Nexflix started it, Virgin soon followed and Google have probably been offering it for years; unbridled flexibility and unlimited holidays, isn’t it time we were all doing it?
No, we’re not all Virgin
It’s easy to scoff that multi-billion pound corporations can afford to offer such work perks. It feels like a bigger risk when you’re smaller and greater exposed to market fluctuation, like it might cost a fortune, cost the business. In reality, when finding fantastic people can be an expensive challenge, can you afford not to support your team and improve their work-life balance. If you truly want to retain the best people, attitude and productivity levels in your business?
These were questions we pondered for months. With a sum total of 9 employees, Primate sits firmly within the ‘S’ of the SME acronym, but on 1 January 2015 we introduced a new, fully-flexible, unlimited-holiday working contract. Nine months on, we’ve adapted, and we haven’t looked back.
What’s in a change of working hours
Our new working culture focusses on what people get done, rather than what time they take or from where they do it. People take a few hours, days or weeks off as and when they feel they need the break. They have the freedom to choose the date and time of their breaks. They are trusted to ensure they take time off only when safe in the knowledge it won’t damage the project they’re working on or impact dramatically upon the team.
The reward has been fully-awake team members whenever they’re working for us. A lighter, noticeably happier atmosphere (and we were very upbeat beforehand!). Hugely more productive working days, where staff power through their tasks because their mind is only on the task at hand. They’re present, in the room and very active, not simply going through the motions.
Is it abused? No. Nobody one wants to damage their career, their colleague friendships and their reputation with a blatant abuse of such an enviable work-perk. Have we had teething problems? Yes; there were a couple of days where only one person turned up to the office and sat alone all day because the rest chose to work from home, were on holiday or out with clients. Not ideal, but not a deal breaker either. To combat this we introduced a notification system; everyone confirms their location (in office, elsewhere or on holiday) using a group email or the shared calendar.
Stop waiting and give the contract lawyer a call
We’ve teased and tweaked the way we manage this style of working to fit our people and the reality of such working conditions in our line of work. Our work-arounds are not as utopian as Nexflix or Virgin’s latitudinarian arrangement but it ensures our culture can remain, until we’re big enough not to worry.