With the world disrupted, both companies and professionals are moving away from traditional work settings. These shifts have resulted in both perks and drawbacks when it comes to digital professionals working in a growingly stressful environment. As the deliverables and to-do lists do not seem to end, there are strategies that every professional can adopt, to increase productivity levels and achieve a desired work / life balance.
BDD sat with Bob Sabra (Bob), CEO of Hovi, a company disrupting the Sales and Marketing industry through its innovative solutions, to discuss 4 day workweeks, the impact of remote working and what people do, with an extra day off.
BDD: Can you outline what a typical workday looks like for a digital professional?
Bob: A digital professional’s day should start with a morning huddle, identifying and specifying the objectives of the day which tie back to the department’s OKRs (objectives and key results). This is how we do it at Hovi. We then resort to the tens of tools used by digital pros to plan our day, and of course, create content, analyze and report on data, plan customer acquisition campaigns, develop strategies, and execute them.
BDD: With remote working becoming the norm, how have digital professionals been impacted?
Bob: In some scenarios working remotely has allowed people to work flexibly and safely. Operationally it doesn’t make a big difference for us as we were already set up to operate remotely with all the infrastructure we had in place. The piece that we miss out on the most is getting to live our company’s culture and atmosphere which has been a key component at Hovi.
BDD: Speaking of cultures, what values do you base yours on at Hovi?
Bob: We all have values as human beings whether we realize it or not. These values dictate our lives and how we live them and how we make our decisions. I’ve worked at companies that had no values at all, and at companies that masqueraded their bad practices with false values. I’ve always said to myself that when I get to a point and start my own business, I want to set a precedent in the way a business is run and in the employee/employer relationship dynamics. So as we were starting Hovi, we worked from our mission (To change the way sales and marketing operate and become the employer of choice for local talents) backwards to identify what are the values that could guide us there. We also looked at all the loopholes that tech companies and startups have which lead to their demise.
While we focus on Consistently Improving and Aiming for Perfection to Reach Excellence, others don't take their work seriously and fail to aim at being the best. Some companies crumble under the toxicity of their internal politics and the negativity that festers when we should all Default to Transparency, Cultivate Positivity, and Show Gratitude. Some simply fail to learn from their mistakes and must constantly be putting out fires that could have been avoided if they focused on Being Proactive, Improv and Practiced Reflection.
Each one of our values depicts a particular trait that once strengthened and practiced properly, will make for a coherent and successful team all pushing in the same direction towards the company’s success and that’s what has been happening at Hovi over the course of the last two years.
BDD: So the idea of implementing a 4 day workweek came about… What inspired this change?
Bob: I think when we hit the 10 people mark and we had the margin of time to rotate tasks and functions we started with 4 day workweeks. We’re in the digital tech industry. Our team’s best work surfaces when they are thinking clearly. Thinking clearly requires a certain level of work / life balance. I actually believe in, and have experienced first-hand with my previous team the impact of a 4-day work week;, the only caveat being that they were always told by management that this is a privilege and not a right. At Hovi, we see 4 day workweeks as an absolute right, and they are free to do whatever they want with it. We don’t track them to see how they spend it and as long as they come to work fresh and able, we would be hitting our goal of work life balance.
BDD: In what tangible ways or metrics has the 4 day workweek improved productivity?
Bob: Excellent question. In order to operate in a 4 day workweek, and succeed, you need to be super organized. The way you run your day has to be methodical. Your calendar, daily goals, reporting mechanisms, team meetings, breaks and everything in between should be patterned in such a way that allows efficiency and effectiveness and that’s a big part of our training and onboarding for new employees. Many people come from different schools of operation and when they join us, although talented, they struggle to find their medium in the way they operate within our environment.
I’d say though that once the employee gets a hang of their operational efficiency using all the tools we offer at Hovi, they become much faster at producing higher quality results. When they’re less stressed, more energized, and have all their tools in front of them, what usually takes them 2 to 3 hours would then take them 1 hour. And we’ve seen that, as our team has doubled and tripled their output over the course of the years.
BDD: So practically speaking, in 4 days, what do you think a team can achieve?
Bob: Everything that a team can or cannot achieve in 5, 6, 7 days. Work never ends. It’s about putting a start and a stop to it. It’s about delivering against objectives and it’s about prioritizing what matters most first. And working 4 days a week, forces you to become smarter in the way you operate and be creative in how you approach deadlines and goals. And let me say that judging based on the feedback we get from our customers, the quality of work we provide is higher than some competing teams who work 7 days a week and 10 hours a day.
BDD: What do team members do on their extra day off?
Bob: Everything and anything. If they are married with kids, they could just spend the day with their families. If they love to party, they could kick-off their party on a Thursday rather than a Friday. Some people use their fifth day to work on their learning and development. Others just sit at home and reenergize their stamina for the coming week. We have some team members who go back to their hometowns for a longer weekend with their families. The 4 day workweek is a right not a privilege, and within that right lies the freedom to do absolutely anything that the team wants even if it means to be a couch potato.
BDD: What types of skills do you think are integral for growth? And what can make a professional more competitive in the workplace in this day and age?
Bob: Versatility and attitude. Never once have we recruited based on skills and knowledge so far. We have an amazing team, all young up and comers who have a lot of ambition and a lot of energy to give to the world. With the local situation, talent immigration is a really big problem that we face, in addition to the 7 thousand and 77 other problems that make our growth as a startup much harder than it should be. But I truly believe that selecting the right people based on their attitude is what kept us growing despite all odds. The knowledge is all out there. The attitude and mindset of wanting to learn, to grow, to prove a point and to showcase that you can make a difference are in my opinion, the biggest edge any professional can have in our industry. Working in digital relies a lot on ever changing dynamics and information where what you know now can become obsolete within 6 months. So your willingness to learn, grow, research and further yourself is what will keep you ahead.
Right after this comes some of the soft skills that are at the core of differentiating a successful pro from an average person. Making the right decisions, efficient time management, managing up and down, communicating clearly and transparently have all become instrumental in this day and age where if you lack them, even if you have all the technical skills, you won’t be able to be as big of an asset to your company as you would be if you had these soft skills.
BDD: How do you check in on your team's mental health? Is there anything you do internally, other than providing access to a therapist?
Bob: Yes. Our manager/employee relationship revolves around a mentorship approach more than a task management approach. Managers are held accountable for the growth of their teams. Personal and professional goals of the teams are published on an internal tool we use named “Lattice” as it helps us a lot with managing our one on one meetings, employee goals, eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score where the employee scores their satisfaction towards the company). We scored a whopping 85 in our last survey run, and career paths and levels for our people where they are able to understand what comes next for them in their career if they were able to meet their goals. We also have a coaching program that helps our people further their professional careers.
Then you have soft skills, in addition to the sacred therapy program, with one therapist assigned for each group of 5 people. Employees have the right to request as many sessions as they need; even if it means 3 sessions per week. In light of all the hardships that we are living in our country, mental health is key in ensuring the wellbeing of our people. We will continue to invest heavily in this area and create the awareness needed to understand that just like your body, your mind also needs regular check-ups, reviews and maintenance.
BDD: What advice can you give other companies in the MENA region to get started on enhancing their company culture?
Bob: One of the missions that we have as Hovi, is to become the employer of choice for local talent wherever we operate, across our entities in Beirut, Ireland and Dubai (coming soon). Our people-first strategy has been the instrumental key to our organic success and growth. When you surround yourself with a group of successful people, you will most definitely end up with a success story. And successful people need the right environment and the right atmosphere to flourish and become the best versions of themselves.
For that to happen and for the team to actually feel as part of the company and brand’s organism, stock options and salaries aren’t enough. A sense of belonging and buy-in is the number one driving force behind real talent. A company with a culture is a company that has values. All it takes is a decision to go in that direction, and we want to be the living proof that this operational model not only actually works, but with the right talent and mindset, it allows you to thrive and grow on an exponential scale.
So, I ask, why not take the leap of faith and try it yourself if you’re a decision maker in your company? Eventually, it’s not only the destination that matters but the journey also. And why not achieve your goals and grow while providing a pleasant journey to the people accompanying you on the ride?
Check out Hovi’s exciting solutions and values here: https://thehovi.com/