What does your typical Friday look like? For me, I sleep in and start my day with coffee and a long walk. I may spend 2-3 hours of very focused work time finishing up a project, writing, or doing other work that requires extra headspace. And when I wrap that up it's time to chill!
This leisurely Friday pace is possible because of a very successful experiment we've done at Hologram that we call Flex Fridays. It's a meeting-free day with no expectation of availability that teammates can use however they like.
Here's the story of why we gave it a try, how it went, and how we think other companies and teams might benefit from it, too!
The origin of Flex Fridays
In the early months of 2021, things were feeling a bit rough for many folks in the U.S. — including Hologrammers.
An Indeed report from March found that the majority of respondents said their burnout had worsened during the pandemic, with 52% overall saying they were currently burned out.
Going into the second year of a pandemic, dealing with racial injustice, feeling the impact of climate change in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe temperatures — it's no wonder our team showed signs of stress in our quarterly survey.
The People team sprang into action, encouraging more time off with monthly mental health days, a team-wide holiday and more. (We've since added even more mental health benefits including Headspace subscriptions for all teammates).
As we headed into the summer months, we wanted to give everyone more freedom to take time off, connect with family and friends, and just relax with stress- and meeting-free time.
In June, July, and August, we began the Flex Fridays experiment. Each Friday would be a teammate-directed day where one could choose to work, partially work (what we call "Low Power Mode"), or take time off based on every individual's needs and schedule. There would be no meetings and no expectation of availability, so folks could get into a focus zone or truly check out.
The experiment is a success!
At the end of August, we gathered some data on how the experiment went across the team. Our monthly polls told us that the majority of the team was able to take at least some time off and/or lean into focus work, which was positive.
Our more in-depth poll at the end of the experiment was even more positive, with 48% of the team reporting they were more productive than normal with Flex Fridays, and 42% of the team reporting they were as productive as usual. (4% of the team reported feeling less productive; a small but important number.)
More interestingly, the team overwhelmingly indicated that they have a strong preference to continue Friday as a flexible, meeting-free day.
Here's some of the positive feedback we received in our Flex Fridays survey:
- Knowing that there's a day at the end of the week where we can catch up on things, or take time if we need, motivates me to do more work during the previous four days of the week.
- When I've had an overwhelming work week it's great to take Friday to be heads-down and catch up. If it's been a quiet week work-wise and overwhelming in life, it's great to take the day off and catch up on life stuff.
- It has helped improve my focus the rest of the week and make me feel more rested in general.
- I really enjoy them. It's a great way to balance productivity and family needs.
- Knowing that I can either have an uninterrupted day to work or time to step away has been really beneficial for my mental health.
Launching Flex Fridays 2.0
Armed with overwhelming team data, we were ready to make Flex Fridays a permanent piece of how we work at Hologram.
But first, we wanted to address the 4% of the team who reported feeling less productive by taking the constructive feedback we received around this experiment. We added:
- More accountability around expectations and communication so things don't get blocked or stalled, including specific plans for business-critical and customer-facing departments
- More clarity and enforcement to ensure Fridays are truly a meeting free day for all
Today, Flex Fridays are continuing indefinitely at Hologram as meeting-free, teammate-directed days where one can choose to do focus work, work in "Low Power Mode", or take time off.
The only rules are no meetings and no expectation of availability. If you send someone at Hologram a Slack message on a Friday, assume that you will not hear from them until Monday.
Of course, we always expect every teammate to honor Hologram's values of ownership, mindfulness, and transparency in order to keep this unique benefit.
Ownership: Teammates are still responsible for meeting their goals, supporting our product and customers, and making progress on their projects.
Mindfulness: We trust teammates to know best how to analyze their workload and mental health in order to determine how to spend these Flex Fridays.
Transparency: This level of flexibility requires even more communication than normal, so we all proactively communicate with our team, stakeholders, and managers to make sure nothing gets dropped or stalled.
We also made it extra clear that Flex Fridays do not take the place of vacation time! We continue to recommend that folks take longer blocks of time off for true disconnected time. This is an extra tool for work-life balance, but not a substitute for vacation.
The only other feedback we received from our team? Keep going with more meeting-free days or time periods.
Flex Fridays are on pace to become a really important part of maintaining a culture of deep work and mental health at Hologram, and we'll keep looking for ways we can proactively manage team wellbeing and work-life balance.
Tech is a space that's always evolving and innovating when it comes to work culture. Four-day workweeks are becoming more and more common — there's even a job board specifically for companies that practice them.
It's exciting to be able to build the culture we want to see at Hologram as we head into hypergrowth mode. I believe, and our experiment offers some proof, that the four-day workweek could be one of the next frontiers when it comes to work culture.
A four-day week, or even the beginning of it with a meeting-free day, gives people time for the things that sustain and recharge them.
The world gets more complicated by the day, and stress, anxiety and burnout are all too real. According to an Insider survey of over 1,000 American workers, 61% said they are currently "at least somewhat burned out."
Innovative companies have an opportunity to do well by doing good, focusing on mental health and well-being as much as we focus on productivity and growth.