision that will be revisited each quarter. We are dedicating this time for professional upskilling and continued business development. This means that external calls and meetings will still be held from Monday to Thursday while Fridays are reserved for our team and organization to meet, connect, and develop new skills important to our current position and future trajectory as InsightPact.
These 4 hours of training a week will allow us to train and upskill our team while also continuing to provide high quality services to you and our other partners. Over time, these weekly training sessions will allow us to not only deepen our expertise but also introduce new research-backed techniques, assessments, and methods. Our team will also be using these 4 hours to explore our community’s wants and needs, enriching the value that we offer and enable us to help you and your team connect more deeply, collaborate more effectively, and transform your complex conversations into collective action.
We are happy to keep this conversation open as we continue to experiment and learn. If you have any questions or thoughts that you would like to share with, don’t hesitate to get in touch with at firstname.lastname@example.org.