Our 4 Day Work Week Trial
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Our 4 Day Work Week Trial

Lab Notes is a blog series dedicated to sharing our experiments in the space where the future of work and the future of learning converge. In this issue, we look at our version of the 4 day work week.

Lab Notes

Hi, it’s Francine here, Chief of Staff at Eskwelabs. I love recreational activities that don’t involve a screen—like painting and jigsaw puzzles—and I am an avid birdwatcher. One thing I admire about birds is their effortless flight, working with the wind whenever they break free from stillness. Their strong wings give them the confidence to fly. To me, this is a perfect metaphor of how teams can flourish and thrive in the future of work when we provide them with the tools to succeed. Lab Notes is a joy to write because it’s ultimately a scrapbook of our efforts to be the wind beneath our team members’ wings, propelling them into success in the 21st century and beyond. 

You can connect with me via LinkedIn here.

Our 4 Day Work Week Trial

It’s no secret that the 4 day work week has taken the business world by storm. In the countries where companies aren’t already piloting their own experiments, they have governments—like Spain’s and Scotland’s—that are paving the way to make it a reality.

It’s also no surprise that this concept has gotten even more popular throughout the years. Companies have adopted it for a variety of reasons: lowering employees’ stress and increasing their satisfaction, attracting top talent, and even burning less fossil fuels to help the environment.

What is the Learning Day and why did we launch it?

But we took a radically different approach and we’re eager to share more about our version of the 4 day work week—it’s what we call the “Learning Day.” Instead of cutting out one day from our work week, we’ve designated a specific one entirely for learning.

There are four reasons why we launched the Learning Day at Eskwelabs for four weeks this January 2023. Let’s look at each goal in the next four minutes. 📚

📚 1 | To use what we learn to inform our work

If a group of atoms form a molecule and a group of cells form tissue, then our Learning Sprints form the base of all our upskilling programs at Eskwelabs. The learning sprint is a standalone and time-boxed experience where individuals and teams upskill by completing projects together. It’s social, based on real-world working setups, and the projects are always practical to the industry participants are from. Stacking two or more learning sprints on top of each other make up our longer bootcamps.

Designing learning sprints is demanding. So we want to use our Learning Days to refresh and continuously update our knowledge.

📚 2 | To make our work easier and better

There are no limits to what one can learn. It’s not just about acquiring new information, but also unlearning old habits. Having the Learning Day gives us an opportunity to explore new tools and ways of working to see if we can work easier, better, and smarter in a world of work utterly changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

📚 3 | To live our lifelong learning values

There are two halves to our Eskwelabs whole: social impact and edtech. We’ve always promoted lifelong learning among our students, and it comes naturally because we ourselves are a team of lifelong learners. 

Our approach to the 4 day work week, via the Learning Day, is not only for practical reasons (as you’ve seen in Goal 1 and 2). It also exists to keep us tethered to our core as a company: education.

This is us literally practicing what we preach.

📚 4 | To invest in ourselves

The Learning Day is a time for us to take a break from our daily work, invest in ourselves, and acquire new perspectives. Irish poet W.B. Yeats captures this best when he said, “Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” 

They say that the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know. But a positive take on this could be, “The more you know, the more your curiosity grows.” It’s keeping this curiosity alive that can nourish our lives outside of work, too. Interestingly, this is another way companies are preventing employees from burning out.

What did the team learn and were the goals met?

The Learning Day initiative is a flexible and structured way of learning. Flexible because we’ve given the team freedom to choose a project that they could work on—what would be the fruit of their accumulated Learning Days. Structured because we’ve provided them guidance on how to select and refine their projects. We’ll share more about the logistics of choosing a Learning Day project, for now let’s talk about celebrating the team’s output.

We can summarize the types of learning acquired into two buckets:

  • Learning that empowers
  • Learning that enables

📚 Learning that empowers

“Empower” is a word that is nearly identical to “enable.” But what makes it different is how it focuses on the transfer of or increase in confidence and strength. 

New learning sprints

Louie and Kim, our Junior Learning Experience (LX) Designers, as well as Den, our Instructor Management Lead, used the Learning Day to familiarize themselves with the skills needed for three of our latest sprints: SQL, machine learning, and educator coaching.

LX design, a descendent of the older field of Instructional design, champions a human-centered approach. Immersing themselves in these topics for their Learning Days gave Louie, Kim, and Den a foundation to work off of for crafting the experience of our learners and the matching materials to go with it.

Innovative Education article

Meg, our Junior Content Designer, published an article on our pedagogy or way of teaching. This meant spending her Learning Day consuming content with a writing style that has not been as explored in Eskwelabs until now. Having this dedicated time provided her with the ingredients and building blocks to write with a new style of business and information content writing.

📚 Learning that enables

The word “enable” is all about making something operational. In other cases, it can mean to “activate.” 

Operations Manual

Gly, our Project Manager, developed an operations manual in collaboration with ChatGPT. This would not have been possible given that her regular work hours were focused on client-related learning sprints. The Learning Day provided her with time to work with new tools like generative AI, thereby enabling her to create a manual that is now a great artifact in Eskwelabs. 

This manual enables future project managers and operations team members to onboard into their roles quicker too. So we see the effects here are two fold and felt both in the short and long term. 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) Investigation

Robyn, our Senior Product Manager, needed to acquire new statistical knowledge to be able to carry out her CSAT investigation. She wanted to pursue this project to be able to identify potential drivers of satisfaction for our learners in the learning sprints. 

Like Gly’s project, Robyn acquiring this knowledge enabled her to not just create a report, but also present it to our Education team—serving as the spark for other teams’ CSAT investigations.

How did the team receive this initiative?

True to the agile way of working, we held a retrospective to see what worked well, what didn’t, and what could be improved. 

We have an entire blog post dedicated to this retrospective in the coming issues but what we can share for now are the following:

Pros of Learning Day (version 1)

  • The team felt the spirit of the Learning Day through the amount of effort put into keeping them organized, engaged, and motivated.
  • The team felt the care and attention provided for their development in Learning Day-specific 1on1 consultations.
  • Team members have projects they can be proud of.

Cons of Learning Day (version 1)

  • The team noted the solo nature of the projects. In version 2, we’ll experiment with pair or group setups. 
  • The team noted that there are still meetings and non-Learning Day tasks that sneak in. In version 2, we’ll experiment with other formats.
  • The team noted the limitations of work-related projects. In version 2, we’ll include wackier and non-work related projects to choose from, too.

Learning Day (January 2023 experiment) | A photo of the pilot team

Learning is a labor of love! And it can make the labor done in the 4 day work week incredibly joyful. 

Stay tuned because in our next post, we’ll talk about basic lessons for an easy implementation of Learning Day at your company.

Future issues | What’s next in Lab Notes:

  • Lessons from the Logistics of Learning Day
  • Professional Learning Plans
  • Open Bookshelves
  • Employee Engagement tips for Learning Day
  • Designing Learning Day Version 2