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Our culture revolution. Part 15: How our work balance policies came to life

Luke Kyte

Posted by Luke Kyte

17 January 2019

We’re just a normal agency. You may own one. You may work for one. We’re ticking along nicely, picking up new business and growing at a good pace. The team size has upped from 1 to 20 in five years, with plans of reaching 50 by 2021. Everyone seems happy. But we want more.

Day Zero was the launch of our manifesto. Its aim? To revolutionise our culture, attract amazing talent, and be recognised nationally as a great place to work.

Over the course of the next few months we’ll be taking you to the heart of Reddico, sharing our highs, our lows, and our eureka moments. We’ll be honest and open about everything. What works. What doesn’t. Whether you’re here for inspiration, to watch us fail, or out of sheer curiosity, welcome along.

No hours. No managers. Rules set by the team. Let’s see what happens next.

Work-life balance. It’s something we all aspire for, but don’t always achieve. As an agency we want to put the team in control and for them to be able to balance their work with home commitments. That’s why this part of our manifesto is so important.

There are three areas to our work-life balance policy, which combined give ultimate power to the team. They can dictate their work pattern, when they take leave, and aren’t pressured to work through illness.

It’s all about trust. If you trust your team, you can give them this responsibility without worrying about abuse.

Only one third of people are happy with their work-life balance, so it’s time to change that.

All sickness paid in full

This was perhaps the easiest of the policies to implement. And in fact it’s already paid dividends, with one member of the team off sick for a long period of time after an emergency operation.

  • The premise

We trust the team to work hard, and be honest and open with us at all times. For that reason, sick leave is self-regulated – and paid in full.

Essentially, we want people to take the time they need to get better and return fully fit to continue delivering great work. 70% of people continue to work when they’re ill – something we want to stop at Reddico.

  • The guidelines

As a company we have a duty of care over the team. Therefore, despite it being self-regulated, we still need to know when people are unwell. However, what we don’t want is a situation where the team are being penalised for illness.

  1. If you’re sick, contact your department lead and the head of HR, so it can be logged as appropriate. You should also let your direct team know.

  2. Return to work forms are completed for each instance of sick leave.

  3. If you’re sick for more than three days in a row, we’ll ask for a doctor’s note.

  4. Sickness will only be monitored for our duty of care obligations.

And that’s it – not a lot to it really. For us, point 1 is the most important as it keeps everyone in the loop and allows for someone else to jump on client work and ensure things continue as normal.

As an addition to this, we’re also looking into insurance to help anyone who is unable to return to work in the same capacity due to a serious illness.

Self-regulated annual leave

Otherwise known as ‘unlimited’ in some organisations, we wanted to give full power to the team. If people are working hard and getting amazing results, why can’t they take extra time off? Again, it’s all about handing responsibility to the team.

  • The premise

You know how hard you work. If you need a break, have been working longer hours to complete a project, or need extra time for out-of-work commitments, we’re here to support you.

That’s why there’s no cap on the number of annual leave days that can be taken. This will be self-regulated within teams.

  • The guidelines

For us, there are two important things to consider. We want to make sure this works, and doesn’t become a pilot scheme that fails. We also need it to be scalable. With plans to have 50 team members by 2021, a crucial policy such as this needs room to adapt as we grow.

The guidelines below have been created to support both of these points.

  1. All annual leave up to two weeks can be booked without your department lead’s approval. It will be automatically approved on our HR system.

  2. Please try to give a week’s notice for anything more than two days. This will ensure handovers can be completed in a timely manner.

  3. For annual leave longer than two weeks, you’ll need approval.

  4. For any type of annual leave, liaise with your team to ensure not having a negative impact. There must be adequate cover for you.

  5. Annual leave can’t be booked on the day.

  • Billable time

This was a debate that raged for some time. Typically, our contracts with clients are against a set number of hours each month. So, if someone is handling four or five clients, they could be expected to cover around 100 hours a month.

Then there’s the consideration that a full-time team member is contracted to 37.5 hours a week.

We didn’t want this policy to become time-in-lieu. So, we needed to take an approach that allowed for flexibility.

Ultimately though, you can simplify everything by asking people to use their common sense. There’s an obligation to fulfil client contracts, but by using best judgement you can do this and still have time to take as much annual leave as you wish.

  • HR obligations

If you’re thinking about a similar policy in your workplace, there are a few considerations to be aware of:

  1. Everyone must take a minimum of 28 days including bank holidays.

  2. Consider how your accruement of holiday will be done – for instance, if someone hands in their notice or is on maternity leave.

  3. Consider how maternity and paternity policies will be impacted by this. We recently updated both to provide up to three months’ paid maternity leave and one month paid paternity leave.

  4. Update all employment contracts to reflect the changes.

Flexible working

The last area we wanted to address was flexible working. Previously it had been a problem point, as it is in many businesses. A particular issue is when one person is allowed an element of flexibility and another isn’t.

This is typically because there’s no fixed policy and it comes down to line manager’s discretion.

We wanted to take discretion off the table and again, put the team in charge. They would be able to:

  • Work from home when they wanted

  • Choose their own hours

  • Leave the office early or turn up for work later

For a long time we battled with the logic of how this would work, without causing chaos. If 20 people choose different work patterns and work from home when they want, how will anyone know when others are available?

The answer? Trust the team to do what’s right.

  • The premise

Everyone has the opportunity to choose their own working hours, and whether they work best in the office or remotely. You know yourself better than anyone.

Whatever you need to continue doing a great job, do it. Everyone is different, and you should feel comfortable working at your best in an environment that allows that.

  • The guidelines

For this to work, you’d need a tonne of guidelines, right? Nope.

  1. Choose working hours that will not negatively impact your clients and your team.

  2. As your hours can fluctuate on a daily basis, you should make sure to keep your team informed of when you will and won’t be online.

  3. Continue to deliver work on time, and by working in accordance with your team and department lead to manage expectations.

Just three guidelines to ensure this policy runs smoothly.

And guess what? Nothing has blown up.

What’s next?

Our work-life balance has been in operation since October 1, and so far there has been no cause for concern. Of course, as we grow it’ll become a greater challenge, but all new team members will be joining an environment where this works.

Next up we’re moving away from the new policies we’ve created, and will be turning our attention to transparency in the workplace.

We wanted to open up everything to the team and give them an insight into how Reddico runs on a daily basis:

  • The overheads

  • The cost of sales

  • How much profit we make

  • And much more

By doing this, we can create a platform where the whole team has insight into the numbers and can start to objectively think of ways we can save money and spend more savvily.