src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/12/jan-padilla-SQYeNwwCYZ4-unsplash.jpg” alt=”Why and How We Close Buffer For The Last Week Of The Year”>
For the seven years I have been with Buffer, it has been a blessing that we have closed for the final week of each year. This was started at the end 2016 and has been maintained every year.
It’s a time to take a break and recharge by closing down for the final week of the year. It’s a reset for the entire company. Buffer’s closing down week is a great opportunity to tell people about it.
We work with many creators and small businesses that can sometimes have difficulty working during the holidays. It feels particularly important to share our methods.
This post will explain what it is like to close down your business for a week if you have customers who use it constantly, why it happens, and how the largest teams manage this time while still taking care of our product and customers.
Let’s get started!
What does it mean for your business to be closed down for one week?
We close our doors for the final week of each year at the end. Companies will define “closed down” differently. Some businesses will shut down their entire operations, while others will close off a specific section.
It gives everyone in the company extra time to relax and creates an environment where nobody worries about missing updates or projects while they are offline. This is something we have done before. We close down for a longer weekend in the summer. It’s been refreshing for our staff.
If I say we’re closed it means that the majority of the company is off. (I’ll explain in the next section). We aren’t releasing any new features or changing our product. We aren’t publishing blog posts and it’s a time for rest.
This time of year is slow for our business which creates tools for small businesses and helps creators build a brand online. We can rest easy by closing our company in a slower period than other industries, unlike others that might pick up during the holidays.
How does it look in practice?
Buffer’s holiday shutdowns are a complete disconnect for most of its teams. Engineering and Customer Advocacy, our two largest teams, must create systems that allow us to still provide customer service and keep Buffer operational. They also need to make space for rest and additional rest. Here’s how Engineering and Advocacy approach the week.
How our Advocacy Team handles a week-closed
Our Advocacy team consists of a group dedicated to taking care of customers. They have helped to resolve over 60,000. Their average response time is three hours.
They have found the perfect balance over the years to be able to help customers and give our Advocates the extra rest they need.
We take measures to make the holiday period easily visible to customers. They send a clear message to customers stating that they are closed for the holidays on all of the major channels we use to communicate with them. These include a banner to people who are in Buffer and an auto-reply email to customer support. A pinned tweet on the account, as well as several other places.
The message this year is:
A company that was shut down between December 24th and January 1st is being observed by the Buffer team.
We will still respond to customer support messages and emails, but it may take longer than normal to reply. We will get back to your as soon as possible. We wish you a happy holiday!
Advocates require that all members of the team work one or two full days per week. There are 21 members of the Advocacy team. We’ll always have at least two people online every day. We are okay with the fact that we don’t always have someone on December 24th, 25th, or 1st.
The team has established a clear schedule and expectations for when people will be online. They also have guidelines for emergency situations. These guidelines are in place almost all of the time but it is always a good idea to revisit them before the holidays.
How our Engineering Team handles a week-closed
Similar to Advocacy for engineers, we need some engineering coverage in case of an emergency.
Engineering’s break is different as they are always available in case of an emergency. This means that they can spread the burden of being on-call among less people as the likelihood of them needing online is lower.
On-call works in this way: There are many senior or specialized members of the engineering team who are immediately assigned to all the available on-call positions. We then ask the engineering team for volunteers to be available on-call during the week.
We have people on call and also perform a code freeze prior to the end of each year. This means that we no longer ship new code or make changes to Buffer. This is done to increase our confidence in the ability of engineers on-call as well as our Advocacy team to make things go smoothly.
Some questions from our community regarding closing down for one week
We reached out to social media to find out what questions people had regarding closing down for a week. We received a lot of good questions. Here is our response:
Are clients frustrated or ever complaining?
This has not been a problem in the past. If things don’t go according to plan, we will adjust our plan for next year. This is why we make it very clear that we are taking time off from all of our communication channels. Our Advocacy team is still online and can respond to any urgent matter.
How did this affect your bottom line?
We deliberately choose a slower time to close. It’s the best time to take a short break, but it doesn’t have any significant impact. We can still respond to any customer issues as the Advocacy team monitors them and the Engineering team is available on call. Customers still have support.
Tell me about the positive impact your company has had on employees and what they think of it!
Our team feels more refreshed and rested after closing for the holidays. This is the biggest benefit we have seen. Buffer has the unique opportunity to have a vacation, instead of it happening throughout the year. This means that our energy levels are always high in the first few weeks. This week off allows us to all relax and not have to worry about the projects or miss out on communication. We’re all offline. This is great news for us all as a team and it also means that our product and customers are better.
What are your methods for taking breaks from your work? We would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter and Discord.
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