Recently I’ve noticed a few articles popping up claiming that cool offices and no vacation policy are somehow a myth, a scam, a sneaky way for The Man to keep you down. Here was the first line of one recent article: “Don’t be fooled by the perks at all those Silicon Valley (and Alley) offices — it’s all just part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior.” At The Motley Fool we have one of those cool offices and we chose not to enact a vacation policy 20 years ago, so my first reaction is to mail out some peanut butter to go with the author’s jealousy.
The focus of these negative articles is often on the game table, the casual dress, or the non-policy. Those are the outcome of what a cool office is actually about – trust and autonomy. None of the fun of a cool office can be provided without the right culture around it.
At The Fool we put a lot of time and energy in to recruiting the best employees. We are quite picky, we take our time with the hiring process, and we dislike increasing the employee headcount without good reason. When new hires arrive, we trust them to do what they were hired to do. We find that when we get out of the way, people choose their own path and create their own way of getting their work done. They tell us how they like to work and what they need. The fun toys, the desks on wheels, and the flexible hours are all what employees have asked us for. We aren’t scheming to invent ways to control employees, we’re giving them what they want to work effectively and be happy. If your study is finding that people at a company are taking fewer vacations or working longer hours, it isn’t because of the policy. The reason is you haven’t built a culture of trust.
I am reminded of a great line I once heard from Libby Sartain, former Southwest Culture guru, “Every Office has a culture. Every culture isn’t for everyone. Find the culture that fits you.”
At The Motley Fool, we know who we are, we work hard to find people that will add to our culture, and we look for every opportunity to support our team members. We do this because it works. It shows up in all our numbers no matter how you slice them. For instance, we have the highest employee engagement score by far that I’ve ever seen using the Gallup methodology.
We aren’t The Man plotting to keep our team down and take advantage of them. We are Fools working for our employees and doing everything we can to unleash them to do their best work how they’d like to do it.