Empty desks in an office
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What's better than a four-day workweek? Flexible Fridays.

Protocol | Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern tech office. Today: The alternative to the four-day workweek, van and office life collide, and how technical training influences retention.

—Amber Burton, Reporter (twitter | email)

Why one startup is choosing 'Flexible Fridays' over four-day workweeks

More startups and tech companies are experimenting with four-day workweeks, but others are seeking alternatives to the trend. Mathilde Collin, the CEO and co-founder of Front, a customer communication platform, said she felt instating a four-day workweek was not innovative enough.

  • "I feel like there are a lot of inefficiencies in the way we work today. And it's like if you try to make four days of inefficiencies versus five days, it's like the same thing at reduced time. So it felt to me that it was not innovative enough … I'm happy that some companies are doing this, don't get me wrong — but I wanted to think more holistically about the business."

What they did instead: Front has been running a two-quarter experiment it calls "Flexible Fridays."

  • Flexible Fridays enable all of Front's employees to choose what they do every Friday without any conflict of scheduled internal meetings. Employees are encouraged to be intentional and can use the day to catch up on deep work, spend time with family or take personal time. There is no expectation for employees to be online, said Collin.

Just like four-day workweeks, Flexible Fridays took some time to get used to.

  • "We had to implement some processes so that we could still be a company with insanely high ambition, who is well known for delighting their customers and still implementing fixes. So it's not something that overnight you can just say, 'We're going to do that and everyone will adapt.'"

The company has found employees use the day for a range of things. While some would guess most workers would take the full day off every week, the experiment has shown otherwise. According to Front:

  • Just under 44% of their employees take Friday as a mixed-use day. In other words, they spend some time on work and some time on personal activities.
  • 44.4% use Friday as a normal workday.
  • About 4% of employees use the day for personal/family time, and 7.6% use the day for PTO.

Even with the freedom of choice, 95% of employees say they have seen no impact on collaboration with colleagues, and 89% of employees say they are happier at work because of Flexible Fridays. Many also report the flex day has positively impacted their desire to work at Front for the next two years.

  • "The impact on employees' engagement has been way better than I had thought. Of course I thought that it would go well, but it's changed … I think one thing I've learned is despite having highly ambitious people, people are burdened."

Gender, diversity and differences in Chinese workplaces

Much like American employers, Chinese companies are struggling with questions of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. China's younger generation has a greater role for women, more inclusion for LBGTQ+ employees and more freedom to be themselves. In an upcoming event with Protocol, experts discuss China's most forward-looking workplaces, what they're doing to become more inclusive, and how it compares to efforts in the U.S. Join us for the discussion on Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. PT/Oct. 29 at 8 a.m. in Beijing.

RSVP here.

A MESSAGE FROM TRELLO

If your organization wants to belong to that class of innovators during future times of change, there are methods you can use to continue innovating even when the waters are murky. Just like with running, you have to make innovation a daily habit in your company—not just an activity you practice when the conditions are right. Here are four ways you can set yourself up for success.

Learn more

When #vanlife meets office life

What began as a quiet getaway from his children in the early days of the pandemic has turned into one tech CEO's go-to work spot. Kenzo Fong, a software company founder in San Francisco, has been using a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van as a mobile office. He and his family affectionately named the van "Wonder." Some days Fong works from Ocean Beach; other days, he works closer to his kids' soccer practice. He uses a trio of hotspots and takes Zoom calls from the van as well. Fong is a case study in how tech leaders are shedding traditional in-office culture for more innovative work setups.

Read the full story here.

Today's tips & tools

Compartmentalization has been one of the trickiest skills to master during the pandemic when both work and our personal lives collide on an almost daily basis. (Whether that is good or bad is between you and your therapist). But there is one area of your work-life you can easily compartmentalize — it's all about your internet tabs. Did you know you can group and organize the open tabs in your internet browser? A number of my Protocol colleagues swear by this hack for staying organized.

  • How to do it: For this tutorial, let's use Google Chrome. Start by right clicking on a tab in the browser and click on "Add Tab to New Group." You'll then be prompted to type in a name for the group of tabs. You can even choose a color to highlight the new grouped tab. Last, drag the tabs you would like to include to the new group you've created. Simply hover and drop. You'll notice that the tabs expand and contract when you click on the group. Happy organizing!
  • Why you would use this: So you no longer look like the crazy person sorting through 50 open pages while sharing your screen in a Zoom meeting.

How technical training ups retention

Codecademy is no stranger to upskilling talent, but now the coding platform is looking at how to help organizations improve their retention numbers via training. The company's new Teams+ platform is focused on helping leaders seeking in-depth and customized technical training for their workers. So far, Codecademy has seen the most interest in its Python, JavaScript and introduction to Webdev courses, said general manager of Codecademy for Business, Jonathan Naymark.

  • "We think about technical training as really connected to an employee's life cycle with their employer. So some companies that we work with use technical training purely as part of onboarding. Technical training is sort of known to increase the speed at which employees are onboarded, but technical training can also be used for reskilling or level-setting employees as well. And then some companies also use it for promoting," he said.

In developing the product, Codecademy surveyed over 100 tech leaders about challenges with retention and employee turnover. Here's what their team found about the state of retention and skills training in the workplace:

  • Retention has been a rampant challenge throughout the tech industry over the past year. 67% of the tech leaders who responded to the survey said they witnessed a decrease in retention at their organization in the past year.
  • In addition, almost 80% of respondents said the decrease in retention is hurting their team's morale.
  • Of the 73% of tech organizations that said they were developing plans and strategies to reduce turnover, almost 60% said they are incorporating technical training into their retention strategies, according to Codecademy.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

A majority of tech workers say they're thinking about quitting their jobs for other opportunities in the next year, according to a new survey.

A long read about how politics are at the center of decision-making inside Facebook.

There's a reason many Black employees don't wish to return to the office.

Are the boomerang employees coming?


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TThoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great day, see you Friday.

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