With 85 employees spread across 15 countries, Buffer is a true pioneer when it comes to new work. Discover in our interview how the team works with a 4-day work week and what great results they have achieved with it.
1. How did remote work impact your company culture?
As a result of being a fully distributed company, we have teammates around the globe, which means that our culture can't fully rely on everyone being online at the same time. We've built our culture intentionally to be inclusive, with people from all around the world who have diverse backgrounds and are online at very different times.
Once a year we organize an all-company retreat to connect the employees and get to know new team members in person. Every team organizes their second catch-up for discussing projects, team strategies while also having a good time together.
2. Why and how did you implement a 4-day week?
We, at Buffer, believe that we are more productive in 4 than in 5 work days because we have more time to recharge. Especially in times of the pandemic, employees who were also parents were already stressed, so we wanted to give them more flexibility.
It took a lot of effort and planning to successfully migrate from a Monday to Friday week to a 4-day work week. Our team has become accustomed to a 5-day work week over most of their professional experience, as e.g., it was challenging to adapt to planning projects and goals with only four workdays. This was absolutely a challenging period of transition.
We took our time to adapt, learn and make changes across different teams depending on what worked best according to each team. We learned that most of us chose to take the same day off as a team. In most cases, the team chose to take Fridays off.
3. How did you manage the 4-day-week for your customer service team?
Our Customer Advocacy team needed a slightly different model to work less and be still available 24 hours every day for the customers’ needs. For this problem we tried different solutions. For one month we did a trial where our team was working only half of the hours on Fridays - we called this “summer Fridays”.
As a result, it became clear that we needed to hire more people and find individual options. We asked our 21 team members which days of the week they want to take off. Most employees chose to work from Monday to Thursday. For the weekends, we onboarded more people and made sure that they could always take 3 days in a row off.
We changed our goals from the past. Instead of being reachable 24 hours of the day, we changed our contact times to 6 am - 8 pm during the week. Our new goal was now to improve our communication and ensure response time took a maximum of 2 hours.
Our plan worked out and in this trial our customer score went from 92.3% to 94% and we hit our goal of a two-hour first response time, with a median of 1.6 hours during the week.
4. What are your learnings?
The 4-day work week started out as an experiment in May 2020 to help reduce stress across the team during a very difficult time. Our employees were happy with this working model and worked very productively. As a result, we decided in December 2020 to continue with this policy. We've been using the 4-day work week model for one and a half years and want to continue it in the future.
We have not changed the way we collaborate for the 6 years we have been working remotely. As a result, our company and our employees were already prepared for the work from home situation during the pandemic.
I think overall, the team tries to work smarter. We pay our employees the same amount of salary, even if they work less than the normal 5 days. We are not tracking the hours. If you get your work done earlier, you can take that day off. With some projects, it might be 4.5 days of work, but our employees are happy with it. Working less is a privilege for everybody at Buffer.
We are already 100% remote with 85 employees, without an actual office and we don't plan to have a physical space in the future. At Buffer, we are happy with the results of this year and we will keep our 4-day working week in the future. We don't see any clear reasons for changing our approach.
There's a lot of advice! Ultimately, I'd say it's important to try things and learn. Don't get stuck in old processes or frameworks because they are familiar. Remote work can bring new flexibility and is truly a superpower for your employees!
If you have a small startup, it's essential to encourage everyone to take ownership of the remote work experience. For rapidly growing or larger teams, it’s important to designate someone to take responsibility for how remote work happens. Without clear ownership over that experience, communication can deteriorate over time. Having a person or team responsible for overseeing remote workers and their guidelines for getting work done, will be helpful in the future.
Of course, you must try different settings to implement a successful 4-day week in your company, but it's part of the process and some teams might need a different solution. In the end, people will be grateful to have more time with their family and be at the same time be more successful at work.