Why we’re moving to a four-day week for client work
From the new year, dxw will be working on client projects from Monday-Thursday each week and using Friday for company-focussed work. We’ll start the first sprint of the new year on January 4th, so our first company Friday will be the 6th. We’ve been thinking about this change for a long time, and we think it’s now time to do it.
We’ve always believed that everyone at dxw has some work they must do which clients shouldn’t pay for. For example:
- Company retrospectives
- Recruitment (interviews, CV screening and so on)
- Delivery work and maintenance on our products and internal tools
- Self-directed learning and improvement
- Discussing, documenting and improving our processes and policies
We have accommodated this work by charging clients for eight days per sprint (rather than ten) leaving us about one and a half hours each day for work unrelated to the current client’s sprint. For example, our developers working on WordPress projects use this time to work on support tickets for the websites we host on GovPress.
This arrangement used to work well, but doesn’t work so well anymore. As we have grown, the number of internal ‘things’ that need to be done has grown too. We also want to give our team more opportunities learn, develop and to improve the way we work as we grow further.
Over the last year, it has become increasingly clear that a change is needed. It’s not workable for us to charge four days out of five for everyone on the team, and have some dxw time every day. For example, a user researcher may only be working on a client project for three days in a week, which ruins the maths.
More importantly, the current approach makes us less consistent. Some of our development teams use all their company time, some use little. This means that for some clients we over-deliver, skewing their perception about how much we can get done in a sprint. We have also had the occasional sprint where we have spent more company time than was available, causing us to under-deliver.
In practice, it’s more common that we over-deliver, which leaves less time available for us to improve. There is work that we need to do in order to be a better, more capable, more efficient team, and we’re not getting enough of it done.
What’s the plan?
From the new year, we’ll no longer have company time every day. Instead, we will focus entirely on client work from Monday to Thursday each week, and will spend Fridays on dxw work.
If you’re a dxw client, this means there will be some changes to the way we work together.
We’ll get more done during sprints
We expect that the changes will be positive: focusing exclusively on sprint work from Monday to Thursday will reduce context-switching and should make us more productive. We’re expecting that we’ll get more done, but the cost of a sprint will stay the same. Also, if someone working on a sprint is sick or unexpectedly absent on a client day, they’ll repay that day on the following Friday. This should help us to keep up momentum on your work.
Our support service will be more responsive
Support work will not be affected by this change: in fact, it should get better, because from the new year, the dxw operations team will include a full-time developer. This means that rather than having a developer working on a support ticket for one and a half hours a day, often revisiting the same issue a day later, you will have a person dedicated to getting the issue resolved more efficiently. We think this will make the helpdesk service more responsive, and enable the team to solve issues more quickly.
Another benefit of this change will be that if you need us to do a small bit of development work – something that needs to get done, but doesn’t justify a whole sprint being scheduled for your service – we’ll be able to schedule that much more easily, and with less lead time.
We’ll be less responsive on Fridays
Making this change will make us more focussed and more responsive during sprint time, Mondays to Thursdays. However, aside from support tickets, this change also means we will be less available to respond to queries, plan work or make changes on Fridays.
None of this will affect how we respond in emergencies. If you have an urgent issue on a Friday, everything else we’re working on will be set aside until it’s solved. But routine messages that we receive from clients on Fridays will generally be attended to on the next working day (usually Monday).
We’re learning as we go
This is a big change for us, and for our clients. We’ve been speaking to some of you about this already to get some initial feedback and discuss the impact of this change. We’ve talked a lot as a team about it, as well as going to meet other teams who have made this approach work (thanks, Thoughtbot!).
We would love to hear your feedback about how this new approach works for you. We’ll do some research on this in the spring, but do let us know sooner if you have any questions or comments. We’ll do everything we can to make the change an easy one.
We’re feeling optimistic that this will make us a better company, and improve the quality of everything we do. In the new year, we’ll blog more about the change, and the impact it’s had.