Last month I kicked off this blog post series by talking about the 70/30 gender split and why we believe flexibility is key to helping us fix this gap. This week I’m going to take it a step further and attempt to define what flexibility at work looks like for our employees.

While I would have liked to gather the data explicitly around parental flexibility, I couldn’t. While I would have liked to gather the data explicitly around how our flexibility policies attract and retain future parents, I couldn’t. Blame it on HR. But to a data driven person, never say “there’s no data”.

I created a survey that asked about our flexibility policies overall, anonymously, and voluntarily. Because this survey was done using less-than-ideal data collection methods, I think it’s important to share what we asked:

  1. Do you feel that RJMetrics’ culture offers flexibility in your personal life?
    In roughly 140 characters or less, what do you think of RJMetrics’ workplace culture around flexibility?
  2. Please share a time when you appreciated the company’s flexible policies/took advantage of what was offered.
  3. Where do you think there is a lack of flexibility in RJMetrics’ policies affecting your personal life? (Feel free to list more than one)
  4. Do you have any pets?
  5. What kind of outside-of-work activities do you participate in?
  6. Have you done any longer term travel (1+ week) for leisure while you’ve been with the company? If so, tell us where!

(I’ll bet many of you want to know what the answers to #3 were. Stay tuned! I’m going to get to that in March.)

Our response rate was 57%, plenty to give us some good insights about what is and isn’t working. Here’s the big picture on what we learned:

activities-01

  • 42% have taken vacations of longer than a week. They’ve gone far wide, from South Africa to Seattle to Israel to Miami.
  • 36% have pets. You might be wondering why this has anything to do with flexibility. When I initially let the RJMetrics team know we were doing this series, 38% of the people who responded mentioned that they loved that I was working on this because they felt the benefits of flexibility as pet parents. This supports a core theme in this series — flexibility manifests in a variety of small, often mundane, but very meaningful ways. Flexibility for pet parents means that there’s space for a new puppy owner to work from home for a week while the new family member becomes acclimated. Or when a gecko gets an eye infection, he can come along to work so the employee can dash out for a quick vet appointment. (Yes, these are both true stories). Welcome to #StartupPETParenthood.
  • 66% are involved in team sports
  • 51% are involved in some sort of Music or Arts activity
  • And this one I’m especially proud of — 25% are involved in Charity Work. That’s not surprising given the results of our Charity Drives.

There were three common themes in the responses to the 140 characters or less open-ended question, which were 97% overwhelmingly positive and appreciative. Those Tweet-sized responses ranged from the sentimental to the mundane, illustrating just how important these aspects of our culture are to enabling #StartupParenthood:

1. Feeling Trusted

25% explicitly mentioned feeling trusted. Here were some of my favorite comments around this theme:

  • “It’s amazing to be able to leave for a doctor’s appt without having to schedule 2 hours of PTO.”
  • “Appreciation for being treated like an adult yields positive attitude towards working here.”
  • “It’s earned by our team, which respects it well. It should be commonplace in modern businesses.”
  • “It’s genuine – RJMetrics respects and understands the need for a flexible work environment. It empowers me as an employee when I see the trust RJMetrics places in me in creating my own schedule.”

2. Focus on results

19% cited our focus on results. This one quote summarizes perfectly what so many said:

  • “All that matters is that you’re proactive and get your work done.”

3. Freedom to live the life they want to live

25% mentioned “freedom” or gave examples of the type of life they are free to live as a result of our workplace:

  • “I love having multiple spaces where I can work, and freedom to talk to who I need to, and freedom to come and go when I need to.”
  • “Flexibility abounds. Time does not. Guilt is not to be found.”
  • “RJMetrics acknowledges we’re real people with needs and challenges in our outside lives. Just like we sometimes accomplish work at home, sometimes we need to be people during work hours – and that’s okay. That’s what work/life balance should be.”

What struck me the most about these responses is that they just seemed so unremarkable to me. They were mainly things like:

  • People being sick with mild or more serious illnesses and appreciating not having to worry about sick days, negative teammate response, etc. – all of which can make one even sicker
  • Being in “the flow” from home early in the morning and then not having to get dressed and switch contexts just to be in the office by 9
  • Furniture & package deliveries
  • Child events or sickness
  • Taking a two hour lunch when an out of town family member was visiting
  • Going on a pre-planned long vacation soon after joining the company

And finally, there is the almost universally leveraged flexibility — working from home. It’s a benefit that scares so many companies out of even offering it as an option, except in the rarest of personal situations. But you see, if you truly trust your employees and are results-driven, then where your team member is sitting doesn’t matter as much.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Marissa Mayer when she says that people are more productive when they are alone, but innovative and collaborative when they are together. But what I care more about is fostering a culture of empowerment and creativity, of loyalty and appreciation, of energy and team member support, of doing the right thing. That’s the way we make #StartupParenthood work.

  • http://twitter.com/singerde Dan Singer

    Interesting post! Flexibility in the workplace seems to be sometimes be a “perk” that stands out –– maybe not all are totally sold on it’s effectiveness. I’m interested to see more data (qualitative and quantitative) behind the business case for flexibility, digging deeper into some of these perspectives. Looking forward to future posts and the answers to #3!