Makers’ days at dxw

People appreciated time away from the “day to day” and an opportunity to do something different

A couple of weeks ago we held our first dxw makers’ days.

These days are an opportunity to work together on a problem we want to solve or something we want to make better. Ideally something non-client or project specific that benefits from being solved collaboratively by a small team of people from across dxw.

What we wanted to achieve

We wanted to find time to socialise and work with each other away from our day jobs.

We wanted to find a way to maximise our success and engagement on work to make dxw better.

We wanted time to learn new things or try out things we’ve recently learned.

We wanted time to bond as a growing dxw community that’s mostly working remotely.

How we ran makers’ days

We took 2 consecutive days away from client and other work. We chose Thursday and Friday because they fitted best around client project calendars. We gave 2 months notice of the dates so people had time to prepare and adjust their working pattern if they wanted. We told all of our clients and there were no complaints (in fact a few people told us they’d quite like to join in).

We chose 5 themes based on some existing working groups and named a sponsor for each one. We then asked everyone to join a group. 1 group decided they would like to work mostly in person in our Leeds office. The other groups joined in remotely.

The themes were:

Each group used the time in whatever way they wanted to. Most groups started with a planning session on the first day and we all came together at the end of the second day for a show and tell.

Feedback about makers’ days

We ran a survey afterwards to find out what went well and what we could improve next time.

People really enjoyed spending time with their colleagues, some of whom they’d not worked with much or at all before. People appreciated time away from the “day to day” and an opportunity to do something different. Lots of people said they liked the small group format and the short show and tell at the end.

Some people felt they couldn’t fully engage during the 2 days because they were still thinking about client projects or being contacted by clients. Quite a few people said they would like to find an alternative to working over video calls all day which can be pretty exhausting.

Next time, many people would like to meet in person if possible and it’d be good if we could find a way to do more preparation together in advance. The session we held in person left everyone feeling full of energy.

Making time for dxw over the years

In an agency, the bulk of our time is spent working on client projects but we’ve always believed it’s important to make time to develop the organisation and the people who work here.

At the end of 2016, we introduced the idea of dxw Fridays and then spent the next few years in a fairly predictable pattern of 4 day client weeks and the 5th day, Friday, reserved for dxw activities.

The work we did on dxw Fridays directly contributed to the growth and success of the company. We built internal tools, ran lots of recruitment campaigns, nurtured communities of practice and designed many of the company processes that underpin us today. It also helped contribute to our growth and success as individuals which in turn makes our organisation stronger.

Then dxw began to grow at a faster pace and in 2019, we decided that any day you weren’t working on client or project work could be considered a dxw day. It no longer needed to be a Friday. This allowed those who didn’t work full time to get involved and also gave us more flexibility about how we planned our work if it didn’t fit into the weekly or fortnightly sprint cycle.

During 2020, we continued to iterate how we used dxw days, trying different groupings and ways to record and share what we’d been doing, but we also focused on allowing the team time to rest as we all dealt with the effects of working through a pandemic.

What’s next for makers’ days

Makers’ days are our next iteration of dxw time and a way to help us gather momentum again. We’re pretty pleased with how things went and we want to try and find time to do it again before the end of the year.

We’ll need to decide if we keep the themes the same and build on what we started, or add to them so we can look at new things. I expect people will want to change groups so they can work on something else with different people. I’m looking forward to it.