Sunday’s New York Times has a fascinating article* by Jason Fried, the co-founder and CEO of software company 37signals. He says that since he reduced everyone’s hours at his company, they’ve all gotten way more creative. Check out what he’s done:
- From May through October, they switch to a four-day workweek. The result? According to Fried, better work gets done in four days than used to get done in five.
- In June, every employee gets to work on whatever they want. They put their scheduled work project on hold, and explore ways to improve existing products and new product ideas. In July, everyone shares their ideas on “Pitchday.” Fried reports that this resulted in a burst of creativity, it was “ultraproductive,” and it was a huge morale booster.
What Fried’s done at 37signals is actually a fairly common technique at super-innovative companies. Google, for example, gives its employees one day every week to work on wild and crazy new ideas of their own choosing. That “20 percent time” is where new product offerings emerge, like gmail. W. L. Gore (maker of Gore-Tex waterproof fabric) gives everyone 10 percent of each week for creative time. And the whole idea started way back in the 1940s and 1950s at 3M, which to this day has “15 percent” time for creativity.
So here’s a suggestion for 37signals: Since four days a week works so well from May through October, why not extend the policy for all twelve months?
*Fried, Jason. “Be more productive. Take time off.” New York Times, Sunday, August 19, 2012.