Keep Your Team “Focused” on Fridays - Local Wisdom

Keep Your Team “Focused” on Fridays

Lauren Moran

By Lauren Moran
Communications Strategist & Manager

Keep Your Team “Focused” on Fridays

Your employer would likely love if you reported in at the end of a Friday and told them how productive you were that day – how many sales deals you closed, how far along you got on the data migration project you’ve been tackling for weeks, or how you were heads-down for several straight hours finishing a writing assignment (ahem, like this blog post).

But would they be just as happy if you reported that you stepped away for an hour to grab brunch while working remotely in a city 900 miles from home, signed off early to pick up family members from the airport, or gave yourself the grace to rest when you were feeling a bit under the weather?

At Local Wisdom, the answer to that last question is “yes.”

Balance is key, and we have prioritized recognizing that. We do this because caring about our employees as people is the most important thing to us. As a result of this philosophy, we have also witnessed happier and less stressed employees, which directly leads to more positive and productive employees.

What is the “Origin Story” behind Focus Fridays?

During our annual employee satisfaction survey in mid-2023, numerous people expressed that they were having trouble channeling the creativity or mental space needed during sporadic 30-minute gaps between meetings. After all, having days filled with meetings can be particularly draining, especially if the topics being discussed in those meetings aren’t related to one another. Add in an expectation that equally unrelated work is being tackled in between meetings, and your mind can feel like a pinball bouncing from one place to the next. Operating in this way can cause it to become especially difficult for someone to make a dent in their professional to-do list.

Many felt they would benefit from blocks of time dedicated to create, design, and produce for our clients. To help solve this issue, we launched a pilot program called “Focus Fridays,” an initiative in which members of our Local Wisdom team were encouraged to clear their Friday calendars of meetings that involved multiple members of our headquarters crew, with the caveat that all will understand if moving a meeting isn’t feasible or scheduling an important call was necessary on those days.

Work hours on Fridays were now meant to be dedicated to filling in whatever way each individual felt best. All were welcome to schedule 1:1 meetings with those outside of the company for networking, new sales, or even casual conversation.

If someone wanted to go offline, pop on some music, and write copy for four uninterrupted hours in the morning, then step away to grab lunch with a friend, great! If they felt inspired to work offline from a park with no Wi-Fi connectivity, perfectly ok! If they wanted to operate in exactly the same way they were before, just without group meetings, no one was stopping them!

We were also open to our team members taking a mental break to refresh their minds if that’s what they felt was best.

Our leadership team was not naïve to the fact that this plan could have some pitfalls and did put some invisible guardrails in place to ensure work wasn’t slipping through the cracks. We had metrics to track project progress and monitored that carefully. However, as long as everyone was getting all of their work done by the end of the week and no internal team was left “unattended” – and therefore unavailable to handle urgent client needs – our leadership team was flexible with how each person tackled their own Focus Fridays.

Was there apprehension with the program?

While this initiative is one that was widely embraced, not all were on board at first. Some worried that it limited their ability to get their jobs done if their calendars are typically more meeting-heavy.

Some wondered how they could reasonably be expected to get all of their work done in a week if a day of meetings was being “taken away.”

But we’ve all seen the memes about “this meeting could have been an email,” right? One of our hopes going into this program was for team members to really evaluate if a meeting was necessary or if the same result could be accomplished via a Teams chat.

How did it go?

I’ll admit that despite being one of the program’s biggest advocates, I signed off for the night on Thursday, January 4, with six meetings on my calendar for the next day. Change takes time, right?

As we suspected may be the case going into the new program, our team members were actually able to get their work done faster since they were mostly working without interruption on Fridays. And fewer people were feeling the tug to stay online late during the week because it was the only time they could focus.

When asked for feedback on the program, one team member offered, “I end my week on a high note now, feeling like I was able to accomplish so much on a Friday before heading into the weekend. I wrap up loose ends, fire off emails to close loops, and have time to leisurely eat my lunch while listening to a podcast.”


What did we learn?

There was a learning curve and it took a few weeks for everyone to really get in the swing of having meetings off their calendars. One of the biggest keys was ensuring that our team members were respectful of their colleagues’ calendars and prioritized keeping them clear.

In hindsight, it may have been more beneficial to kick start this pilot program closer to the end of January or beginning of February. With new engagement details being finalized during the first couple weeks of the year and final details being tied up from projects that wrapped the year prior, several team members did initially find themselves with more Friday meetings on their calendars than anticipated.

Where are we now?

While the intensely “structured” version of Focus Fridays has organically evolved over the last several months, we largely were able to successfully allow Local Wisdom employees ample time to focus on their work – uninterrupted by constant meetings.

Are our team members’ Friday schedules still clear? For the most part, yes, and that’s been great. We noticed that some exceptions were made when scheduling during regular Monday through Thursday hours became more challenging, particularly because people knew that “everyone has a meeting-free day on Fridays.” In some cases, these exceptions turned into recurring meetings. However, these are not the norm, and most individuals do indeed have fewer meetings on Fridays than they had in the past overall – which has still proven to help productivity.

As an added bonus, having mostly clear schedules on Fridays makes it easier for all to adjust as our annual Summer Fridays program kicks off, during which time employees have the option of taking alternating Fridays off in exchange for an extra hour of work on other business days. It also allows for people to take any necessary personal appointments, such as for the doctor or dentist, which often need to fall during typical M-F, 9-5 working hours, and just make up the time later when most convenient for them. Finally, it has allowed our team to have predictable time available for finishing tasks before the close of the week, so they don’t drag into the following Monday.

Personally, no matter in which way our Focus Friday program evolves, I plan to keep my Fridays as meeting-free as possible because I have found it very beneficial to have dedicated time to write, strategize, and plan ahead. So when you see an email come through from me on a Friday with the opener, “Happy Friday!” – you’ll know why!