Why We Created Cabana Days: Our Version Of A Four Day Work Week

Why We Created Cabana Days: Our Version Of A Four Day Work Week

After a stressful, busy year, it’s time to change the way we work.

It’s always been important to me and Romeo, Coconut Software’s co-founder and Chief Product and Technology Officer, to know that our teams are feeling their best when they come to work. 

Talking to Coconut employees, and looking at the world in general, we realized that there was more that Coconut Software could do to help. I think that everyone at our company, and likely all companies, was feeling the stress of the pandemic, the ongoing lockdowns and having to manage working from home, childcare and staying healthy. 

The executive and leadership team had been discussing unlimited vacation as something to offer our employees to encourage them to log off and take some time to rest. An employee had mentioned that a previous company offered four day work weeks – we decided to look into it further as an alternative to the unlimited vacation benefit. The more we researched and considered a four day work week (to create our version called Cabana Days), the more we realized it would be the right policy for our culture and our style of work. Having regular, consistent days where the team is encouraged to log off (for most it’ll be Fridays, for other customer support roles it will be Mondays) seemed to work better than the option to take more vacation.

We wanted our employees to spend time on the things that matter: the meetings that add value, the work that’ll help us reach our goals, and the rest that gives our team energy. It’s going to help keep them happy, motivated and engaged. And It will help us recruit for our current and future positions: with our recent Series B raise, we are looking to fill many roles across all functions and want to attract the right people to help reach our growth goals. 

Keeping our existing employees happy, motivated and engaged

The Cabana Day program was inspired from other countries and organizations implementing a four day work week,  providing a better work life balance to their staff. It is so critical to ensure people have time to put themselves and their families first. 

We believe if you take care of your employees, they in turn can take better care of themselves, and in turn they will take better care of the customer. We started talking about the concept back in June – we needed time to develop the pilot program, talk with each of the department heads and figure out how our pilot would actually roll out. Everything was organized so that at the beginning of August we started the experiment of offering our team every Friday off. We then extended the pilot two more times (into September, and then again into October). At that point, the feedback from our team about how well rested they were feeling, how much more productive they were, and the quality time they were able to spend on their hobbies, families and friends. It demonstrated to us that we needed to make this permanent. We announced internally at our November All Hands meeting that the experiment would transition to an ongoing policy.

So far (three months of the pilot, and two months officially rolled out) the biggest tangible benefit has been the mindset and happiness of our team – managers consistently get comments about how refreshed and well rested their teams are on Monday mornings. Seeing pictures on our Slack channels and social accounts of what people did on their Fridays off has been really gratifying. Pictures of people going on trips with their family, spending time with their kids and pets, working on their hobbies, or just relaxing. It validates to us that this was the right decision, the fact that our people are telling us they are happier, more productive and more energized.

Recruiting for current and future positions

I’ve heard from our recruiting team that it is absolutely helping us find and place top notch people in Coconut. Culture, especially in a post-COVID world, is going to be one of the most important considerations for people and where they work. And Coconut Software is in a great position to attract incredible talent because of our culture.

It is a very competitive labour market – with “the Great Resignation”, and many businesses starting to rebound from the pandemic, candidates have many opportunities for their next role. Our recruitment team has mentioned that the conversations they’re having with candidates have changed – before the pandemic most of the time was spent on compensation and growth opportunities. Now, nearly every candidate is asking how Coconut is promoting work and life balance and encouraging mental health. I’ve always been proud of the support we’ve had in place (generous vacation, benefits and a health spending account) but now we are even more clearly showing we’re serious about taking care of our team. 

Metrics for success: managing what we can measure

As we recommend to our customers, we’ve created and are tracking measurable metrics for projects, in order to manage outcomes. 

From the research we did on other programs, we figured we’d see an improvement in morale, work and life balance, as well as productivity.

For our pilot specifically, it was important for us to track how many Fridays our team actually took off, and how many felt they needed to work those days. From August to October:

  • 96% of the team were able to take at least several Fridays off. 
  • 78% of employees are more engaged at work, with 18% feeling the same. 
  • 78% felt that the balance of home and work life is better, 15% stating that it’s the same. 
  • 60% of the team felt that they’re doing higher quality of work, 39% the same.

We already had high expectations on quality of work and productivity – the leadership team was pleased to see that there is even better engagement.

Have a strong culture of communication and empathy? You can do this too!

I firmly believe this is the way forward for work and life balance, for those workplaces and functions that can implement it. My biggest suggestion is to engage with your staff to fully understand what they value the most. Is it time? Is it money? The best part is trying new things, measuring them and seeing what works. The pilot was a great way for us to try it but also outlined to the team that it wasn’t a guarantee. Overall, Cabana Day or not, your staff will appreciate that you care enough to try new things.

It is so critical to ensure people have time to put themselves and their families first. We believe if you take care of your employees, they in turn can take better care of themselves, and in turn they will take better care of your customers.