How 20% time can make your team happier without impacting service

how 20% time can make your team happier
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Picture of Natasha Ratanshi-Stein

Natasha Ratanshi-Stein , Founder & CEO

Today we launched a new feature so teams can auto-schedule time for surfers to work on projects not directly tied to customer service tickets. We call this “20% time” and it can be filled with anything from special projects and learning new skills to catching up on admin or spending time with colleagues.

Ensuring surfers have enough time for diversity in their role is essential for providing a balanced and fulfilling experience of work – it fits perfectly with our mission of happy team, happy customers.

The concept of “20% projects / time” was introduced in 1948 by 3M (famous for post-it notes!) to complement their ethos of “innovate or die”. Other companies we admire such as Google and Atlasssian made 20% projects enter mainstream business culture, noting their benefits on not just innovation and company advancement, but also as an important way of keeping jobs stimulating and rewarding. Gmail was born from a 20% project.

Half of the customers we currently work with have some form of 20% time, and all those that do see it as an important part of keeping their teams happy, engaged and able to contribute in more ways to the company’s success.

Incorporating 20% time into scheduling

Being data obsessed, we aim to make sure 20% time is scheduled at the optimal time for the surfer, manager and end customers.

Using Surfboard-generated forecasts, our algorithm schedules in 20% time when forecasted ticket volumes are either at their lowest, or there are sufficient scheduled surfers to manage customer inbounds. This means it is unlikely you will have surfers working on their 20% projects at peak times unless you otherwise have good coverage.

When Surfboard auto-generates schedules for a customer, we get a sense of your inputs and constraints in our onboarding process. If you need your team working on non-inbound tasks such as product automations, fixing accounts or following up on Trello work, you tell us if you need this done daily or at the best time through the week. We then work out the best time for this to be scheduled in so it fits your requirements in a fair way for your team so it’s evenly distributed and doesn’t impact the level of service your end customer receives.

We’re proud to have launched this feature and look forward to implementing and refining it with customers over the weeks and months ahead. We’d love to hear your views on 20% time and the way you’ve seen it work successfully in different settings.