The first thing people ask us about working a four-day workweek is “how?” How is it possible to be as effective in four days as five? How do you do in four days what you struggled to do in five? How do you interact with customers or business partners during off days?
The truth is: when we started Bolt’s four-day workweek experiment in September, we weren’t sure how it would all work out! (Spoiler alert—we still don’t! Check back throughout the next few months for more on our journey.) True to our company operating value of Be 20% Wrong, Chase 10x, we took a massive bet that our team’s productivity wouldn’t suffer and that we could still fulfill our mission to democratize commerce while working one less day each week.
We’re a little over a month into our experiment and we asked our teams to share a few of the changes they implemented immediately to ensure their teams could truly make the most out of their four working days.
Yes, really. Start with a completely clean calendar and rethink each and every one of your recurring meetings with the goal of reducing your overall meeting time each week. Ask yourself questions like:
Question everything, especially the meetings that “we’ve always done” or do because “everyone else does.”
Before we started our four-day workweek trial, our Executive Leadership Team (ELT) was meeting for ~12 hours a month. With the start of our four-day workweek, the team knew there were zero minutes to spare, and they would have to radically rethink everything.
They did away with the existing meeting structure entirely and created a single 90-minute meeting for the entire team every month. They also created sub-teams designed to focus on different areas of the business, which enabled ELT members to stop attending meetings they weren’t directly contributing to. Finally, thanks to our Writing > Talking operating value, ELT members were able to stay informed on decisions made or topics discussed in meetings they did not attend.
When the dust settled, ELT reduced their monthly meeting time by 90%—from 12 hours a month to 1.5 hours.
“When we were smaller, everyone was involved in everything. Now that we’ve grown, people have the right to say ‘I don’t need to be in this meeting.’” – Customer Experience team lead
Last spring, Bolt rolled out an only “Active Participants” in meetings policy. If you aren’t actively contributing to a decision or discussion, then you should default to not attending. In that same vein, if your portion of a meeting is complete and you have nothing to add to following decisions/discussions then we encourage team members to leave a meeting early. By setting this as a company-wide policy, we empowered team members to choose how to best use their time, and eliminated the need to show up for meetings simply because you’re on the invite.
This policy was still relatively new when we began our four-day workweek experiment, but team members quickly came to realize its benefit. Once again, our ELT used this policy to great effect for their strategy sessions. For example, typically, the entire ELT is not needed for every strategy discussion, so these meetings have a standing time every month but a rotating invite list where the necessary ELT members get pulled in depending on the topic.
Who said meetings need to be held in 30-minute increments? Why can’t you schedule a 20, a 15, or even a 5-minute meeting? Just because your calendar is broken out into 30-minute blocks and defaults to 30- or 60-minute meetings doesn’t mean you should be confined by them.
One tactic that has worked for our teams since starting our four-day workweek trial has been switching 30-minute meetings to 15-minute meetings. Being efficient with your 15 minutes means coming with a tight, well-planned agenda and sending through any additional materials ahead of time.
Managers have also experimented with either shorter or more spread out 1:1s with their teams — some have trialed 15-minute weekly 1:1s, while others have 60-minute meetings every 2 or 3 weeks.
Adapting to a four-day workweek has looked different for every team here at Bolt. For some, it’s been enough to reassess and shorten meetings; for others, they’ve needed to add headcount or part-time help in order to keep pace.
Several of our core teams (Engineering, Customer Support, Risk, etc) are “on” 24/7. Even before our four-day trial, they were working on-call shifts on the weekends or holidays. When we started our trial, they needed to add an extra “on call” day for their team, and for some of those teams (especially the smaller teams) it also meant adding additional headcount to allow them all to only work four days. We believe the benefits of a four-day workweek both to our team and our overall productivity and creativity outweigh the “cost” of these additional headcount.
One of the easiest ways to free up more time in your day for heads down work is to group your meetings as closely together as possible. There is a “cost” of shifting from heads down work to meetings or vice versa, so cutting down how many times you have to make that transition in a day will help boost your productivity.
If you have six meetings in a day, having one every hour between 9 a.m.-2 p.m. means you won’t have the time to get any meaningful or creative heads down work done during that six hour period. If you group these six meetings from 9-10:30 a.m. and then again from 12-2 p.m., you create a 1.5 hour chunk of time for yourself to dive into a bigger project. Our teams at Bolt have experimented with calendar software, like Clockwise, to help automate their calendars and make grouping meetings together easier.
While these tactics have helped our team manage their time more efficiently and prioritize better, we have also found that we arrive at work more energized and excited every Monday knowing that we have just 4 days until our “weekend.” In order to meet our big goals, grow our business, and achieve our mission, our team needs to be fully engaged while we’re (metaphorically) in the office, so they can fully disengage when we’re not. Striking this balance is exactly what we mean when we say we’re committed to working consciously.
Follow along on our experiment with a four-day workweek. We’ll provide updates here periodically throughout the next few months.