Systemic Workplace Experiments

Workplace Experiments

At our company-wide get together last December we decided that 2008 was going to be a year of workplace experiments. Among other things, we discussed how we could make 37signals one of the best places in the world to work, learn, and generally be happy.

Last summer we experimented with 4-day work weeks. People should enjoy the weather in the summer. We found that just about the same amount of work gets done in four days vs. five days.

So recently we’ve instituted a four-day work week as standard. We take Fridays off. We’re around for emergencies, and we still do customer service/support on Fridays, and but other than that work is not required on Fridays.

We decided that 37signals would help people pay for their passions, interests, or other curiosities. We want our people to experience new things, discover new hobbies, and generally be interesting people. For example, Mark has recently taken up flight lessons. 37signals is helping him pay for those. If someone wants to take cooking lessons, we’ll help pay for those. If someone wants to take a woodworking class, we’ll help pay for that.

Part of the deal is that if 37signals helps you pay, you have to share what you’ve learned with everyone. Not just everyone at 37signals, but everyone who reads our blog. So expect to see some blog posts about these experiences.

We just ask people to be reasonable with their spending. If there’s a problem, we’ll let the person know. We’d rather trust people to make reasonable spending decisions than assume people will abuse the privilege by default.

Dr. Deming proposed supporting education of any type for employees (point 13 in the 14 points). That is not often done, but 37 signals is not alone in doing this. Great stuff. Create a great environment for people to work in and you can get great things done. Also good old PDSA at work – try things on a small scale and then institute those experiments that succeed on a wider scale.

Related: Google Experiments Quickly and OftenVacation: Systems ThinkingGetting and Keeping Great EmployeesJoy in WorkComplicating SimplicityWorkplace Management

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