NTEN has had an increasingly distributed team and a flexible work schedule throughout our 23 years as an organization. So when everyone shifted to working from home during the pandemic, we already had half the staff working remotely, which allowed us to better adapt than many organizations. Today our team is spread out across six states and three time zones, with various childcare pick-up times and varying partner, medical, and volunteering schedules.
With a successful three years of experience of everyone working from home, we decided to say goodbye to our Portland headquarters last fall. With half the staff living here, though, we still consider ourselves a Portland-based organization. Practically, we are a Slack-based organization.
We are a team of humans with full lives. Working at NTEN is just one aspect. I think this is the root of the four-day work shift for us. We are humans first and employees of NTEN later. Certainly not second. Maybe fifth on the list?
The interest in a four-day week as a team started building in several ways over the last two years. First, this was discussed in reviewing our employee handbook, where our benefits and expectations are outlined. Next, staff suggested it in our annual accessibility survey feedback and associated conversations with the equity team. It even came up in yearly evaluations and manager check-ins.
A year ago, the operations and admin team committed to investigating what could be possible and whether we needed to modify our policies and benefits to make the change. For example, since we have employees in different states, and those states define full-time employment and paid time off differently, we wanted to be sure that any change we made to our full-time status or PTO accrual processes didn’t impact some staff positively and others negatively. This research also included talking with an employment lawyer to understand legal implications we may not have considered.
Some of the most interesting planning was the work we did as a full team driven by the places where staff had questions. Over the last few months, we have shared articles and resources in a “32-hour transition” Slack channel and, in staff meetings, started making lists of questions that we could bucket into areas of exploration for small teams to take on. This included a meetings team thinking about the frequency and types of current full team meetings and how they suggested we test out changing them for a four-day week. We also had a communications team that recommended where and how to communicate this change, from email signatures to out-of-office messages to the website. Are all of our plans of interest to you? Likely not! They were made within our team’s context, norms, and values. But having a process driven by the areas where staff feel unsure as the primary focus areas was helpful to us and likely would be to you as well.
So, while we’ve spent a good amount of time in thinking and planning mode, it’s time to start testing! June 30 is our final Friday work day at NTEN, and we will begin the four-day, 32-hour week starting in July. Like everything we do, we anticipate we will learn along the way, and we plan, of course, to do that learning out loud by continuing to share broadly.
Have you made this change in your organization and have tips to share, or are you thinking about this and have questions? Please head over to the online groups and join our conversation about four-day weeks!