The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.
Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.
In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.
We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.
However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.
Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.
Whether it’s checking off a grocery list or paying the bills, everyone knows the definition of “errand” all too well. Here at the Fool, we’re familiar with a different kind of chore called “Fool’s Errand,” and it’s definitely not your typical mundane task.
The Fool’s Errand is a special prize — two weeks off and $1,000. So what are the rules? The chosen Fool must leave immediately and have no contact with the office, with the money only available if these guidelines are followed. The generous gift of $1,000 can be used for anything — plane tickets, hotel rooms, skydiving lessons…you name it! Past winners have visited Northern California wineries; Captiva Island, Florida; snowy Vermont; and even the Dominican Republic. Some Fools have simply enjoyed a staycation, but no matter where they go, winners are always encouraged to spend a few hours on our company’s purpose — to help the world invest better. Winners have rebalanced their 401k, managed an educational savings account, or chatted with a parent about retirement preparation.
At the end of each monthly company-wide meeting, approximately ten Fools are chosen at random and entered to win. To be eligible, the Fool must be employed here for at least one year. Names are entered as many times as the number of years each person has worked here, so if a Fool has been around for fifteen years there’s obviously a better chance for a win.
I can assure you that this process isn’t fixed. Names are drawn through a computer generated system, and the live announcement is always entertaining. I once saw the names laid face-down on a table, and a slightly-wonky remote control helicopter chose the winner upon landing. Another time, a Fool member visited with her dogs, and each contender was given a dog treat. Whomever the Labrador ran to first was deemed the winner.
Obviously, the Fool’s Errand fulfills our core value of Fun, but it also fulfills two business purposes. First, even with an unlimited vacation policy, some Fools find it hard to fully disconnect from the office. We want to encourage our employees to take the occasional break. Second, it’s important for any company to be prepared for an employee’s sudden, unexpected absence (illnesses and family emergencies happen). By knowing that we can cover for a Fool who needs to take time off with short notice, we know there are no gaps in our workflow.
If your company would like to try a similar program, you can start small. Maybe offer a random employee a day off as a reward for great work. Show your employees that time off is important — and they’ll return with fresh ideas and greater motivation.