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Our culture revolution. Part 14: Delivering a better work-life balance

Luke Kyte

Posted by Luke Kyte

03 December 2018

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.

When the manifesto was first announced back in March, there was one thing that stood out to the team as a real opportunity. The excitement bubbled as in black and white, it stated we wanted to deliver a better work-life balance.

Why is this so important? According to a survey published by The Independent back in June, only one third of people are happy with their current work-life balance.

For us, that statistic is unacceptable.

Why is a good work-life balance so important?

Everyone works differently. That’s the key to understanding work-life balance.

What’s great for one person might not be considered a benefit to others. Look at work patterns as an example.

Most companies operate on a 9-5 basis (there or thereabouts). It’s considered a standard shift and everyone joining the team would slot into those hours. But not everyone works best in this way.

In fact, you could be creating a less efficient and productive team by keeping to these hours.

Some people work best in the morning. Some are night owls. Some have an after-lunch lull and struggle to motivate themselves.

Rather than treating their team members as adults and letting them decide when they work best, many businesses instead condition everyone to a standard 9-5 work pattern.

It doesn’t make sense. And we realised that.

Instead, we want people to be responsible and decide when they work best, when they’re at 100%, and when they can produce exceptional work.

If you trust your team (which is one of the first steps towards creating a better office culture), give them more control.

However, this is easier said than done. We needed to completely rip up the rulebook and start over. We had to understand how we could put into practice some of the concepts we believed in, without it going wrong.

What we wanted to introduce

We know all about some of the biggest organisations in the world introducing policies such as unlimited holiday.

But how would the same type of schemes fit into smaller operations?

From the manifesto, there were four key areas we wanted to address:

  • People will be given freedom to take as much holiday as they see appropriate. We will define a set of principles around how this will work to ensure it’s open, consistent and clear.

  • People will have the freedom to work from home when they need to accommodate events and responsibilities that exist in their own lives.

  • If you’re sick, you’re sick. We’ll cover you for it. We trust that you’ll make the right decision for yourself and for the business.

  • People will be given flexibility around working hours, as long as this fits with certain requirements for meetings, client deliverables and doesn’t negatively impact clients or anyone else within the company.

Each of those four represent an ambitious approach to putting the team in control, and giving them the responsibility to manage their own work and time, without us telling them what they can and can’t do.

Empowerment is an important word here.

Why the four-day week doesn't work for us

There are a growing number of businesses introducing a four-day week, which, before I continue, is fantastic. It’s great to see so many companies realising the importance of work-life balance, and trying to drive a more productive and happy team.

Unions are even calling for the four-day week to be introduced at all businesses and believe it’ll be possible this century – so everything is going in the right direction.

Whilst the principles behind a four-day week are sound, the actual implementation is often left with a lot to be desired.

I return to the previous point on conditioning the team to the hours you want them to work. I mentioned 9-5, because that is a standard work patten.

A 4-day week does give the team more time for life, but again, you’re setting the rules. You’re still deciding when they should be working. There’s no responsibility given to people to determine when they work best and are at their most effective.

Furthermore, there are companies opting for a 4-day week, but not reducing the amount of hours worked. So, you’re working 37.5 hours in a shorter period of time – which is just asking for a less productive and motivated team.

The extra day off is surely just for recovery.

Not forgetting that four 9.5-hour days is hardly beneficial for those with families. Where’s the flexibility in that?

The big difference in what we’re doing is:

  • The team decide when they need time off

  • They choose their own hours to accommodate life’s challenges

  • We’re not setting a 37.5 hour working week as a minimum

  • We’re trusting the team to set the rules

Rather than the four-day week being the norm, we feel strongly the team should be trusted to have time off when they need it. We don’t want to confine people to what’s easiest for us.

It all starts with measurement

Thinking back to March and the manifesto’s announcement, the work-life balance ideas were a real winner with the team.

So, we had to get it right. We couldn’t rush it, watch it crash and burn, and scrap everything.

That’s why we started with measurement.

We needed the right red flags in place to make sure our new policies didn’t negatively impact the team and our clients.

Our measurement started with:

With those measurements in place, we could start to consider a rollout of the new work-life policies.

What’s next?

Next up we’re sharing more on the work-life balance side of our manifesto and how we were able to rollout:

  • Self-regulated holiday

  • The team choosing their hours

  • Complete flexibility

  • Pay for all sickness

We’ll be giving insight into how it’s been so successful two months into launching and the key caveats that helped us steer clear of a bunch of hard rules and guidelines.