Flexible working arrangements - Figures' example
Considering Figures’ growth over the past months, we know that we need to be sharp and optimize every productive moment to give ourselves the means to reach our great ambition.
Why look into new working time organisations? Why go away from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5?
Yet, we know that this ambition can’t be converted into a great success without a fully charged team, who would be performing, but also healthy and in the best mood.
Ultimately, we wanted to find our perfect mix between:
- High performance & productivity,
- Outstanding work-life balance.
Eventually, we never believed in long hours, working days and nights to achieve this level of performance and delivery, so we looked into efficiency first.
Last but not least, we believe HR innovation is improving the workplace; it’s what Figures is based on, and we want to embrace our model!
What’s our initial organization like?
Since day 1, we have been a remote-first company.
Today two-thirds of the team works remotely from many different places in Europe, which implies a specific organization:
- We gather monthly in our Parisian office for three days of team alignment and bonding,
- We push a lot for async work: Slack, Claap, and Notion are our best mates,
- We avoid unnecessary meetings as much as possible and prefer written communication.
We used to have a standard working hours schedule, with (in France) 25 days of PTO + 10 RTT, leading to 218 annual worked days contract.
As much as possible, we aligned all countries regarding working conditions and benefits; hence we aligned all contracts, no matter the country of application, with 35 days off yearly.
What about the four-day workweek?
As anyone could have, we’ve noticed in Q1 and Q2 2022 that the four days workweek model was gaining visibility and that a lot of companies, if not countries, were starting to trial and permanently adopt it.
Even if it was still marginal in France (where most of our team is located), we decided to investigate, read as many available resources as possible, and eventually decided that it was worth trying it out, as it was potentially improving our two areas of focus:
- Work-life balance
We framed it as follows:
- A four months trial from mid-June to mid-October 2022
- Days off were either Wednesdays or Fridays, it was up to everyone to chose their day off for the entire trial, validating it with their own team so there would always be at least one person available (lucky enough, we realized that there were more people than expected willing to take their Wednesday off, though it was kind of complicated for ou 1-person Marketing team!)
- We maintained our monthly Paris gatherings, weeks during which we were working five days to cope with transportation time that was often not very efficient
- We started sending weekly team pulse to measure the changes and perceptions of everyone, though we lacked clear KPIs to measure the changes objectively
How did the trial turn out?
After three months of experimentation, we noticed several things:
Work-life balance is overall positive and improved.
- Even if part of the team still works on their weekly day off (rarely more than 2 hours), having flexibility and fewer expectations on this day creates a positive feeling for everyone.Some people have been using this day to finish pending tasks at the end of the week or to spend a few hours entirely focused on deep work.
Performance & productivity are tough to assess as we don’t have objective metrics to look at
- Figures being a young company (less than 2 years), we were not able to compare our results to last year’s results as we were four people against 30 today, at a very different stage of maturity; the product and market have evolved quite a lot since then. We were lacking a track record to assess the impact of our new working schedule.
- Not all teams have OKRs, SMART goals, or KPIs to follow. Hence it isn’t straightforward to objectively assess the impact on productivity: simply put, we were able to measure if sales teams were reaching the revenue targets, but it was way more complicated when we looked at our Tech and Product teams, for instance.
We noticed a “2-speed” application of the 4dww (that’s what we called it internally!), depending on the team and jobs.
- It was visibly more accessible for Tech teams to fully disconnect during their day off than for Sales or CS teams, leading to some frustrations.
- Indeed, as we were already trying to be as efficient as possible with very few internal meetings, an account executive, for instance, would have a hard time fitting all their client meetings into four days; when a software engineer, with few, if not no external meetings at all, would be able to organize their time more efficiently to be as productive as before.
- It resulted in many team members working a few hours on their “supposed day off,” feeling guilty to be working when they shouldn’t, and annoyed to notice it was not everyone’s case.
What happened next?
Given our previous organization (few meetings, async work, monthly team gatherings), we realized that the four days workweek was a bit too extreme for us, particularly given our rapid growth. It was probably too early for us to switch to this model.
Yet we didn’t want to go back to a “normal” schedule, as we realized that during those four months, some positive outcomes emerged: better work-life balance, overall positive mood, and more focus time.
While we kept reading different resources on the topic, we looked into nine days fortnight, flexible Fridays, summer Fridays… There seem to be as many schedules as there are companies! So we decided to take the best of every world to define Figures’ work schedule, which would fit us the best.
That‘s how we came up with a mix of several schedules:
Nine days fortnight
- Friday or Wednesday off every other week
→ Improved work-life balance compared to a classic schedule with an average of 199 days worked days per year
→ Easier organization, allowing all teams to be really off on their day off, and not keeping an eye on their phone or working 1 or 2 hours here and there
Four days workweek during July and August
- We know that our activity is lower during the summer, and we wanted to release some pressure by acknowledging it
→ Allowing the team to recharge the batteries to be fully charged for the last part of the year
Gathering the whole team once every other month
- Team cohesion is super important to us, we have a strong culture and love it, and we can’t deny that time we spend together contribute to this culture, that is why we wanted to empower teams when it comes to team gatherings and decided to allow them to meet each other in any location twice a year at their initiative
→ Making our gatherings less frequent but more impactful
→ Empowering the team to build the culture and team spirit instead of waiting for company-led gatherings only
→ Managing our office space - the team is growing, and the office is not infinitely expandable…
Eventually, these changes were announced to the team during one of our famous “Remoters in Paris” gatherings and were well received and understood by the team. We are still experiencing this new schedule, and while we hope it will fit us for the months and years to come, we’ll remain flexible and continue to assess the impact!
In the end… 2023 is already thoroughly planned! and we’re super excited about it!