After AppNeta adopted a fully remote workplan in March last year, productivity stayed high at the network-performance-monitoring firm. Still, the leadership team worried about how well employees were holding up during the stress of the pandemic.
Before the outbreak of the coronavirus, only a few AppNeta people worked remotely full time. When everyone began working from home, the lines between home and work quickly became blurred, said Eva Maloney, vice president of business operations at AppNeta, which is based in Boston.
“We were really concerned about burnout, especially with the anxiety and stress of living in a global pandemic and also working remotely,” she said.
The solution? AppNeta adopted a four-day workweek last summer. In the fall, the company put a reduced work schedule in the employee handbook. AppNeta’s 130 full-time employees and about 10 co-ops/contractors, all of whom work remotely, get alternate Fridays off in a “10 days in nine” model. This schedule fit well with the company’s four-year-old “family first” policy.
Companies worldwide have been experimenting with the idea of reducing work schedules at the same pay for a while now.
However, the topic gained added appeal recently after Iceland announced the positive outcomes of several four-day workweek experiments conducted from 2015 to 2021. The trials showed that employees stayed just as productive as with a 40-hour workweek, while reporting greater well-being as a result of their private and work lives being more in harmony.
Now, 86 percent of Icelanders are either working shorter hours or have the right to do so.
Maloney, who moved to Atlanta from Boston with her husband and two young children to be closer to family, shared her insights about both remote work and fewer workdays. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Remote Report: How does the reduced workweek approach work at AppNeta?
Eva Maloney: It’s 10 days’ worth of work in nine days and we have every other Friday off so that the entire company is closed. We certainly thought [we’d see] productivity gains, specifically in software engineering and sales, where obviously it’s a little bit easier to measure. We had every reason to believe that this is going to be a positive shift, not only for employees and their well-being but also for the business.
So we drafted that as a permanent AppNeta policy in our employee handbook and we consider that [it is] just the way that AppNeta works permanently from here on out, as opposed to a pandemic-related benefit.
RR: How do you calculate the 10 days of work?
EM: We’ve never been a set-hours kind of company. We trust everybody to know what their job is and to get it done when and where it works for them, within our guidelines.
We’ve just looked at it as [being] more efficient and effective with your time, especially during those shorter weeks. I think it’s forced all of us to prioritize accordingly, delegate when needed, and … doing it in nine days instead of 10.
RR: Have you faced any challenges related to being 100 percent remote and having reduced workweeks?
EM: A lot of us have worked together for a long time. We’re all very close and tight knit and enjoy really strong personal friendships. That personal interaction has always been at the core of our culture as a company. I think we’ve all truly missed that aspect.
What we’re trying to think about [now] is, how do we cultivate that without needing to be full time back in an office? Whether it [is] events where we all get together or coming together quarterly for a planning meeting or whatever it is that we can bring back some of that in-person interaction.
With being remote, we’ve noticed that a tendency to throw a meeting instead of having a quick sidebar conversation has become a bit of the norm. It gets a little [more] challenging when you’re taking out a day out of the calendar. Sometimes those four days scoot past pretty quickly. But I think people have found their groove at this point and have gotten better about blocking their time and thinking, does this need to be a meeting, or can we pick up the phone and have a quick conversation?
RR: What have been the benefits?
EM: We’ve hired quite a few remote employees … over the past year across the U.S. and Canada. I think when people are evaluating an employer, they want to understand that they’re going somewhere that is going to respect that just because they log on at nine doesn’t mean [that] I’m no longer a mom once I’m online. We’re people with lives and that doesn’t make us any less passionate or committed to the work that we’re doing here.
[The remote policy has] really broadened our access to talent. We’re getting people from different backgrounds and different experiences and then onboarding them. [They are] teaching us as much as we’re teaching them.
RR: How are people using that day off?
EM: We all have that extra day to use as we need. Whether we’re talking real-life chores — are you catching up on laundry? Are you running your errands so that you can spend Saturday and Sunday with your kids and with your family and feel present? If you feel like you’re behind in work, do you have a meeting-free day to take an hour and catch up, if needed? That’s your time to use as you see fit. Hopefully it takes a little of the pressure off.
Making sure that our employees are taking that time for themselves and stepping away from the keyboard is something we’re really focused on.