Over the past year we’ve heard about a myriad of four-day workweek experiments at tech companies. While some experiments lasted for the duration of the summer, others stretched on into the fall. Now, several months later, some companies are keeping the arrangement forever. Ecommerce checkout company Bolt just announced that it will make its four-day workweek a permanent fixture moving forward.
Like many other tech companies, Bolt began by experimenting with the four-day workweek. The company started with a three-month pilot last fall to see what worked and what didn't, and then would decide if they wanted to roll it out permanently. They also surveyed employees after the three months for more thorough feedback. The verdict? The pilot was a success.
94% of Bolt’s employees who answered the survey wanted to keep the shorter workweek, and 91% of managers wanted to continue it, Jennifer Christie, Bolt’s chief people officer, told Protocol. Christie officially joined Bolt in January following a four-year stint at Twitter where she was chief HR officer, though she was part of conversations early on when Bolt was kicking off the pilot.
“Having those conversations with [CEO Ryan Breslow] and the team was one of the big attractions for me to come to Bolt,” said Christie.
The leadership at the startup views the shortened workweek as more of a work culture than a flashy recruiting incentive, said Christie, and they’ve worked to put managers and leaders in place who support working in a similar way (after all, the four-day workweek isn't for everyone). The fast-growing company has hired 280 employees since September, bringing the total to over 500, according to a recent report by Fast Company.
So how has Bolt been able to implement the four-day workweek as the company expands? Here’s a look at how it works.
Everyone takes the same four days off
All employees work Monday through Thursday, for the most part. Christie said this decision was made so no one feels like they’re missing anything when they’re off. This structure also prevents people from holding meetings when not everyone is present.
“Unless there's some kind of business need, usually driven by a client or a customer-facing commitment that's a little bit beyond our control, we try to have the same days,” she told Protocol. “It does normalize it for everybody and also gives everyone that break. They know that everyone is taking a step back and taking that break, and that things aren't piling up in their inbox … which kind of defeats the purpose of taking a step back.”
Bolt still observes organization holidays
Just because employees work a four-day week doesn’t mean they have to make up for it by skipping corporate holidays. If a holiday falls on a day other than Friday, employees still get Friday off. Leadership is also cognizant of encouraging employees to take advantage of their unlimited vacation day policy. Fridays aren’t viewed as another vacation day; it’s simply a four-day workweek. Christie realizes this is a mindset shift for some.
“We want people to also take time to really step away for several days at a time,” she said. “So we'll be monitoring that as we go just to make sure that other other aspects don't take a hit because we've transitioned to this.”
Fridays are for whatever employees deem necessary
Bolt encourages its employees to use the fifth day of the week for whatever they’d like, whether that is catching up on deep work or spending time with family. There are no rules — just no meetings.
This is a model that many of the companies experimenting with the shortened workweek have adopted. Customer communication platform Front has also experimented with the four-day workweek and implemented what its leaders call “Flexible Fridays.” Much like Bolt, Fridays are designated for intentional work or personal time, and there is no expectation for employees to be online.
Christie is realistic about the idea that Bolt and other companies with shortened workweeks likely still work longer days than they might in a traditional week. It is more of a compressed schedule, she said, and people probably do work closer to a 4-day, 10-hour workweek as opposed to working fewer hours as a whole.
Get leadership on board
Perhaps the most critical factor for making the condensed workweek effective is getting leaders on board, Christie said. It’s pretty hard to implement a four-day workweek if managers are still online sending emails to employees on their day off. Like with all corporate initiatives, leaders are responsible for upholding the workplace culture.
“We've had conversations as a leadership team to say, 'You've got to role model this.' If you're quietly working, people will know, they'll see you online. And if this isn't role modeled all the way through the organization, it won't be sustainable,” she said.