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How to create a fantastic work culture, with Phillip Haines and Chaya Weiner

Don’t ask people to take phone calls, answer phone calls, reply to instant messages outside of work hours. There are occasions where you might have to break the rule but make sure that it’s a genuine need, if it’s happening more than a few times a year then chances are there is something wrong with […]


Don’t ask people to take phone calls, answer phone calls, reply to instant messages outside of work hours. There are occasions where you might have to break the rule but make sure that it’s a genuine need, if it’s happening more than a few times a year then chances are there is something wrong with your business that you’re always having to be reactive. Fix that.

As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phillip Haines, a founder and CTO of Capsule. Phillip looks after development at Capsule and guides the team to deliver a world-class product that helps thousands of businesses around the globe.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before I started Capsule I was building enterprise software. Enterprise software is always bought for other people to use and never by the person paying. I was lucky enough to get an early login for Gmail. It was so simple and focused, I could use it anywhere, I didn’t need to be in the office or connected to a VPN. This was so much better than our corporate email and for the first time, I realized that individuals and small businesses could get much better software than larger businesses. I wanted to be involved in that.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Our team has been working on updating much of our products core code. The first delivery from this project was at the end of last year delivering a new Teams edition of our product which allows for larger businesses to use our product and for our existing customer to be able to grow to use these new features.

Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I can’t speak for the US workforce but I’m sure the issues that create unhappiness in the US also affect the workforce in the UK. I guess most people see the world in the same sort of way: everyone wants to have a nice place to live and energy to spend quality time with their family and friends.

This is more than just earning enough to get the essentials in life. You also need the time and space to enjoy life beyond the office. Remote work, connected devices and the continuous feed of information can all be a force for good but they have also made it difficult for people to disconnect and spend quality time with the people they love. Some businesses have taken advantage of this thinking that consuming all of their team’s time is a path to increased productivity.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

I think that when your team is unhappy then your company loses focus and energy. When someone isn’t happy it is difficult to for them to find enthusiasm for what they are building. That means they don’t have the energy to carry forward an idea that makes a solution that little bit more elegant or for that little extra effort to make sure a question on the support is fully answered.

When people are unhappy the company needs more and more people to achieve the same level of productivity as people who really enjoy what they are doing. If you really enjoy doing something you want to get it done and you can’t wait to move on to take something new on.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

We recently lost a great developer from our team. He had lots of good reasons to want to move on, like wanting to be closer to friends and family, but also we launched some new functionality that a handful of customers didn’t like. Despite the great work that he had done we missed that he had taken the negative feedback to heart. Keep an eye out for situations like this and keep communicating all the time and when you see great work celebrate it.

Tech companies have been pushing this idea of “unlimited holiday” for some time. What they really want is for people to take less time off. It’s time we called time on this B.S. We should be saying you have 25 days of leave or whatever and actually make sure that your team takes that time to recharge. Never make your workforce feel guilty about having a good time outside of work.

If someone has a special trip they want to take then you should be open to that. I have family on the other side of the world and I like to have an extended break with them every few years. Buy or sell leave, have an option for unpaid leave or allow people to spend some time working while they travel, be creative.

Don’t ask people to take phone calls, answer phone calls, reply to instant messages outside of work hours. There are occasions where you might have to break the rule but make sure that it’s a genuine need, if it’s happening more than a few times a year then chances are there is something wrong with your business that you’re always having to be reactive. Fix that.

There are some roles in an organization like being on-call technical support for when something goes wrong out of hours. When we have had incidents we like to understand the root cause and find ways to stop that alert from happening again. If your systems are alerting your on-call team all the time then you should be working on your computer systems.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

A little bit at a time… I’m not sure that a customer relationship management system in itself makes the world a better place but it has helped other small businesses achieve success. I get to hear great stories all the time about how our software is used. It has helped our customers to direct emergency services to locate helicopters and light aircraft that have got into trouble, farmers to track down cattle on their farms, organize health professionals in delivering services in Africa and connect coffee growers so we can have lovely fair trade coffee in our office.

Thank you so much for all of these great insights!

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