There is plenty of talk around the 4-day work weeks. Some experiments have even shown that a 4-day workweek might mean more productivity for everyone.
But we'll leave that debate for another day. Today, we'll talk about "Half Day Fridays". A practice implemented by Allegra Poschmann at her studio called Pact.
Let's hear it from her:
"We've been doing half-day Fridays at Pact for some time now. As a leader I make sure to sign off at half day on a Friday, so that everyone else feels comfortable doing the same. We started doing that as we're in a pandemic, and everyone's at home all the time.
Half day Friday gives a couple of hours extra for everyone to ease into the weekend. It makes sure the weekend feels like a weekend. Earlier, I used to be stressed about work on Saturdays and that's because I hadn't switched off properly from work on Friday. Having those 2-3 extra hours on Friday evening, makes sure I get that out of my system."
An extra few hours on Friday to ease into the weekend?
It's a hell yes!!
It is always good to see companies voluntarily implementing such healthy practices at work. This just makes it evident that as a leader, you care for your people more than anything else. We need more companies like Pact and more leaders like Allegra.
In this episode, Allegra shares her professional journey, how she works at the intersection of design and writing, her typical day, a quote that keeps her away from work on weekends and so much more.
Let's dive in!
Allegra introduces herself
Hi I'm Allegra Poschmann, designer of brands and digital lands. A lot of people come to me for their design work. But I consider myself more of a generalist. More like a "T-shaped" person. The vertical stick in T being my design work. Many of the things I do incorporate storytelling, user experience, best practices around ecommerce, branding and so on. The term "digital land" which I used to introduce myself, encompasses all of those things.
My dream growing up was to be a writer or a journalist. I was editor of my high school paper. I graduated high school in 2008 in the middle of the financial crises. In college when I had to choose a major. My thinking process went, let me choose something where I can be sure to find a job once I'm out. It would be my fallback plan. That happened to be design. So if I could be a writer, I'd fall back on my design major. While I was learning design in college, I fell in love with it.
Ever since, a big theme of my career has been finding jobs or projects that are at the intersection of design and writing.
Right out of school, I started working with big agencies. Where I was 1 designer in a team of 30, touching 1 tiny aspect of a project. With me having varied interests, it just wasn't for me.
That's when I started working with startups. Being a very early employee at companies. In a startup you get to try so many things, that too at someone else's dime. Finding what are the different ways a brand can come to life and evolve in a very rapid timeline. I've done that for a couple of startups, one of them was called Breather.
But once a company raises it's series A, it's less about creativity and more about scale. That's the stage when I was ready for my next move.
My next move was a job that changed my life. I became the Art Director, and subsequently the "Head of design and User Experience" at a very small agency called Dynamo. They were based in Montreal. When I was there, I helped bring the first wave of D2C brands' stories to life. I worked with founders even before they had launched a product, to craft the perfect design and messaging for their company.
I got to work with a lot of startups that way, many of which went on to raise big rounds of capital later. One of our biggest clients was Glossy, and they got acquired. I then had the option of going there and taking up the role of head of design or something like that. Or, the other option was to do something of my own.
I chose the latter option, and started consulting. Fast forward to now, I have a studio called Pact. At Pact, I'm doing the same things that I love doing, working with the next wave of founders, helping them with their design and messaging.
How Pact came to life?
While I was consulting, whenever I needed any technical help, I would reach out to my friend Alex. He was like my technical partner, while I was his design partner. We would throw a lot of work each other's way.
When the pandemic hit, all companies needed an e-commerce strategy. Myself and Alex have a lot of experience doing exactly that. Since there was a lot of demand for our services. We thought it was the right time to make it into a company. That's when Pact came to life. We started with 4 people- myself, Alex and 2 employees. While now we're a team of 10. It has been quite a journey since then.
Struggle with boundaries
Setting up boundaries has been a real issue for me. For that reason, I find Mailman very helpful. As it sets up these boundaries for when I'll tend to my emails, otherwise I sure can't trust myself to have and respect these boundaries on my own.
A typical day
My day usually starts with me looking at slack and emails to make sure I haven't missed anything crazy. I'll get up with my son, prepare his breakfast and lunch. Usually I'll start work by 8:30. I'm a morning person. I would probably do my best work between 4AM and 9AM.
But I don't do that because it's hard to get up that early and even if I did, I would be a half-functional human for the remaining part of the day. Now that I have more responsibilities besides work, that won't be a feasible option.
But I still try to get my best work done in the morning after I wake up. Then I'll do admin work in the afternoon. My days usually run long. I'll do some design work at night after my son is off to bed.
We've been doing half-day Fridays at Pact. As a leader I make sure to sign off at half day on a Friday, so that everyone else feels comfortable doing the same. We started doing that as we're in a pandemic, and everyone's at home all the time.
Half day Friday gives a couple of hours extra for everyone to ease into the weekend. It makes sure the weekend feels like a weekend. Earlier, I used to be stressed about work on Saturdays and that's because I hadn't switched off properly from work on Friday. Having those 2-3 extra hours on Friday, makes sure I get that out of my system.
I make sure to totally disconnect from everything. My phone's mostly dead on weekends. All this just to give myself a needed break, which I believe is necessary for every entrepreneur as we're constantly delivering on so much expectations.
Another phrase that's been very helpful for me to disconnect as an entrepreneur is this, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should". I tell this to myself whenever I feel the temptation to do anything work related on weekends. This instantly makes me respect my off time.
Style of working
At Pact we do 2 week sprints. That's how our goals are planned out. Talking about on a daily basis, I schedule my day as per my Mailman delivery slots. So whenever an email delivery slot is schedule, that's when I'll take a short break to check my emails. At other times, I'm busy doing deep work.
On productivity tools
I've tried a lot many productivity apps in the past. I used Notion and loved it. I'm always looking for tools that can solve it all for me. But I always find myself coming back to the very basic tools, i.e. Gmail and Google Calendar.
I use the calendar to block out time for specific tasks. That helps me in knowing what I need to be working on at what time.
Besides that, a lot of pen and paper. For project planning and task planning, I use Asana for our studio. It works great at a team level, but is too robust for my own personal planning.
Forming new habits
Lately, I've been trying to take my meetings while I'm walking. Some calls go long so that'll make me walk a 14 kms. Walking is good for fitness, and we need it more now than ever as we're all working remote for the past some time.
The other habit I'm trying to build is having this gratitude activity with my son. At the end of the day I just ask him what were the highlights of his day, what made him feel great. That also helps me do a bit of reflection on my own day.
On killing time
I go to twitter whenever I've some time to kill. Besides, I read the NYT a lot. I also read 'The Cut', it talks about the current event through the gaze of the cultural movement we're living through. Those are the sites I mostly visit when I've to kill time.
On extra hour
If I got 1 additional hour I'll wake up earlier than everyone else in the house and make a cup of coffee. Then I'll just read for an hour. This is what I'll do in that extra hour, instead of going crazy straight in the morning by checking slack and email. This is what I'll do instead with that extra hour.