It’s not what we do – it’s how it feels taking the time to do it
After three long articles about how we prepared for the 4-day week trial that we kicked off in December 2022, it felt like it was the right time to share what we’re doing with our time off.
But I wanted this to be a very visual post. Pictures of our team doing sports, playing music, reading, enjoying time with friends, or doing charity work. No text, asides from the footnotes.
Then I talked to my colleagues, and I had to pivot.
What I found out to be the most interesting is not the content of our re:st days. That’s just a collection of anecdotes.
By far the best material, the stuff that really resonated with me was not what my colleagues were doing. It was how they felt about doing it, and with what mindset they approached their free day. By the way: I’ve seen similar conclusions in this AMA from Buffer. Things like unintentional problem solving on the free day, or the conviction that the 4 day week can be particularly beneficial to parents.
I’m still going to break up the testimonials by activities, since it’s way easier to classify them like that. But I bet you’ll see an undercurrent of common topics running through them.
And in case even that’s TL;DR for you, here’s a summary infographic with collected testimonials. In just 800×2,000 pixels.
Short Trips for Longer Weekends
Having longer weekends every week is a rare opportunity for travelers.
Zizo, one of our Support Engineers, has already made this fantasy into a reality.
Since I’m a short-trips lover, I would probably use the long weekends for short trips to different cities/countries, I just didn’t get many chances yet to do so because of other longer travel plans that I had, and cold weather too, but I guess that will change in the coming months when the weather is somehow nicer. I did travel though to Albania and Romania in December, each in a separate long weekend, when we started the 4-day-week
Recurrent visits to Friends and Family
Similarly, Fredi jokes that she spends her free Fridays on the train:
Many of my friends and my whole family don’t live in Berlin. So last weekend I went on a 7h train ride to Tübingen to go to a wedding. Or I visit friends in Münich or Dresden. Instead of having only 1.5 days to see them, I can now leave early on Friday mornings and we have a full Saturday together.
Taking breaks from parenting
Most of the parents I talked to had a similar feeling of… relief. Particularly, because their kids are still toddlers and they require a lot of attention.
Huiyi, in particular, recently came back from a long maternity leave, but it’s still at that early phase of motherhood when you really wonder whether you will ever have your life back.
I’m really thankful to have it cause my daughter is a very active child, and after staying with her to entertain her all weekend I feel exhausted. So it’s good to have a free day on Monday to rest and then start working on Tuesday.
Tobias, our cloud team lead, has a similar experience.
On re:st day I tend to do anything that is worth doing on a weekend without kids. It gives me more of the flexibility back that I used to enjoy. I wish often for more free time and the re:st day does the trick… although I have to say that some of my free Mondays have been bombarded by my son being sick.
Ultimately, we know that being a parent always comes first… and that the re:st day only lasts until we pick up the kids from school. As Huiyi puts it…
With the kids, it’s just 6 free hours. But it’s still a blessing not having to do everything in a hurry. You can slow down and make it your day.
Quality time with the kids
While I am in the same situation as Huiyi and Tobias, it’s also true that re:st day gives me the opportunity to be present when I am with my kids.
Rather than trying to work at my home office when they come back from school, on Fridays I get to pick them at school and spend the afternoon with them. It’s very easy, since the weather in Madrid is sunny for the better part of the year and there is a playground right in front of one of the schools where a lot of families meet. Children play, and parents drink a beer before going back home.
Daniel Reimer shared a different but similar experience. He’s the father of two twins and a younger daughter… and attention to the little one is often sacrificed for the sake of what the twins need.
When they’re home we usually have to spend some time helping the twins with homework, and it’s difficult to have quality time with her. But since she’s in Kita, what I sometimes do on Wednesdays is just take her out and spend the day with her.
Breaking up the week in two with CrossFit
While most people take their re:st day on Fridays, a minority has chosen Wednesday. And I have to say that their testimonial is very convincing. Here’s what Daniel has to say:
I take my re:st day on Wednesday. I shut the PC on Tuesday evening, and then go to the gym for my CrossFit training. It really feels like the weekend is starting again, with the difference that the break doesn’t feel at all like a disruption. You’re taking a break but you’re still at it. On the weekend, I feel like my brain is erased.
It’s really a stress breaker during the week, and it feels really good. Shutting the PC down is a great feeling. I can shake everything off.
Realizing that he’s pumping all this energy into his body on Tuesday night, and then doesn’t need to work after two days afterwards… that sounds like a winning recipe to me!
Sports for the non-fit
Training the body is obviously not exclusive of Daniel. I myself have it as a principle to do some exercise on every re:st day. It has shifted back and forth between swimming, going to the gym, and climbing. I also tried taking Padel lessons, but I discovered that the walk-in lessons at my gym are really advanced.
My colleague Christopher also swims on Fridays. Funny enough, he has had a lot of effortless productive ideas. More on this later.
I’m getting a ton of work related ideas while swimming, driving to the pool or walking. It’s obviously not the reason I do it. Swimming is not really that much fun, but it’s something that I wouldn’t otherwise do and it’s a great way to exercise.
Training the mind
In our initial conversations during the Town Hall Meeting in which we decided to test the 4-day work week, learning new skills was already mentioned prominently as an example of things we didn’t get to do because lack of time. Unsurprisingly, it is quite popular.
Irina, our UX Designer from Ukraine, is possibly the most active learner on re:st day:
I know that I’ll be glued to the screen and reading the news 20 hours a day if I’m not busy, so I force myself to take courses and learn new things. I’ve taken German lessons, I’ve done a UX course by Niels & Norman, and I’ll be doing another one focused on UX Writing that is starting soon.
Huiyi is another strong continuous learner among our ranks:
I’ve watched a Master Class on persuasion so far, I’ve started another Master Class on video making. They’re teaching how to use even home devices to make good videos. I’ve also started taking a course on Yoga fundamentals, because I feel that we often go into Yoga classes but we don’t really understand why we’re doing certain positions. And rather than getting on with it, I feel it’s best to go deep and understand those foundations of some gestures, which usually have to do with meditation.
It’s funny that hobbies are so low in the list… I guess the reason is simply that it’s an obvious answer that doesn’t mean anything too specific.
But hobbyists are VERY specific. Here’s an axe that Christopher has been working on.
Of all hobbies, music deserves a special mention. It seems like the most popular hobby by far!
I’ve also started playing my guitar more often, almost every day. So it’s not exclusive of re:st day, but it did start on a Friday.
Not only have Irina, Daniel, and Christopher picked up their guitar again thanks to the re:st day. There are other ways in which our team is doing music or playing with music as a hobby.
Björn is also having a lot of fun with his set of electronic drums and some drum courses. He’s promised me a picture of his elaborate setup, so I’ll be updating the article soon!
I have also resumed an activity that I dropped in 2013, when I stopped working on my blog trovarlaletra. My blog had a very unique format: I used to translate lyrics of rock and folk songs into Spanish… and proved that my lyrics could be sung with very raw a capella versions. I’m now about to complete translating two albums from Low, one of my favorite bands, as a tribute to the death of Mimi Parker in 2022. And, of course, there will be a capella versions again.
I don’t have a complete survey of all the culture visits done by the team since December, but Marvin shared with me his visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof museum, where there was a very cool exhibit with 700 vinyls spanning across 7 decades.
Some of my colleagues have donated blood and plasma on re:st day
It’s an interesting way of doing a socially-minded activity, since doing charity work only some hours per week is not that easy (I’ve been looking for options myself).
Limitations to giving
Indeed, Irina has had a hard time recognizing that she doesn’t really know too well how to contribute to her community back home.
I’m from Lviv, in Western Ukraine. It’s safer than other areas on the front or closer to it, but I don’t feel safe there. My best friend keeps telling me I should go back because we must be together, but I’m afraid of going back. And from here, is difficult to stay connected to the community and keep helping.
I don’t know how to help, and I haven’t done any volunteering since the summer. I blame myself for that. But they don’t need volunteers anymore. Ukrainians used to need lots of guides and hosts, but now folks are established, they have jobs, their kids go to school, they pay taxes, and they don’t need as much help.
What I’ve done sometimes is help those who help. I used to be a photographer, and I do volunteering photography with the Ukraine community.
But it’s not something that happens frequently, neither is it exclusive of re:st day.
I’m also helping two other friends, one in Poland and another one in Budapest. I’m teaching them visual design and I’m helping them with their own designs. I give them lectures, they do tasks, then I review that they’ve done and leave comments for them.
Getting a different angle on work
Ultimately, re:st day has also proven effective for coming at work from a different angle. To use the common place, thinking out of the box is easier when you’re not inside the box.
Christopher was very clear about this:
Sometimes I get interesting ideas for work when I’m on my way to the swimming pool. It seems like being in an active state dissociated with actual work allows me to see things that I would otherwise not connect. Once I had an idea about an annoying bug at 23.30 on Friday’s while brushing my teeth before going to bed. It actually was the solution to a problem that had been hunting us for 4 weeks.
For others, doing work that feels different is a bit more intentional. Tobias really enjoys testing things out that are a bit more experimental:
Doing unapproved work that I anyways wouldn’t have the ability to prioritize doing the week feels great. It’s a bit like being able to say: today it’s hackathon Monday! Then sometimes what I managed to work on becomes the seed of something larger that we want to develop further.
re:st days will consolidate as a tangent
There are more approaches to re:st day than there are employees at resolution. And that’s fine, I wasn’t looking for the kind of consistency or alignment that we fight for during our shorter work week.
In the end, this experiment is about offering freedom. And freedom should be enjoyed unconditionally. Some people will be very practical and keep busy. Some others will prefer to disconnect, or meditate. There’s no right or wrong here.
Ultimately, if more companies adopt this approach, it could go a long way in addressing mental health concerns and improving work-life balance for employees around the world.
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