Hailley Griffis is the Head of Communications & Content at Buffer and the co-host of the podcast MakeWorkWork. Hailley has great insights on both remote work and marketing (specifically PR) that I’ve been reading for a few years.
If you haven’t heard of Buffer, it’s a social media management platform with the most unique, open, forward-thinking culture I’ve seen. Hailley joins us today to talk about her wacky company, Buffer.
- Buffer goes against just about all of the standard business practices (and is thriving). How was that culture built, and how is it maintained?
- How is it different working at a company with transparent salaries than one without?
- What had to change operationally for Buffer to switch to a 4-day work week?
- With so much paid time off at Buffer (minimum PTO, 4-day week, sabbaticals, etc.)… how do you manage productivity/results?
- How do you strike the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication?
Below, you’ll find some key takeaways shared in answering each question. The takeaways were created by ChatGPT based on the written transcript of the interview.
Buffer goes against just about all of the standard business practices (and is thriving). How was that culture built, and how is it maintained?
- Buffer is a long-standing company, approaching its 13th year, with a focus on building and maintaining a unique company culture.
- The CEO, Joel Gascoigne, has been instrumental in implementing progressive policies like salary transparency and a four-day work week.
- Leadership at Buffer is open to unconventional approaches and is constantly thinking about how to make the company a place for personal growth and development.
- The company’s flexible work environment accommodates changes in employees’ lives, as evidenced by the speaker’s personal experience of lifestyle changes over eight years.
- Buffer’s work culture is designed to suit various lifestyles and is centered around a way of working rather than a specific type of person.
- The company’s policies, such as vacation time, have evolved through trial and error, moving from unlimited vacation to a minimum required time off to ensure employees take adequate breaks.
- The development of Buffer’s culture and policies has been a slow, iterative process over the years, with the intention of improving how the team works together.
How is it different working at a company with transparent salaries than one without?
- Buffer’s transparency was initiated by CEO Joel Gascoigne, who was influenced by a culture of sharing among startup builders and bloggers.
- Joel openly shared Buffer’s early milestones and continued to do so as the company grew, which was considered unusual by some as the company became more successful.
- Reflecting on company values, Buffer decided that transparency was a core principle they wanted to maintain, leading to the question of what else they could make transparent.
- To address secretive salary negotiations and pay structures, Buffer developed a salary formula to ensure fairness and clarity in compensation.
- Initially, salaries were shared internally in early 2013, leading to a full public disclosure by the end of the year.
- The salary formula and transparency aimed to improve fairness, invite feedback, and hold the company accountable.
- Buffer now has a dedicated landing page for salaries, allowing public access to salary information for all team members, which serves as a resource and reflects the company’s commitment to transparency.
- While the transparency of salaries at Buffer is often a topic of interest to media and reporters, friends and family members do not typically discuss it with Hailley, despite the information being publicly accessible.
What had to change operationally for Buffer to switch to a 4-day work week?
- They reduced the number of meetings, questioning the necessity of each one and considering the frequency and format that best-suited team dynamics.
- Initially, teams at Buffer chose different days off, which complicated cross-team collaboration due to the lack of overlap.
- Eventually, Buffer standardized Friday as the day off for better coordination across the company.
- The transition to a four-day work week involved continuous iteration, especially regarding meeting schedules and project deadlines to ensure efficiency.
- Fridays are used as flexible “overflow” days for catching up on work if personal circumstances during the week, like childcare, impacted productivity.
- The goal of the four-day work week is to allow employees to be more rested and therefore more productive during their working days.
With so much paid time off at Buffer (minimum PTO, 4-day week, sabbaticals, etc.)… how do you manage productivity/results?
- Buffer likely has more average time off compared to other companies, factoring in their closed Fridays, end-of-year breaks, vacation policies, and sabbaticals.
- The company has a transparent dashboard showing total days off per month, with significant variations depending on the month and upcoming holidays.
- With a team size of 81 people, the days off do not include the regular four-day work week.
- Time off does not generally lead to productivity issues at Buffer, as long as it is well-planned.
- Potential productivity issues are mitigated by intentional planning, such as requiring six months’ notice for sabbaticals and coordinating family leaves.
- Proper planning ensures coverage for customer service and project continuity, preventing negative impacts on productivity.
How do you strike the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication?
- For urgent, timely, or complex issues requiring multiple people, synchronous communication (like Slack, text, or Zoom) is recommended.
- Most other communications at Buffer, such as reports and project updates, can be done asynchronously, allowing for flexibility and documentation.
- Asynchronous updates are shared using tools like Threads, where detailed information can be read at the recipient’s convenience.
- While people at Buffer promote asynchronous work, they acknowledge the necessity of some synchronous interactions, especially for transparency and privacy reasons.
- Direct feedback, particularly negative or constructive, is better shared privately rather than publicly to avoid issues like finger-pointing.
- The balance between asynchronous and synchronous work is crucial, with each having its place depending on the context and content of the communication.
Connect with the Hailley
Learn more about Buffer
Buildremote awards Buffer has won
- Best remote companies: ranked #3 overall
- Best tech companies: ranked #1 in the small business category
- Companies with the best benefits: ranked #5 overall