37signals and their smart & usable (translation: awesome) web solutions like the project management pack Basecamp have always been inspiring. That alone, said about office and productivity software, is an amazing accomplishment. But what’s more, the girls and guys at 37signals also try to figure out the best work experience for all involved, and share the process in their blog.
Among other things, they gave their employees credit cards to buy whatever they need, the default assumption being that this works on a trust basis. By itself, that’s not spectacular, but it sure is a nice feat. Also, they help their staff learning stuff they fancy, for example by paying flying lessons and the like. (Deal: You share what you learn, so everybody profits.) This is quite amazing.
But what really blew my mind is what they did to the traditional 5-day week: It’s gone. As simple as that. I remember talking about the idea of a four-day work week, or a general limit of six hours of work per day in a five-day week, with friends and colleagues. Some of us agreed that you could get the same productivity within a shorter timespan, others said no way. But according to 37signals, their experiences prove that the four-day work week does indeed work without productivity loss:
Last summer we experimented with 4-day work weeks. People should enjoy the weather in the summer. We found that just about the same amount of work gets done in four days vs. five days. (…) So recently weâ€™ve instituted a four-day work week as standard. We take Fridays off. Weâ€™re around for emergencies, and we still do customer service/support on Fridays, but other than that work is not required on Fridays. Three-day weekends mean people come back extra refreshed on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people come back happier on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people actually work harder and more efficiently during the four-day work week.
When we were talking about that idea, I never expected to see it implemented anyplace real anytime soon. But there you go – this is great news. Hopefully other companies will take 37signal’s lead and start experimenting with their workplace culture, too.