Buffer implements a 4-day week

You’re probably reading this article thanks to a link I scheduled through Buffer, whose service is great if you have multiple social media accounts. Well, they’ve just implemented a 4-day week. As CEO Joel Gascoigne explains,

I decided that for the month of May, Buffer will operate under a 4-day workweek (at full pay) across the whole 89-person team.

We’re in a period of time where there’s a layer of added anxiety and stress in all of our lives. At Buffer, we’ve been encouraging taking time off, and relaxing productivity expectations, in addition to shifting internal deadlines, but we decided it’s time for us to put some real team-wide changes in place to back up these adjustments.

This 4-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first. It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days.

One of my goals as CEO for this period of time is to put people over profit and to do all I can to get Buffer through this as unscathed as possible. An extension of this, I’ve decided, is ensuring that we accrue the least debt possible during this time so that we can emerge from COVID-19 and have some great months for customers and Buffer. One debt that is likely growing within companies right now, is burnout. This is a key initiative we’re putting in place to reduce that impact.

As I pointed out in my Atlantic article, plenty of companies adopt a 4-day week not when things are going terrific– after all, why change what works?– but when they’re facing an existential crisis or major disruption, know they have big challenges, and feel like they need to make a big change or risk have even worse things happen.

One interesting feature of their 4-day week is that some groups are coordinating the days that they take off (Engineering and Product, for example), while other groups are splitting up days within their team:

For our Customer Advocacy team, we did things slightly differently to ensure coverage for our customers. Our Advocates have alternating Wednesdays and Fridays off. If they have Wednesday off in Week One, then they’ll have Friday off in Week Two, and vice versa. This was done because having Wednesdays off ensures we are available for early week volume spikes and feels restorative as a midweek option as team members will only have two days back-to-back work on those weeks. We also normally have lower volume on Friday and team members can enjoy a longer weekend on those weeks.

This particular model is not one I’ve seen before, but it combines two schedules– Wednesdays off and Fridays off– that are popular at other companies.

They haven’t made a decision yet about whether the 4-day week will be permanent, partly because they’re not trying explicitly to raise productivity during this month (like Microsoft Japan did during its well-publicized trial). But I think this is a good illustration of how companies can think creatively during this crisis, and use the 4-day week to help deal with individual and company-wide problems alike.

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