Be More Productive. Take Time Off.
IN the Midwest we’re all very aware of seasons and seasonal change. The cold, the warm, the wet, the dry, the hot — we have it all every year. Some seasons are more welcome than others, but they’re all good about one thing: change.
Change is important. When we were growing up, we got summers off from school. Summer vacation was change. It was something to look forward to. A few months of something different really meant a lot.
We grow out of a lot as we grow up. One of the most unfortunate things we leave behind is a regular dose of change. Nowhere is this more evident than at work.
Work in February is the same as work in May. June’s the same as October. And it would be hard to tell August from April.
Yes, some businesses are more seasonal than others, but ultimately the stuff we do at work isn’t that much different — it’s just busier some times than others. That isn’t change, it’s just more volume.
I wanted to do something about this. So, at 37signals, the software company I’ve run for the past 13 years, we take inspiration from the seasons and build change into our work schedule.
For example, from May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don’t work the same amount of time, we work less.
Most staff workers take Fridays off, but some choose a different day. Nearly all of us enjoy three-day weekends. Work ends Thursday, the weekend starts Friday, and work starts back up on Monday.
The benefits of a six-month schedule with three-day weekends are obvious. But there’s one surprising effect of the changed schedule: better work gets done in four days than in five.
When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time.
At 37signals there’s another thing we do to celebrate the seasons: we cover the cost of a weekly community-supported agriculture share for each employee. We enjoy this benefit year-round, but fresh fruit and produce really glisten in the summer months. It’s a simple way to celebrate change.
在37signals，我们还通过另一件事来庆祝四季：我们承担每位员工每周的社区支持农业(community-supported agriculture share)的开支。我们全年都有这个福利，但在夏天月份，新鲜的水果和农产品真的是看起来闪闪发光。这是一个庆祝变化的简单办法。
In the spirit of continual change, this summer we tried something new. We decided to give everyone the month of June to work on whatever they wanted. It wasn’t vacation, but it was vacation from whatever work was already scheduled. We invited everyone to shelve their nonessential work and to use the time to explore their own ideas.
People worked independently or joined up with other employees on team projects. The only rule was: explore, see if there are ways to make our existing products better, or come up with a new product idea, create a new business model, or do whatever is of most interest.
Then, in July, we asked each person to share, with the rest of the staff, whatever idea he or she came up with, on a day we set aside as “Pitchday.”
The June-on-your-own experiment led to the greatest burst of creativity I’ve seen from our 34-member staff. It was fun, and it was a big morale booster. It was also ultraproductive. So much so that we’ll likely start repeating the month-off project a few times a year.
Are you thinking of introducing change to your business or work life? Try following the seasons. There are few things that are as regular and predictable, yet so fresh and different.