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#327 – Wellness Days

Friday Ship #327 | December 9th, 2022

Red panda resting

This week we proposed governance for a new Wellness Days Policy. The idea was originally sparked back in March during our Virtual Retreat as an Unconference Topic around Employee Support. That idea was followed by a 3 month experiment held over the summer, and this week we governed an official policy based off our learnings.

The Idea

There has been a lot of concern around employee burnout over the past couple years. This is a broad based tech industry trend, not something unique to Parabol. A quick google search delivers endless articles on the topic. We like to be proactive around issues like this, so when someone brought up the topic of employee wellness during a recent retreat, we decided to take a hard look at what improved employee wellness could look like for us at Parabol.

We learned that while we do have unlimited PTO, there was a stigma around taking regular PTO to rest and recharge. Days off were usually saved for planned vacations and sicks days. There remained guilt around taking a regular wellness day if it wasn’t something everyone was doing.

The Experiment

Taking a look at how other companies have experimented with the 4-day work week as a way to address employee burnout, we crafted our own Parabol experiment. The plan was to allow everyone at the company the opportunity to have a 4 day work week every other week. We called that day a wellness day.

The original proposal was to have the entire company take the same day off, but feedback showed several members liked the flexibility we have built into our schedules and wanted to pick the day that worked best for them. Plus, we didn’t like the idea of whoever was handling customer support that week being required to work while everyone else was off.

Here is what we settled on for the Wellness Days experiment:

  • The experiment would run for 3 months, from Aug – Oct.
  • All members could take a day off every other week. Each member would pick which day worked for them, working with their team to confirm a cadence.
  • We encouraged people to take these days off, but it was optional to participate in the experiment.
  • The person on customer support for that week checked the inbox and covered support on that day, or confirmed who would cover for them while they were out on a wellness day

You’ll notice we decided on every other week. We did this for two reasons, to ease ourselves into a regular cadence of time off and to compare a 5-day to a 4-day week once we got into the rhythm.

The Results

First, the numbers. These are based on a survey we conducted at the end of each month during the experiment:

  • Participation Rate: 68%

And some member reflections from the retro:

The Outcome

Based on these learnings and reflections we’ve decided to govern an official policy that makes wellness days a standard practice at Parabol. You can see the official policy isn’t all that different from the experiment:

  • All members may take a day off, every other week. Each member will pick which day works for them, working with their team to confirm a cadence.
  • We encourage people to take these days off, but it is optional and based on the individual member’s needs.
  • Members need to add their Wellness Day to the Parabol PTO calendar.
  • The person on customer support for that week will confirm who will cover while they are out.

A very interesting result is that while we originally experimented with wellness days every other week as a way to compare a 4 day vs 5 day week, the majority of those who participated voted to keep this cadence vs a new test with a wellness day every week.

It has been fun to see this go from idea to experiment to policy over this past year, and I feel fortunate to be a part of a company that puts this much value on their member’s well-being.


While our web traffic was down again this week, we did see a small uptick in new users and weekly meetings. A question for next week will be if we see another uptick in meetings as folks begin to wrap up the year, or, will they start to suspend their working rhythms for the holidays.

This week we…

  • shipped v6.85.0 of Parabol to production.
  • …kicked off our last sprint of the year.
  • continued interviewing for our open ISR and Developer roles.

Next week we’ll…

bring some fun to the week by building gingerbread houses together for this month’s Parabol Social Hour.

Kendra Dixon

Kendra Dixon

Kendra leads operations at Parabol with over 15 years of experience building and managing teams in remote work environments. She came to Parabol from Techstars where she managed the first remote accelerator supporting startups focused on the future of work. Kendra lives and works near San Diego, CA.

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