We’re Trying a 4-Day Workweek for the Month of May

May 30, 2020 3 min readOpen
Photo of Joel Gascoigne
Joel Gascoigne

CEO and co-founder @ Buffer

As April comes to a close, and we look ahead to another month where our global team is living in various forms of lockdown and isolation, 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.

How we came to this decision

Our People team did a few quick surveys with our team during our April All Hands and the feedback we received validated our theory that that in addition to the general anxiety many of us are facing right now, teammates are struggling with not always feeling comfortable or able to take time off.

Here are the results from our All Hands survey:

And our results from polling parents at Buffer:

One thing that has been top of mind for us is that this month of trying a 4-day workweek isn’t about pushing everyone’s anxiety or distraction into a single day and expecting the other workdays to be “back to normal.” We know many Buffer teammates will still have caregiving and other responsibilities on some or all of the working days, and flexibility is still supported and encouraged. This day off is to augment that flexibility and give everyone a coordinated break where they won’t feel like they’re behind or catching up when they return.

What our 4-day workweek schedule looks like

We asked each area to choose which typical workday will become an “off day” for May, all members of an area will take the same day off, and some areas (like Engineering and Product) coordinated this together. The chosen day remains consistent for the full 4-week period of the new working schedule. We hope that doing this by area helps with the feeling of needing to ‘catch up’ from a day off.

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.

Our Advocacy leads are keeping an eye on any increase in inbox volume to ensure this doesn’t lead to added stress. We’re keen to balance team wellbeing with delivering a great customer support experience.

What happens after May?

We’re getting feedback from the team on the impact of this change using TinyPulse and taking stock of how things feel overall. Depending on the results and outcomes, we could possibly see a 4-day workweek continue for another month or longer, or we could return to a more typical workweek.

We’ll follow up after this month-long period to share more about how the 4-day workweek has gone for us. During this time, we’re not necessarily making permanent policies or setting precedent. Instead, the goal here is to be nimble and adaptive in discovering what is the best setup at Buffer for our customers, teammates, and the company right now.

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