On May 2, 2022, Seed&Spark will transition to a 4-day work week. We’re joining a cohort of US-based companies that includes other community-based platforms like Kickstarter and OwnTrail who are all piloting this work schedule at the same time in association with 4 Day Week Global. This impacts our service-level agreements, our meeting schedules, and our external communications (more on that here). It does not impact our commitment to our creators and customers.
We are hoping deeply it impacts our people.
We’re approaching 4 Day Week based on a very simple premise: you cannot pour from an empty cup. This is in response to two years of pandemic burnout, rising fascism, a vicious news cycle that deeply and personally impacts our team members at Seed&Spark, and a ruthless attention economy. These are our ongoing conditions, and it’s exhausting. (Seriously, just go take a nap right now. You need it.)
Our goal at Seed&Spark is to accelerate the cultural impact of creativity. Our promise — stated right there on our values page — is creative energy. That we will be a source of inspiration, solutions, ideas and energy for our community. In order to deliver it, we have to resource it.
When we closed the doors to our office on March 12, 2020 and went fully remote, we became part of a generational shift. We were incredibly lucky to be among a group of people who could work from home, who could keep our jobs, and all of a sudden we were being given the opportunity to completely reconsider how we work. Outside of work, sometimes for passion and sometimes out of necessity, we were engaging in new hobbies, learning new skills. I cooked more than I have in a decade, learned how to competently cut the hair of all my family members. Team members have talked about reigniting their passions for music or art, some started entire side hustles or finally (finally!) finished that script. Cameron French launched The French Dip Design for his incredible illustrations (where I now get all my t-shirts). Meghan Ross started an Instagram live interview series combining her passion for activism and crafts called “No One Asked for This.” Once a week she was joined by activists, experts, community organizers, & leaders to discuss the many social injustices in the world that No One Asked For, while she performs an activity at an average-to-below-average skill level that No One Asked For. We had permission to try things (and, uh, what else were we gonna do with our time?)
And stuck at home, while we were trying new things outside of work, we were forced to try a whole bunch of new things inside of work — to save the company. We took pay cuts, we tried new products and killed others. It was a herculean effort by the team to stick together and continue to support our community, and we had to break a lot of rules and conventional wisdom to do so (I detailed all this in a post here about how we worked together to make those choices). It took a lot out of everyone. And I won’t speak for anyone else on the team, but I was scared shitless the entire time.
By mid-2021, we were trying to figure out how we might ever dig ourselves out of the hole of burnout we all experienced keeping Seed&Spark alive in 2020. We started “no meeting days,” and mental health days. We already had a “take the time off you need” policy that people actually used. We have 20 paid holidays and we close the office from before Christmas to after the New Year. But I could feel for myself and for my team that no matter how excited we were about new initiatives or starting to see product-market fit for new products, we were coming from a place of deficit that would be very hard to make up. Many employees cite how much they miss working in an office together, how even though they connect via Zoom they feel isolated in their work. We would do weekly short film breaks and occasional other virtual hangouts to try to create social time between colleagues — many of whom have still never met in person — but let’s be real, nobody wants their social time on Zoom. Add to this that the endless cycle of violence and hate spread instantaneously into everyone’s devices and it also felt like as soon as we made any gains we’d get knocked down again.
We’re not special in this way. Everyone in our circle is struggling — not just to come back from the last two years but to adjust to the pressures and uncertainties of whatever our new homeostasis (or lack thereof?) might be.
I read an article in July of 2021 about the 4 Day Week Campaign, and it referenced many of the findings from the studies that had been done around the world. Businesses that switch to a four day week report higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, lower levels of burnout, and even higher levels of productivity.
If you read the incredible body of work sourced from global research on the 4 Day Week, you will see that a lot of research focuses on productivity — that it increases when companies reduce the work week to 32 hours without reducing pay. And I’m deeply grateful for that research because it makes for a compelling case to CEOs or investors. But productivity as a focus typically leads to exploitation. Entertainment and tech are two industries that have absolutely exploded over the past 20 years, and one thing they have in common is a culture of taking pride in working 20 hour days to “get it done.” We even see independent creators — who are their own bosses — subscribing to that same endless hustle culture because that’s the tone the wider industry sets. The larger message is “if you work hard enough, you will show you are special enough to earn a coveted spot.” That’s what the dominant culture says to creators, to entrepreneurs, even to activists. It ignores the fact that we’re not on a level playing field by any means, and our work culture is built to exhaust some people more than others. So rather than trying to take pages from the same tired playbook, we’re giving ourselves permission to try something new.
The 4 Day Week is just one of the next steps in building a work culture that we hope allows our team to have energy to support our creative community, and also support their own creativity and their own communities. We see this as an experiment that doesn’t have just one variable: transparency and accountability inside and outside our organization are vital for this to work, and we’ll share along the way what we’re learning. We have questions about whether 4 Day Week can help combat the isolation of remote work by giving people more full days to be among their friends and family, or if we need even more resources there. We are open to ideas! And if you’re out there and curious about the 4 Day Week, how it might work in your organization or for you as an individual — check out the resources on 4 Day Week Global or send me a message! I don’t think we have any answers yet, just a series of experiments, hopes and ideas. To tackle “work-life” balance is to tackle capitalism itself, and the only way we build movements against what feel like intractable systems is one day (off) at a time.