Workplace Experiments


Web application design firm 37signals is spending 2008 running workplace experiments in an attempt to make their office "one of the best places in the world to work, learn, and generally be happy." Their first experiment:

Shorter work weeks 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 if that's the case we could either push everyone to work harder during those five days or we could just skip one of those days. We decided to skip one of those 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, but other than that work is not required on Fridays. Three-day weekends mean people come back extra refreshed on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people come back happier on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people actually work harder and more efficiently during the four-day work week.

In addition, they've tried "funding people's passions" by playing for employees' personal hobbies (the example they give is funding flying lessons), as well as "discretionary spending accounts" -- credit cards that are at the employees' discretion to use for books, software, conferences, or whatever they think is important. As they say, "We'd rather trust people to make reasonable spending decisions than assume people will abuse the privilege by default." What an enlightened idea.

So here's the question: what's the best thing about your workplace? Have you tried shorter work-weeks, or other experiments in your workplace? And if you can't think of anything good, check out our previous coverage of Crappy work incentives, Stealing from your office, and Your worst jobs.