Why we only work 4 days a week during summer

(And why you should too)

As I write this it’s the first week of May, and there’s an energetic buzz in the air — because it means that Summer Hours are about to start here at Basecamp. The description of Summer Hours in our employee handbook is simple:

During summer, we work 4-day work weeks, aka “summer hours”. Summer hours are in effect from May 1 through August 31 each year.

Summer Hours are one of my favorite practices at Basecamp — but not just because they are an extra day off each week. Keeping Summer Hours hones our prioritization skills and breathes fresh energy into our work.

I think it’s a practice more businesses should adopt, and here’s why:

Summer Hours hone prioritization

When we say 4-day work weeks (32 hours), we mean it. We aren’t cramming 40 hours into 4 days. This is essential to our practice of Summer Hours. Why? The key is in the constraint.

Removing a day each week forces you to prioritize the work that really matters, and let the rest go. It’s not about working faster, but learning to work smarter. It’s about honing your prioritization, scope hammering and judo skills.

Summer Hours energize and connect us

During the summer here in Colorado, my family loves spending time outside camping and hiking. Having three-day weekends to do that feels like a luxury of time. We don’t feel rushed or stressed, and I return to work each Monday energized — like I’ve been on a mini-vacation.

Adding to that energy, in our Basecamp HQ we have a “What did you do this weekend?” automatic check-in where everyone posts pictures and shares stories of their weekend adventures. This “non-work” check-in strengthens connections between everyone on the team, which is especially important for a remote company.

Summer Hours are seasonal

The most important aspect of what makes Summer Hours effective for us is seasonality. Because Summer Hours aren’t normal hours, we look forward to them and take advantage of them — they are a special treat.

Another side effect of seasonality is that when we transition back to normal hours, having 5 days a week feels like a luxury of time! We put our newly honed prioritization skills to good use, and get even more meaningful work done. It’s a virtuous cycle of improvement that builds season after season.

Your Summer Hours

I wrote this post to encourage you to think about how you can benefit from adding Summer Hours to your work. Here are two experiments I recommend trying:

  • Add a constraint to your week: Pretend you will be out of the office this Friday. If that were true, how would it change your week? What would you focus on? What would you cut? I do this thought experiment every Monday to help prioritize my week.
  • Turn a vacation into a season: Instead of taking a two week vacation, what if you took Friday off for the next two months? How would that change your enjoyment of the summer season? I’ve found it to be more rewarding and relaxing.

Happy experimenting, and have a great summer!

Do you have similar seasonal or productivity experiments that you try in your work? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Slow, Smooth, Fast, Effective

A mantra I apply to product design

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” is a common mantra in marksmanship. The kernel of wisdom being: Don’t rush, make your actions count, and you’ll come out ahead.

It’s inspired a mantra that I apply to product design:

Slow Smooth Fast Effective

Thinking slowly about the problem provides the insight and context needed to solve it holistically. Step back, and take a deep breath. Understand your true target. It’s probably not the first thing that caught your eye.

Acting smoothly means that your movements aren’t wasted. Once you’ve identified the true target, your actions can be efficient, and focused. You hit your target with accuracy.

Moving fast is a byproduct of accuracy. Missing your target creates unnecessary waste, forcing you to recalibrate, reload, and resight. Only after you’ve hit your target can you move on to the next one. Accuracy is fast.

Effectiveness is the byproduct of speed and accuracy. If you hit your targets smoothly and quickly, you’ve become an effective marksman.

Notice that each step builds upon the previous one: You must go slowly and smoothly before you can be fast and effective.

Focus on being slow and smooth, and the rest will follow.

If you’d like to embrace a calmer, more thoughtful way to work, check out Basecamp 3. It’s the saner way to manage projects and communicate company-wide.

New in Basecamp 3: Profile Cards

Over the last year, we’ve noticed an interesting trend in our team’s Basecamp: We use the Job title field in unexpected ways.

Instead of using the field how you’d expect (“iOS Designer”, “Customer Support Manager”), we use it to express a little personality, describe what we are currently working on, and let everyone know if we are out of the office.

A random sampling of our current “Job titles”

Using the Job title field to express personality or current status has become a clear “desire path” in how we use Basecamp — so we set out to pave that path for everyone.

Hello Profile Cards!

To give everyone a light-weight way to do this, we’ve added “profile cards” that appear when you click (or tap) on someone’s avatar.

The card displays that person’s job title, the current time and time zone for that person, and a new “Short bio or current status” field that you can use for any purpose you’d like (project status, funny quote, vacation schedule, etc).

You can also quickly Ping that person, see what’s on their plate, and view their recent activity. Here’s how they look:

Jonas Downey has a penchant for puns.

To change the information that appears in your profile card, click on your avatar in the upper right corner, and choose “My profile”.

Add a bio or current status on the My Profile page.

We hope you find this useful for getting to know your co-workers a little better and communicating your status!

At Basecamp, we are always looking for ways to help teams do great work (and have a little fun along the way). Your first Basecamp is completely free — so try it today, it takes just a minute to sign-up.