How We’re Rethinking the Work Week


 Last Spring, we made the decision to embrace a virtual-first model coupled with in-person events and local communities. From providing our team members with more freedom to live their lives to supporting our efforts to build a more diverse and equitable workplace, making the transition made sense for us in so many ways.

But that was just the beginning. At Thumbtack, we’re inventing a new future — not only by bringing our homes into the 21st century but by reimagining the future of work. To improve how we work to better suit all of our employees across three countries, we began a 90-day pilot to redefine the norms and assumptions that power our workdays.

Here’s a look at what we’ve learned, what we’ve changed, and where we’re headed.

Where We Started
Before the pandemic, Thumbtack had a strong culture at our headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Salt Lake City, Toronto, and Manila. We built connections over in-office meals, global all-hands events, and chats when we bumped into one another in the hallways. And we were heavily reliant on in-person interactions to collaborate and bring new ideas to life.

Like most companies, when we first shifted to remote work in March of 2020 we reflexively replicated our existing ways of working in a virtual environment. We used the same tools and systems — such as Slack and G-suite — we’d used in the office and stacked our days with Zoom meetings to ensure we could work effectively while remote.

What We Were Solving For

As we adapted to our new normal, we realized we needed to more radically redefine how we work in a virtual environment.

We started by conducting research with our 900+ employees, who told us they were exhausted by Zoom. Constant virtual meetings were leaving little time for deep thinking or heads-down work, and the dissolution of boundaries between work and home contributed to burnout. We needed breathing room for wellbeing, ingenuity, and creativity to flourish.

Employees told us that they felt hugely positive about the new flexibility to live wherever they want — but were less certain about their ability to build strong relationships with their teams. They also told us that the “always-on” feeling might be alleviated by thoughtfully rewriting new working norms.

The Changes We Made

To change the status quo, we launched a three-month pilot project with the goal of providing team members with more flexibility and balance. More specifically, we set out to reduce meeting times, preserve time for fun and connection, and improve asynchronous communication and collaboration — while being true to our values and regularly giving thanks and recognition to one another.

During the pilot, we tested:

  • Limiting collaborative meeting hours (defined as those with more than two people) to Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. PT.
  • Implementing “No-Meetings Wednesdays” to dedicate time for heads-down work and counter Zoom fatigue.
  • Creating shared guidelines for Slack, email, Zoom, and phone communications.
  • Adding structure to the way we conduct meetings (with an agenda, note taker, and outlined next steps).
  • Extending company-wide holidays. We added two full weeks of all-company shutdowns during July and December to create space for our employees to really unplug from work, and 13 additional company holidays per year (in addition to PTO).

What We Learned

Recently, we collected survey results to see how the pilot impacted our team. And we were deeply encouraged to see real progress, such as:

  • Employees reported having 15% fewer meetings. And the meetings that did occur were more efficiently run, and 22% shorter.
  • Unanimous appreciation for no-meetings Wednesdays, with more time for deep thinking and generating new, creative ideas.
  • A sense of clarity regarding which communication tools to use when connecting with team members in different situations.
  • Company-wide appreciation of our weeklong summer shutdown, as employees felt they could really unplug and step away from their work since everyone was off.

What’s Ahead

We’re proud of the changes we’ve made and excited to continue up-leveling the way we collaborate, communicate, and connect. We are relentlessly focused on helping employees improve flexibility and work-life balance while living our values and achieving our ambitions.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we see exciting opportunities in the challenges ahead. Thanks to our employees’ openness, we know this next phase will require us to think creatively about how we can build better documentation to improve knowledge management and collaboration, find the best asynchronous collaboration tools to help us further reduce and optimize updates and meetings, and further connect virtually and through our in-person events.

Over the next few months, we’ll be diving deeper to identify what key challenges remain in making virtual-first work excellent. We’ll continue to research and explore asynchronous collaboration, synchronous best practices, how we manage projects, and the systems and tools we need to set our teams up for success. We’ll also explore more areas of training and development to better support our employees and leadership.

We’re committed to creating a truly new — and better — way of working. We know we’re in the early innings of fundamentally rethinking how we work to take advantage of the incredible flexibility virtual work offers. We’ll continue to share what we uncover and how we’re evolving every step of the way.

If you read this and see yourself at Thumbtack, check out our open roles at https://www.thumbtack.com/careers/

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