With Labor Day behind us and school now back in full swing, most of us are once again juggling hectic schedules of drop-off, pick-up, homework, sports practices, etc. Not to mention managing our careers. It can be hard to strike the right balance, which is why I find this season to be a good time to reflect on my values as an entrepreneur, and to re-evaluate how those values are reflected in the company I co-founded.
One important value that we’re proud of, and that continues to pay-off, is our commitment to work-life flexibility for our employees. We think about how we can do well as a company: by doing well by our employees. And this applies across all facets of our business. It factors into our extensive use of full-time telecommute for remote employees, our unlimited personal time off (PTO) practice, and many of the other benefits we offer. These are the right things to do, and coincidently, a number of studies have shown that company’s benefit just as much as employees from flexible working conditions.
One unique example of our company’s approach to flexibility is to ask all of our employees to stay home in the middle of the week. Yes, you heard that right. We call it, “Work from Home (WFH) Wednesdays,” which gives every employee – not just management, but the entire staff – the mandate to work from home on the same day every week.
You might ask, “How does making everyone in your office stay home help your business?”
There are a number of benefits that we can identify right up front:
Every Wednesday, we cut the time spent commuting into the office. This saves gas, money and most importantly, time. Our employees use the time they are getting back on Wednesday to “GSD” (get stuff done, as we like to say). This time is often used to tackle long writing projects, refine sales or new product presentations, or even things as simple as cranking through a backlog of email.
While WFH Wednesday makes our team collectively more productive, it’s important to stress that being in the office is still critically important to our organization. There’s a creative energy in face-to-face collaboration that’s difficult to replicate; some of our best ideas have come from side conversations people jump into walking by a colleague’s desk. However a mid-week break from the daily grind recharges employees, who return to the office refreshed and energized. In addition, designating one day to work from home cuts down on absenteeism on other days, which means we have a full team present when we need it. So, in effect, WFH Wednesday amplifies the productivity of the time we spend together in the office.
Two things are critical to the success of all the policies we put in place to provide our employees more flexibility in their schedules. First, the policies must apply to everyone – the uniformity of WFH Wednesday is an important piece of its success. It helps everyone with their work-life balance, regardless of their family or personal situation.
Second, we are rigorous in measuring productivity and in holding people accountable. We work in small teams, and each team is accountable for very specific and measurable quarterly goals.
These goals are designed to be challenging, and we hit or miss them as a team. This means everyone plays a vital role. And it’s a lot harder to shirk your responsibilities because the rest of a fairly small team is leaning on you to do your piece.
When you structure goals in the right way, it brings out the best in your employees. Overall, people want to do good work and succeed. When you give them a measurable way to demonstrate this to the entire organization, it provides them with even more motivation and it creates a culture of accountability that allows for greater flexibility.
So, as you check off your back-to-school shopping list and wind down your summer activities, take some time to consider how adding more flexibility – paired with a clear set of metrics and goals – can help your organization foster a happier and more productive workforce. And in the process, think about having everyone stay home on Wednesdays.