My Dream Workplace Culture

My dream workplace culture would have following properties, listed
below in no particular order:

1. Employees are encouraged to use any system/config/setup that
they want
2. Nobody ever has set work hours
3. Nobody ever has any set work place
4. Every employee is salaried
5. Any meeting lasting longer than 15 min must be scheduled at
least a day in advance
6. If a meeting follows the pub/sub model, it should be an email
instead of a meeting
7. All development happens in the open
8. Every employee has 1 day per week to work on anything that
they want
9. Each employee must respond to at least one support case per
week (if that many cases exist)
10. Every employee has the responsibility to be at least
somewhat familiar with the company strategy and product
roadmap(s) at at least a high level
11. Every employee has the right to be a part of the decision
making process perternaing to the company/product
vision/roadmap(s)
12. The only information that an employee is not privy to is
their coworkers’ salaries

Explanations
————
1. Employees are encouraged to use any system/config/setup
that they want

Here I mean that I want every employee to constantly be tweaking
their work environment to make them “better” at their job –
whatever that job may be. For developers, this culture property
probably means that they are encouraged to use any text editor,
web browser, development tool, or operating system that they so
choose. With regard to non-developer employees, this point
probably means that they are encouraged to use whatever email
client, software, phone, etc. is going to make them better.

The main point is that I want all employees to be enabled to
constantly evaluate how they are doing their job and try
to optimize their performance for whatever metric makes sense
based on their role.

2. Nobody ever has set work hours

What I mean here is that I recognize that people have different
schedules and different times at which they are most
productive. Personally, I am most productive from 05:00 – 11:00
and then from about 18:00 – 20:30; For other people, this schedule
is when they are least productive.
The main point is that I want employees to be able to work when
they are going to be most productive and not feel like they must
work from 09:00 to 17:00.

3. Nobody ever has any set work place
The point here is very similar to point 2 above – I recognize that
there are times when working in solitude at home is going to make
a person the most productive and there are times when working from
a coffee shop is going to be the most beneficial. There are also
times when being in an office next to your coworker is going to be
the best place to really crank out some work. I want the company
to recognize and encourage all employees to be proactive about
choosing the place that is going to be the best for them to work
in. Personally, I happen to love hacking on code sitting outside
on the grass in the sunshine.

4. Every employee is salaried

I don’t ever want an employee to think, “it is 17:00, time to head
home and quit thinking about this problem.” nor do I ever want any
employee to work longer just to make more money while being less
efficient. I think that salaries encourage people to be productive
however they personally can. Also, with wanting point 2 where no
employee has set working hours, paying an hourly wage would
require massive amounts of paperwork and process.

5. Any meeting lasting longer than 15 minutes must be scheduled
at least a day in advance

This is partly a corollary of points 2 and 3, and partly a
standalone point. With every employee working whenever and
wherever they are going to be the most productive, meetings that
require synchronicity must be scheduled in advance. Additionally,
some people (myself included) like to run through a mental plan of
how their next few days are going to go, and being knowledgable of
all of the requirements on my time is essential for that process.

6. If a meeting follows the pub/sub model, it should be an
email instead of a meeting

There is nothing worse than a meeting in which one person is just
pumping information out to the rest of the attendees with no
needed response. I call this the pub/sub meeting model – as in the
publishing/subscribing model for syndication and event
handling. These kinds of meeting are a huge drag on people’s
attention, energy, focus, everything, and are better suited by the
speaker sending the information in an email. Meetings are only
neccessary when discussion is required.

7. All development happens in the open

This point may only apply to developers and their ilk, but I think
that it is very important that developers be allowed to see, and
contribute to any code that the company uses. This allows
(potentially) more eyes to review code, and it allows developers
to take a brief diversion and work on something possibly entirely
different than they normally would. The advantages to this are at
least twofold; This helps prevent developers getting bored with
their work, and it encourages developers to always be learning new
things instead of having their skillset stagnate.

8. Every employee has 1 day per week to work on anything that
they want

A corollary to point 7, is that every employee has 1 day per week
in which they are encouraged to work on anything that they so
desire. This side project could be related to their job, or it
could be practicing basket weaving. The rationale for this point
is the same as the rationale for point 7 – preventing boredom and
skillset stagnation.

9. Each employee must respond to at least one support case
per week (if that many cases exist)

I think that is important for every employee to realize what the
end users’ pain points are in the products. Having this
information readily available makes it easier for employees to
make executive decisions and make the products more
user-friendly. It is also always extremely eye-opening to
see how exactly customers are using what you made. Often
times it seems like customers always find a cool way to abuse the
product into working in some unintended manner.

10. Every employee has the responsibility to be at least
somewhat familiar with the company strategy and product
roadmap(s) at at least a high level

This builds on point 9 above, if every employee is empowered to
make the products better, they should know where the company has
decided to make the product end up.

11. Every employee has the right to be a part of the decision
making process pertaining to the company/product vision/roadmap(s)

Since employees are required to have a rough idea of the company
vision and product roadmap(s), they should also have input into
what those visions are. Employees also have firsthand knowledge of
how customers are using, and how customers are abusing, the
products because they are seeing support cases come in. This
knowledge is information that is required in the product planning process.

12. The only information that an employee is not privy to is
their coworkers’ salaries

Based on all of the points above, employees are going to have a
high degree of knowledge about the company. Employees are also
going to be used to being able to improve any aspect of the
company, which has a prerequisite of knowledge. That knowledge
should be made available to all employees. It would be incredibly
heartening to see real data on the company when things are going
well and really eye-opening to see that same data in a
downturn. That being so, the only information that an employee
should be able to see is what their coworkers’ salaries are. While
this information would be interesting, knowledge of it would
create a heirarchy which might work to stop employees from being
as proactive as they otherwise would be. Employees may start
thinking, “that person makes more than me, so their input must be
more valuable” which is false thinking and will lead to demoralization.

Drawbacks
———
There are probably some definite drawbacks to these points. I can
see that some people would might not see the value in paying
employees to spend one day a week working on something that may
have no direct benefit to the company. I can see how in a very
large organization, point 11 might result in a “too many chiefs,
not enough indians” kind of situation. I can see that points 2 and
3, under which no employee has set hours or location to work in,
might result in inefficiencies.

I think that the first drawback of paid side project time is
sufficiently addressed in the rational for that point above. As
for how to avoid the “too many chiefs, not enough indians”
situation, I am not sure of a solution. Assuredly, not every
employee is going to want to be a part of every decision making
process, so maybe this situation is self-fixing. As for employees
who have no set work hours or place becoming lazy and inefficient,
I think that the proper solution is to be clear from the onset
that any employee who routinely fails to meet the expectations of
them will be let go. This has the effect of ensuring that
employees who can keep themselves on task, and are proactive about
self-improvement remain and thrive, while those that cannot are
not a drain on company resources.

Conclusion
———-
When I had my wife proof-read this, she asked me “So are you
unhappy with where you work?”. The answer to that is a resounding
“no!”. I rather enjoy my current job and the culture there has a
majority of my points in it.
Would I quit this current awesome job to work somewhere that has
all of my points as part of its culture? The answer is that I
don’t know, and it would require some thinking.
When I have my own company someday, or am a very early employee at
a company again, am I going to try and get these points to be part
of the culture there? Of course I am going to.
I am of the firm belief that while I may get paid in exchange for
slinging code around, it is always my responsiblity to improve how
I and my coworkers do that slinging.

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