Work-Life Balance Necessarily Includes Life

Posted on 2014-10-25

I've just returned from a week in Colorado, meeting with my colleagues at TeamSnap. We do these company-wide meetings about twice a year, bringing in most (if not all) of the team from around the world to discuss business, collaborate on new ideas, and have fun doing so. (If this sounds a lot like what some other businesses call an "offsite", you're right. That word sounds a little odd to me given that around 3/4 of TeamSnap works remote, but maybe I'm overthinking things.) At this meeting, many people commented on the quality and humor of my writing for internal consumption. So I'm starting this new blog to share some of that style with the rest of the world. And I'll start with a story about how we do things at TeamSnap.

The thing I like the most about working at TeamSnap is that when we say there is a "work-life balance", we mean it. We understand that in order for people to do their best work, they need to have time to pursue their best life, too. We don't do "overtime" here. You work until your job is done for the day, and then you sign off and go have some fun. If that means you only put in five hours one day, so be it. If that means you pull a few extra hours to get something done right, that's great. What it doesn't mean is that we want people stuck at their desks for eight hours a day and five days a week. You are, within reason, empowered to work when, where, and how you want at TeamSnap, as long as you are doing your job and delivering the expected results.

Andrew Berkowitz, who co-founded TeamSnap and is now our Chief Product Officer and Minister Of Culture, recently discussed this philosophy in terms of our vacation policy, or lack thereof. We do not have a fixed number of days off, and TeamSnap employees are encouraged to take time off when and where they want or need to. There are probably law-and-order-type HR managers who bristle at this idea, saying some people would take advantage of this policy to slack off, never show up for work, and not deliver. These managers are right, but our response is simple: we do our best not to hire this sort of person. To paraphrase Stan Lee, with great freedom comes great responsibility; we look for people who are good at managing their own time, who don't need managers checking in with them daily to stay on task, and who can deliver what's needed when it's needed. The type of person who doesn't show up and doesn't deliver doesn't fit in at TeamSnap any more than she or he would fit in elsewhere.

What this comes down to, in the end, is treating people like people, and specifically treating adults like adults. Too often in the world, we say that people come into our organizations as untrusted plebes, and must earn the trust and respect of the elders, or some such thing. At TeamSnap, if we've offered you a job, we implicitly trust you to do it and do it right. There is no inner sanctum, but if there was, you'd be welcomed into it on day one. This is how we're able to do things like allow most of the company to work remotely, take as much time for life away from work as they need, and speak up whenever you feel the need, to whoever seems appropriate.

I'm not posting this to recruit for TeamSnap, but to challenge those of you in a position to influence your company's culture. Why do you have the policies you do around things like paid time off? Do you believe that setting limits on responsible adults prevents the irresponsible ones from screwing up? Does one bad apple really spoil the whole bunch. What would really be the impact to your business if you let any of your "crucial" people take off whenever they like? Is one person that "crucial", really? Isn't that a lot of pressure?

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Copyright 2014 Mark Cornick. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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