At the beginning of October, Optimal took a week to focus on team bonding, education, and strengthening our strategies. It was a great week and we even flew in our remote team to join the fun! We had all-staff discussions, we played games, and we took the time to really hone in on education. After that week, we felt refreshed and ready to go back to the grindstone.
If we had such a great hack week in October, why did we have a mini hack week at the end of December?
Hack Week Avoids Burnout and Refocuses Us
We’ve had a great year at Optimal with lots of exciting projects and fun clients to work with. The whole team has been working hard and delivering incredible results. Working hard and achieving great results is great, but we know it’s important to slow down and refocus.
Brandon Wentland, our president and creative director, appreciates that hack week prevents burnout, “The natural order of things is to go from a state of rest and awareness to a state of work and engagement. Too often people and organization are focused on a high level of engagement 24×7. Which is great but can lead to burnout. Hack week is the yin to our normal busy weeks yang.”
Our customer service manager, Jordan Wilson, has been busy creating and defining his new role so some of his internal projects have been been on hold. “I’ve spent a lot of time on internal tasks since HW1 [in October], since I’ve been defining and implementing a new role within the company in Q4. It has been challenging to focus on these, however, because the rest of our business needs continued on throughout the process,” said Jordan.
We don’t completely stop all client work, but focusing on hack week projects or internal projects helps strengthen our strategies to improve. Said best by our OMS project manager, Casey Crowe, “Hack week allows us to focus on improving internal processes which help our tasks for clients become more efficient and effective.”
Hack Week Binds Us
Everybody works in different ways. Ignoring the glaring differences between personality types (think introverts and extroverts), everybody has different quirks that they need to work in the way that is most…dare we say Optimal?
Learning these different working styles in the office setting can be downright difficult. One of the biggest things we learned doing our first, semi-experimental hack week was how much we learned about one another.
In addition to quantifiable personality analysis (through Myers-Briggs, Enneagram and Emotional IQ exams), spending time socializing outside of the office taught us a lot we didn’t know about the people we interact with everyday! We developed inside jokes and experienced a level of camaraderie that would seem totally foreign to many workplaces.
Hack Week has established (and the smaller hack week continues to reinforce) Optimal as a family. Everybody has at least a small handle on how his or her coworkers prefer to work and operate.
That has made a positive difference in our ability to deliver personalized and creative work for our clients.
Education is Important to Us
Education is extremely important to Optimal. 10% of our time is focused on learning. However, with big projects and major deadlines, sometimes education projects are pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Each member of the team is encouraged to focus on any education or learning they put off during hack week.
Brandon took the time to reread an important book, “I re-read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I re-read this nearly every year as I fall off the proverbial band wagon. I have read a lot of business books but this one has changed me more than any other. There is a reason it has a cult like following, it works. Re-reading it allowed me to shore up the places I was getting sloppy and to (re-)create my ‘trusted system’”
Hack week gives the team time to strengthen their foundations and strategies that helps our team’s success. “I spent time reading project management books that give advice on having difficult conversations and another on making sure that things are getting done,” said Heather Bolwerk, our web project manager. “Tying up loose ends always feels great! Finally being able to give attention to the items that get lost in the mix of the client tasks that need to be completed feels awesome.”
Claire Westlie, content marketer, finally caught up on some articles she had archived. “I was finally able to read some of the top posts from Buzzstream that I hadn’t had a chance to read yet. I finished reading their Advanced Guide to Content Promotion and am ready to perfect that strategy this year.”
Another member of the content team, Jordan Kapellusch, says “Being able to reflect and focus on what I have been doing and where I can grow is an opportunity to become a better developed writer and piece in the Optimal mosaic. Education is important in the business of creativity…That is, unless it’s getting schooled by Chris [one of our developers] at laser tag.”
We Definitely Recommend a Hack Week
Even just a hack afternoon can give your team a break and time to refocus. A couple hours can give you time to catch up on internal projects that are constantly pushed off the to-list. “Most of us feel guilty spending time on internal tasks when we could be working on client work. Dedicated hack weeks allow us to plan our internal tasks for certain days, get them out of the way, and get back to client work after hack week with a renewed energy!” said Casey.
“Having a mini-Hack Week to attend to wrapping up some of these lingering projects has been HUGE in getting them off my plate and allows me to focus on the next step forward,” said Jordan.
“At Optimal, we pride ourselves on “Giving more than we take”, but sometimes it is essential to take some time to ourselves so that moving forward we can go above and beyond for our clients,” said Heather.
Brandon says it best, “It allows us to batch up and focus on all the little things and shore our systems. It’s the little things that count.”