I recently wrote an article for Fast Company about companies that have adopted 4-day weeks during the pandemic. They’ve discovered during the lockdown that responding to the demands of remote work let them boost their productivity, while the challenges employees faced in juggling jobs, school, parenting, etc. while they reinvented how they worked, created a need for more free time.
Add one more to that list: PTHR, a “micro consulting venture“ that helps “create workplaces where people flourish, that are sustainable and successful, and in line with the spirit of Next Stage Organisations.” (Not your usual recruitment agency, in other words.) It’s a 9-person company with employees across four time zones.
Founder Perry Timms talks about the change, and the thinking behind it, in a recent Medium piece, “#rituals.“ He starts by talking about how rituals like “the Monday huddle; the task-list check at 0830 or the safety briefing before we go and work in the power plant or mine.”
We also have rituals like 5 days per week on duty and 2 off duty which we’ve come to know as the weekend….
And in the pandemic response of 2020 we have a lot of those rituals on hold, stopped or even never likely to return.
On top of the challenge that going remote has created, PTHR has had other challenges:
[W]orking from home in a dispersed fashion keeping the business venture alive in the face of collapsed orders and restoring client work and creating our all-new product line has been intense, rewarding and energy-consuming.
The rituals we’ve had to adopt (bearing in mind working across 4 timezones too and having a couple of globally-distributed clients) has meant late nights, early mornings and more….
So we’re adopting a new ritual.
As Timms explains in another piece,
The concept first came to my attention at a Hackathon I ran for a large city council where the breakout I supported was the issue of lack of career opportunities for working carers. In the discussion, we all concluded that the five-day, full-time operating week was the biggest barrier to career progression for working carers.
Starting in July, “Wellness Wednesday is our punctuation day.”
We will do whatever is good for the soul on that day.
Walking. Running. Resting. Meditating. Yoga. Life Admin. Social calls with friends. Reading. Watching. Learning. Studying. Caring for others. Whatever is good for the soul….
No ritualistic check-in on Slack. Which has become a really strong connecting source for us in our dispersed ways of working pre- and mid-pandemic.
No emails to clients. No delivery for clients. No design or research for clients. No responses to clients. No following leads. No evaluation of our work.
From the outset, we took the decision that this wasn’t about cutting pay or consulting fees. It was restoring – or even discovering – an optimal way to be with our work and ourselves. We deliberately didn’t do a Friday or Monday off. We all felt long weekends were great but the restart of a Monday felt harsher. So we ‘punctuated’ the week – a word that really resonated.
A month in, Timms says that there are clear benefits: they’ve been able to improve productivity to make up for time off; work engagement has gone up; people have time for “life admin,” as the Brits call it; and clients “all love it – and respect it, even apologising if they send us something on a Wednesday.”
Timms writes that this might not be for everybody (though I’d argue it’s more accessible than many people think), but that It fits particularly well with their mission: as a company that helps other enterprises “be humans-first, compassionate and productive places to work that help their people flourish,” they “would be frauds if we were 80-hours, warrior-like burnouts in pursuit of that.“ So Wellness Wednesday is a way to demonstrate how the values their clients are hiring them to build in their own organizations can be codified and formalized— turned into ritual, if you will.