From the desk of James Murphy, LMNT Co-Founder & CEO

SUMMARY

Background: Modern work was designed for the Industrial Age, not the information and knowledge-based economy. We are questioning the traditional daily 9-5 and weekly 5 days on and 2 days off structure as what is optimal for wellbeing and productivity. We have the opportunity to test innovative work rhythms with the goal of improved overall outcomes for the business.

Proposal: Shift to a 3 week sprint, 1 week rest/assess framework for 6 months - (possibly) permanently if test is successful.

Hypothesis: a 3:1 framework will improve outputs by creating space to:

  1. Provide critical rest to counterbalance the large demands of our work
  2. Give a structure for assessment and coordination of resources
  3. Develop clarity of action towards the highest priority work

Through this framework, we believe we can get both more from our working time and more time for life outside the office.

Execution: Outlined below.

BACKGROUND

WHY is it important to challenge our current “method of work”?

Work has the ability to take everything from us - all our time and talents if we let it. This is especially the case in an exciting and growing startup. Instead, we’d like to bring more awareness and choice to what we each give our work life as well as delight in the abundance along the way of what has already been built.

Whereas in industrial work (the way today’s cadence was designed) when you left the factory, you were no longer assembling car parts. Today, the work happens in the mind - and so “leaving the assembly floor” isn’t nearly as possible and tangible.

As humans performing knowledge-based tasks, we seem designed for pulsing “sprint focused” work. Working well in creative and knowledge-based tasks is more like hunting like a lion than grazing like a cow (to quote Naval Ravikant) - we are more carnivore than herbivore. We seem to thrive on deep and focused work in conjunction with deep and focused rest. Whereas we start to get off-balance when each day is the same, and a little bit of each bucket.

Read/Watch the following from Naval:

COVID has accelerated the awareness and the results of this imbalance are showing up in the workforce with what is starting to be called “The Great Resignation.” We’re seeing the highest levels of resignation since the age of software started and furthermore, some surveys are saying a full half the workforce is burned out with nearly as many indicating they are ready to quit. Something has to shift.

As a society, work is no longer working for us.

Astute leaders are seeing this and shifting and we plan to help lead.

Our LMNT business has also matured from a “scrappy survive” mentality in our very early startup days to a prioritization of high-leverage tasks. We’re going to survive. The next evolution is to sustain for the long-term and prioritize.

In a time of endless technology, our actions have extremely high leverage. Meaningful space to rest and find the clarity to discern how to prioritize efforts and assets is high leverage activity.

Therefore, we are endeavoring to innovate on the standard work-week model to find something that brings alive a dynamic more powerful for our team.

WHERE do we look for inspiration to innovate on our current “method of work”?

The software/technology space is the front-end innovating in organizational structures and operations. It’s a culture of experimentation, with very smart people, driven by results.

While we sell consumer products (instead of writing software), we all now live in a digitally enabled world and run a digitally enabled business - and so many of these organizational structures apply to our business as well.

The process of “sprints” is fairly common and an established effective working system for organizations. In software development this is usually defined in 2-week segments - but there are many variations of this. We’ve built the sprint foundation and are thinking about adjusting the structure of it.

PROPOSAL

Test a 3:1 working schedule for our team: 3 weeks Sprint : 1 week Rest/Assess.

  • This means 3 weeks of focused work with clearly defined outcomes and then 1 week for rest and assessment.
  • Start Month: Dec 2021 (light test) - Full jump starting January 2022.
  • Test period: 6 months beginning in Dec 2021
  • Intention: If it’s a disaster after 3 months, we can shift plans. If it’s so-so after 6 months, we’ll likely stick with it.

HYPOTHESIS

A 3:1 working method will allow for greater value creation and output from the team in the following ways:

#1: Critical rest.

Biologically, strong sleep is one of the most powerful things we can do for basically every aspect of health. So too is it the case in work - we need to rest our minds and bodies to perform at our best as well as gain critical perspective for our next highest priorities. We believe the rest will support the overall wellness of the team through clarity, sustainability, and enjoyment.

#2: A built-in assessment period.

We tend to set on a path and assess when things go really sideways or at irregular intervals - instead of a more “functional medicine” approach of prioritization while things are healthy. Continual assessment of priorities puts more time in the highest value buckets. Though it sounds paradoxical, we will accomplish fewer tasks and achieve more.

#3: Clarity of action to the highest priority outputs.

By delineating these sprints more clearly in 3-week intervals, we believe it will help focus accomplishment of the most important tasks and get to the key results quicker (rather than a number of top ones dragging out).

THE 80-20 RULE

The 80-20 rule is worth bringing up here ( 20% of our efforts and inputs tend to drive 80% of the results). And so by simply dedicating more time in the 20% bucket (not more time overall) and, most importantly, discerning which projects fall into that bucket, we will drastically improve our outcomes.

Through a reasonable articulation of the 80-20 rule in the graph below, we might anticipate a 30% improvement in overall outcomes.

If the rest/assess period can drive improved clarity of action as well as rejuvenation, we might hypothesize that we can shift 10% of our less productive time into the top 20% productivity zone, thereby improving overall output by 31%.

Whether this pans out exactly as the above or not, we believe there is a better method of work than 9 to 5 week in and week out - with 2-day weekends functioning essentially as “maintenance” to get back into the industrial machine.

EXECUTION

The “3” Sprint Weeks:

These are intended to be periods of deep accomplishment on clearly articulated, highest value-driving tasks in the business.

Many of us work long hours, weekends, etc anyways - this is a time to own it. Find balance day-to-day and also let yourself get consumed by a task to see it to completion.

If you are not completing your sprints during the specified period, you need to reassess how you are thinking about priorities and time allocation. Complete your clearly articulated projects. (This is also key to actually having rest - if your rest periods are compromised because you didn’t set the sprint properly, you will undermine the gifts in the structure).

If you have a key Sprint that will take more than one segment - be extremely clear. Most anything can be broken down to distinct milestones within the period, even if it’s a longer project. Ie, homepage done of the website within the larger development scope.

    The "3" Sprint Weeks Expectations:

    • Email: Yes
    • Slack: Yes
    • Phone: Yes
    • Internal Meetings / Assessment Comms: 
      • Weekly:
        • Mondays Noon: Business Unit Team Meetings
        • Mondays 2 pm: All Team Sprints Check In (Teams to have uploaded new sprints to OKR smartsheet)
      • Monthly: Sprint completion meeting on 3rd Thursday - celebration, reflection, and cross-function + group kudos.
      • Quarterly: Non Sprint 1w2s
    • External Meetings: Yes
    • External Communication: NA
    • “On” Hours: Let’s be real - most of us don’t work 9-5. Often in the “on” days we’re working into the evenings, more than 40 hours a week, and a bit on the weekends as well (or not, whatever has worked for you and your workstream). This isn’t required per se but it’s what the cadence has often required to hit our ambitious targets. In “on” weeks, this will likely continue - though, we want you on fewer tasks that drive the highest results.

    The “1” Rest / Assess Week:

    This is a time to Rest and Assess. This is not the time to “catch up” on the things that didn’t get done or take it easy completing some tasks.

    Partial / full rest: This is a great week to go on a trip, workshop, hike, work on that home project you’ve been wanting to, go see family (though make sure there is actual rest time after you do that too). It might be that half of these weeks are trips of some kind, whereas half are at home - however rest shows up for you. Also recognizing that they are not going to all look the same - some weeks might be 80% rest with light assessment, and some might be the other way around - as a rule, take 3 days OFF and then do a deep assessment few days.

    The benefit of an assessment period is that it’s also quite doable no matter (mostly) what the rest looks like. That is, you should be able to carve out some reflection time (alone and with contributors), even if traveling. This isn’t the time to go dark - this is a time to rest and find clarity.

    This is not the time to keep the on-going “check-in” meeting with the team or a vendor. Schedule it for a clear and different purpose than the ongoing work.

    This is a time to assess your work. What worked well, what didn’t? (bring data) write it down - and then look forward. Did I properly estimate my time for the project? I recommend at least 3 days (the weekend+Monday) of full rest before assessment - it’s the space that gives us perspective. I also recommend being open to whenever the assessment or insights come - in the shower, the sauna, on a bike-ride. It’s often not when we “tell ourselves” to assess but when we give ourselves space that something emerges. You might ask yourself “how might I drive more value bundle purchases in my OKR” - sit with that - and then in your workout it clicks for you.

    The "1" Rest / Assess Week Expectations:

    • Email: No* (Monitoring for fires only)
    • Slack: No* (Monitoring for assessment comms** only)
    • Phone: No* (Yes for fires and assessment)
    • Internal Meetings / Assessment Comms:
      • Tuesday and Wednesday:
        • Complete Assessment Brief, to include include retroactive assessment of the previous “3” and future planning of the next “3”
        • Complete EOM Reporting
        • Update OKR Deliverable Tracker
      • Thursday:
        • Review Meeting: Spend 1 hour with your team to collaboratively refine/define your next 3-week sprints.
      • Friday:
        • Review Meeting: JTM & BS to assess and finalize with Business Unit Leads or individuals through either phone calls or commenting directly in briefs. Business Unit Leads to share, have teammates update OKR smartsheet, and begin strategizing for the following Monday morning Business Unit meeting.
      • Emergency*
    • External Meetings: No*
    • External Communication: No*, out of office. Universal responder language that all team members use - pointing to a blog post and encouraging people to check out what we are trying. Notify the external party which teammate should be contacted with urgent matters.
    • “On” Hours: Available for urgent matters

    *Requires communication and planning prior to time off with members of your specific team to cover high priority items in your absence

    **Assessment communications meaning… “in my week of assessing my completed and/or future goals, slack could be a useful resource for communicating with teammates.”

      Meetings

      • See cadence and breakdown in Expectation Chart
      • Other Helpful Notes
        • In the all-team Monday meeting (note later start at 2pm EST), come prepared and ready to be extremely concise+clear.
          • The First Monday after the Assessment Period will be the sharing of that month’s sprints
          • The following Mondays will be check-in meetings where we share progress and key help/blocks. Your update can be: “My sprint is X, I am half way there with Y accomplished and I have no blockages.” … the time should be spent more in sharing something in your way, rather than what you’re doing.
            • A good rule is anything with “ing” is likely not to be shared: “calling, working on, waiting on, teeing up”… all not very helpful.
            • Past and present tense are more helpful guides: “I need help with Z because this is stuck, we finished, I need this reviewed and back to me by Thursday”... all much more helpful.
          • When a hindrance arises that someone else can help with, take a note, and slack the person right after the meeting to connect briefly on if you can help in XYZ way, asking if that sounds helpful. Suggest: “I think I can help with your data project by walking you through the cohorts we did before - would that be helpful?”
        • On Mondays, business units will meet prior to the all-team team meeting. If you have a direct report(s), please use this chunk of time to have your weekly “1 on 1s” or team meetings. In grouping these meetings, it helps keep them from sneaking up during the week.
        • Sprints don’t change half-way through. They are hit or missed with critical assessment and personal responsibility.

      Note around “contributing to”

      • Consider adding “I am contributing to x y z project” a part of the sprints communication.
      • Brings awareness to time constraints by articulating other main draw-downs on time.

      BRIEF & ASSESSMENT

      QUESTIONS

      • Share your fears or excitements about this proposal
      • Any feedback on the first week of the month being the “1” Rest/Assess Week?
        • We’ve picked the first week of the month due to normal reporting cadence falling in that as well. When the week falls in the middle, I assume it’s that middle week, or is it the first full week?

      RESOURCES

      • Work like a Lion (Naval) “Train hard, sprint, and then you rest. Then you reassess, get a feedback loop - and do it again.”
        • 90 sec clip from Joe Rogan show
        • The full show (2 hours) is recommended and one of the sharpest overall pieces of content on life/work I’ve heard
      • Work Hard: Naval blog post on work pacing in general. GEMS in here. “Inspiration is perishable,” “impatience with actions, patience with results”
      • Bolt Payments runs on a 4-day workweek. Blog post and their founder talking about it on Bloomberg here
      • MUD/WTR operates with a 2-1 structure. 2 weeks “on” 1 week “off” and for reflection
      • Ugly Drinks CEO steps down note
      • Buffer shares some stats on 4-day productivity gains
      • The Atlantic Kill the 5-day Workweek

      OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

      Does this work for all work? No. For some teams and working dynamics in the market, this isn’t as feasible. There is a delineation between work that is “lion oriented” (high-level thinking, project based, relies on collaborators) vs more day-to-day “grazing” (on-going tasks).

      • For the CX team, for example, we can’t take a week off for everyone. For Sharon at the lead, this working dynamic does seem feasible whereas the contributors need to have coverage throughout.
      • For our production and logistics team, there are likely products to approve and move each week. However, I also imagine this can be navigated even in the rest/assess week.
      • Many of our processes are completed by computers (FB running ads, shopify processing orders, etc.) and working to get this into this format may even help us use computers better.

      4-day work-week. We’ve considered this as well and we worked with this this summer. It’s great. The issue is it really doesn’t give much time for deep rest or deep reflection. It does, however, help reduce the “always on” dynamic of a work-week though, in our opinion, not far enough.

      I also must admit, I think it’s a rather neat coincidence that the 3:1 work structure and our Value Bundle (buy 3 boxes, get 1 free) share a common ratio; an inadvertent but welcome parallel that just feels… right.