We’re trialing 9 day fortnights at our MSP. No way?! Yes way!!
This post is about our 9 day fortnight trial that we’re running from August 8th, for 12 weeks. It is a narrative of how it came to be and why we’re giving it a crack.
Lying in bed, fatigued and a runny nose from a mild COVID case in May 2022, as Perth battled through its first real couple waves of COVID cases, I was witness to my team rising to the challenge of being not only short staffed with a few of our team out of action, but also in extreme high demand servicing the rapidly evolving client situations where their own staff need to WFH or isolate on very short notice. Too many tickets, not enough hours in the day. Too many people out of action, too much opportunity for stress and face paced burn-out.
It’s the second time I’ve witnessed people on our team perform amazingly above average feats of mental clarity, dedication, focus, and ‘get in and get shit done’ attitude (the first being March to May 2020).
Handling the IT & cyber for a hundred or so different clients with many unique IT environments may sound super cool, but its fraught with peril when it is excessively high demand. When the chips are down, the people here really step up and do their utmost for the benefit of all involved, even when there sometimes aren’t enough people and the task is not normally in their remit. The team did a brilliant job – but the aftermath was exhaustion, lack of mental acuity, mistakes, and a flurry of one or two annual leave days requests for people to chill a bit. Dealing with my own demons of overwhelm, burnout, and wearing many hats at once, I know that people can’t run at 100%, 100% of the time, even despite their best intentions. The body may be willing, but the mind says “hell no!”.
Even though we run an Employee Assistance Program with a popular psychology practice, that has team that specialize in work place stress, career fatigue, and overwhelm – totally confidential and we don’t know who has used the service (although I feel totally comfortable saying that I myself have used the EAP.. it’s not always simple navigating through life and business), I feel there there is still enough of a public stigma surrounding mental health especially with blokes, and perhaps those who are struggling don’t feel secure enough to reach out for support, as they may think it makes them feel “weak”. Great advances in MH awareness have taken place in recent years for sure, but, for someone whose inner demon may already be telling them they’re inadequate, ones own mind controls the narrative.
Anyway after a bit of digging around online to help find some strategies to look after the team, we floated the idea of a 9 day fortnight with a few team members, with the 10th day off being either a Friday or a Monday. Oddly enough, there were zero objections whatsoever (as to be expected). We ran the numbers; could we afford a 10% reduction in productivity, some how balance skill sets across different groups of team members, and do it without disadvantaging ourselves or our clients? Could we do this without the need for anyone to work extra hours, reduce salaries, or any other reduction in the usual benefits? The answer was a pretty clear yes. A potential 10% drop in productivity in exchange for a happier team, operating with more focus, feeling more refreshed, “on a mission to get shit done”, that could run sprints on their shorter four day week and operate as normal on the regular five day week? Yes, we think we can. So we’re giving it a crack.
As part of this trial, the full time team get every 10th day off, either a Monday or a Friday so it is a long weekend, no reduction in pay, no deduction from annual leave or sick leave, don’t need to work extra hours during the other nine days to make up time, and are asked to make the most of their magic day off. There are a couple of caveats of course, so the team who opted in (which is everyone) had to sign off an agreement to participate in the trial. One concern would be the massive build up of annual leave entitlements but we reached a solution that is fair for all.
The last point of the ‘agreement’ simply states: “I understand that the day off is to alleviate stress and overwhelm, achieve better work/life balance, reset my mind and body, and maybe do something I’ve not done before or been wanting to do for ages. I agree not to think about work when I am on my day off but instead do whatever the hell it is that I like without feeling guilt or feeling like I am not contributing by not being at the office”.
With a fortnight under our belt as of the 19th August, and feedback so far being really positive, I am keen as mustard to see how it unfolds over the next couple of months. As expected there are a couple of roadbumps already experienced – it’s a trial after all – and there’s a bit of test and measure involved as we go. There are some objective key metrics we’re using to gauge any difference in overall performance, and some subjective metrics with regards to team feedback. It’s not just airy-fairy-lets-wish-for-wellness, we’re going to be measuring. I won’t bore you with those details, but I will update with some results in due course.
The trial is really my way to give a long-term thanks to the team, and I’m extremely proud that they’ve helped build the organisation here into one that can even TRY this kind of thing. Speaking to a veteran I know in the MSP/IT recruitment space in WA, he’s not aware of any managed service provider that offers the same. Kudos to us?? 🙂 🙂
Cheers — Steve Edwards, Managing Director
P.S. burnt out with your current MSP role? Hit up Careers with us 🙂
For further reading, check out these: