At Michel et Augustin, we take a straightforward approach to maintaining an environment where work/life balance, or integration, or whatever it’s called today, is possible. Everyone on our team is treated like an adult. People make their own decisions about work time, work place, vacation schedules, all that stuff. Think about it:
When we’re kids, our parents tell us when to wake up, when to eat, when to sleep. At school, our teachers tell us when to study, when to hand in our homework, when we can use the bathroom. If you go to college, you get a few years of freedom, then you get a job and it starts all over again. Now a boss tells you when to get in, when to take lunch, when to hand in your work, when to go home, even what you can wear.
It kind of makes sense when you’re a kid. You’re in training, I guess. But as an adult? That just means you can’t be trusted. That mistrust is the foundation on which most companies are built, and why few can deal with anyone born after Ronald Reagan was President. So, when it came time to create a working environment and plant the seeds of a culture at Michel et Augustin in the US, I at least knew what I didn’t want to do.
Fortunately, I had some experience to draw from. I’ve had a normal job for almost 15 years (not including 6 years on the New York Stock Exchange, which is anything but normal), and I’ve seen different ways to work. As a marketer, I’ve sat in the glacéau office brainstorming smartwater campaigns around the ping-pong table one day, and the next I’ve been in a meeting in a super traditional boardroom setting in Atlanta presenting the Coca-Cola brand plan.
Joining Michel et Augustin in 2018 gave me the perfect opportunity to implement a working environment that I would be happy in. The brand was founded in 2004 by two guys named, surprise, Michel and Augustin, and is well-known in France for a selection of indulgent cookies, fresh desserts, and savory crackers. Michel et Augustin are also known in France as les trublions du gout, or The Troublemakers of Taste, and that spirit for mischief, evident in everything from marketing to R&D to human resources, created an environment where I felt people would thrive with more freedom.
At our Brooklyn Banana Farm (our US office), we work in a space that the team helped to design. It’s wide open, with our tribe scattered throughout the room – at desks, picnic tables, couches, the cow ottoman – wherever they feel comfortable that day. A fluid workspace keeps the team together. People sit in different places and with different people throughout the day, and it helps shake off some of the fatigue you feel sitting in a cubicle.
In no area is trust more important than time management. And as adults, our team manages their own time. We have great people. They are committed to doing great work. They decide what time to come in, and what time to leave in order to get their work done to those high standards. If they need to leave in the middle of the day, whether it’s to take a sick kid to the doctor, grab lunch with a friend, or to rehearse a play they’re performing in in a few weeks, we support each other and trust that we’ll all get the work done in our own time. Of course, if something is time sensitive or can’t be moved, then we deal with it. This is a business after all.
The lines between work and home can be blurry, and we’re ok with that. Our people work from home when needed, although we prefer them at the Banana Farm of course. At our Open House (a free public event we host at the Banana Farm every month), you’ll always find members of the tribe, with friends and family, drinking beer and eating pizza late into the night. Often the Banana Farm serves as an extension of home. We’ve hosted birthday parties, screened indie movies, showcased songwriters, whatever we can do with the space. We trust that our tribe will treat the Banana Farm like their home, that they will take care of it, clean it, and secure it, and the tribe always repays that trust.
We’ve got a real good thing going at Michel et Augustin. Every day we all come to work and do what needs to get done as a team. When you treat people like children don’t be surprised when they act like them. We act like grownups. Well, except for that one time…