A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of toasting the end of summer with a family vacation to the beach. I answered the occasional work email, but I didn't feel chained to my inbox. I didn't feel pressure to check my Slack messages (although I did like being able to read the fun updates and articles my team posted). Even as the co-CEO of Werk, I was able to disconnect. I didn’t need to be "always on." That's a credit to my hardworking coworkers, but it's also a credit to the unique culture we’ve built as a company.
Flexibility is obviously an inherent part of that culture. All Werk employees, no matter their tenure or level of seniority, have access to the time and location-based flexibility types they need to do their best work and live their best lives. That could mean utilizing TimeShift to avoid rush hour on the subway, for example, or working DeskPlus a few times per month to focus on head’s down “maker time.”
Our employees also know that flexibility does not replace vacation time. Because flexibility is not about working less—it’s about working better. Employees who utilize flex need a reprieve from work just as much as those who don’t, which is why flexibility and PTO must go hand in hand.
For me, this is especially true during back-to-school time. My son Asher just started kindergarten, which means a first day of school that’s just two hours, which means orientation and PTA meetings, which means having half the days off in September for public school holidays. I’ve had to use more than my fair share of flexibility these last few weeks, and there won’t be a more regular rhythm until probably October. I need flexibility more than ever right now, and I’m so grateful to work for a company that actually practices what it preaches.
Thanks to flexibility, my life is more manageable than ever, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. Yes, MicroAgility is great for those emergency moments where I need an hour or two to put out a fire (read: Asher has gone to the school nurse every day this week which resulted in a call for me to come in), and TravelLite helps keep me in close proximity of my family, but I am not superhuman. Vacation is critical to my health, happiness, and, ultimately, my effectiveness as a leader—both at work and at home.
That’s why we offer all Werk employees access to unlimited paid time off, meaning we do not keep track of how many vacation days they use. In fact, we encourage at least 3 weeks of vacation to give employees time to recharge. But that doesn’t mean employees can leave for weeks at a time or take extra long vacations whenever they feel like it. Vacations have to be approved and we try to make sure to avoid a critical mass at the same time or staggered vacations that make the team unproductive. Structure is key to the success of any people policy, and unlimited PTO is no exception.
When employees are on vacation, we truly encourage them to disconnect—and leading by example goes a long way here. It also helps to make vacation an expectation, so our team doesn't feel guilty about focusing on their own well-being. Annie and I take these edicts very seriously.
Similarly, we also treat weekends as sacred at Werk. Barring any sort of work emergency, our team rarely logs hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Annie and I are committed to this particular boundary so that our employees can enjoy time with family and friends or can just grab time to recharge.
Even with day-to-day flexibility, time fully off work is critical to recharge, get perspective, and to foster creativity. Every time I travel, I come back with a renewed energy and with fresh ideas and I know my team feels the same way.
Perhaps this idea is best encapsulated by Brenda Mullins, chief people officer at Aflac: "If you take care of the employees, employees will take care of the business." I couldn’t agree more.