When we first started Super, my co-founder Vika and I discussed the type of working environment we wanted to build. How, we questioned, could we create a culture that enabled us to ship fast and at high quality while also creating work-life balance for our team?
Here's what we've learned: those goals are not at opposition with each other. In fact, they are intrinsically connected. Happy, healthy teams do better work. For example, our team is outputting at an incredible velocity, is able to consistently problem solve with creativity, and maintains a high level of effective collaboration. We can function this way as a result of a focused approach to meetings, our 4-day work week, and vacation policy. As intuitive as stating this answer is, it's uncommon for companies—especially startups—to embrace.
We had conviction that there was a better way to run a company than the always-on mentality that had dominated our entire careers. As remote, flexible work took much of the world by storm in 2020, it led to some positive things—a realization of how adaptable an organization can be—and some not so great things—productivity measured by screen/meeting time and as a result, unprecedented burnout. Starting a company from scratch gives you a great opportunity to shake some of these norms.
There are many company norms we've intentionally set that I would love to write about, but the one that has probably been the highest impact is the 4-day work week. Implementing a 4-day week isn't just about cutting a day of work. Actually, that is probably a recipe for failure. It requires operational structure and agreed-upon behaviors to successfully achieve.
Some of you (and perhaps a past, burnt-out self of mine) are probably thinking: is this real? Is this just marketing hype? To put it to the test, we exported our Slack and Github analytics on when we're active and when we're quiet.
From these charts, you may have guessed that our working days are Monday through Thursday. There's actually a couple more insights!
The first is that our most "active" days when it comes to messaging and code commits tend to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That is no accident. To enable our team to complete a week's worth of volume in four days, we have to be very intentional about how we work. We aim to minimize meetings and structure collaboration blocks so that there is an opportunity for truly uninterrupted heads-down time. Internal meeting days are Mondays and Thursdays. So it makes sense that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there's more async collaboration and code output. By being mindful of each other's time and creating more space for work to get done, we can do more with less time. (This is also a product principle we aim to provide our customers with—get more done in less time.)
The second is that we've found a way to actually respect each other's offline time Friday through Sunday. I'm deeply guilty in my past of having no work boundaries. Going from a redeye directly to a meeting, messaging at all hours... it's not behavior I look back at with pride. So we've been more intentional this time around. We have an on-call schedule and escalation procedures to ensure customers are always looked after. If it's not urgent, we have other norms around messaging: put #silent in front of any Slack posts—even if it's just your awesome Wordle results—so your teammates know that no immediate response is expected. It's not that you can't choose to do work when best suits you, but you can't expect your colleagues to be always on for that ride.
What's most exciting is how the 4-day week is benefiting the team. Here's what they have to say.
"What I appreciate most about the 4-day work week is the sentiment of trust behind it. It is built upon the premise that an individual’s productivity does not live within the confines of a certain time frame. Plus... having a day to catch up with any life stuff or errands is pretty nice." — Maria, Accounts
"It really is a life changer. As a software developer, Super’s 4-day work week creates valuable space for concentrated, highly productive output, but as someone who also values time outdoors with friends and family, that extra day away from the computer allows for meaningful time to reset and focus on interests outside of work." — Axel, Engineering
Getting to this point has taken continued experimentation, agility, and unlearning past behaviors. As Vika openly shares, the unlearning of past behaviors doesn't happen overnight, and we are constantly working on improving—as individuals and as a team. In her words:
"Our society glorifies working. Culturally, there is a straight line between the more hours you put in, the more successful you are. But, it’s critical to have personal time outside of work in order to be present and excel at one’s job. A job can be just that—a job.
In the past, I have tied my own sense of self worth with work, and it’s hard to let go of old habits. It’s still not always easy to close the laptop. But we work at it very intentionally, and it’s why I’m passionate about shaping our norms at Super. One side effect of this is how much better we have gotten as a team at planning ahead, prioritizing, and documenting our work. It’s funny how slowing down has helped us move faster, and that’s something we continue to strive for."
Thankfully, the team has been open about when things aren't optimal (like our original internal meeting schedules before we created no-meeting Tuesday and Wednesday). In our spirit of transparency and doing work in public, we'll continue to share our learnings. And if you can see yourself working in this environment, please reach out.
If this is the type of company you'd like to be part of building, take a look at our open roles. We are hiring and growing our team.
In this Founder Feature, deep dive into the vision of our founder and Chief Product Officer, Vika Kovalchuk Zamparelli, and her journey to starting Super.
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