Last year, we went through a few revolutionary changes following the adoption of agile methodology of software development, including forming self-organizing teams, making Software Developers’ salary information transparent and self-promotion. At the beginning of this year, we also introduced a fully flexible work arrangement benefit which allows for no minimum required working hours for staff.
A survey conducted by PWC found that ‘Flexible Working Hours’ is the second most valuable work benefit follows closely behind Training and Development for Millennials (which most our employees fall under this generation). Besides providing a valued benefit to better engage our talents, the intention is to increase productivity through providing flexible working hours where our staff (mostly programmers) have the option of working when and where they find themselves most productive. We don’t want to measure our staff by how many hours they work or how much time they spend in the office; rather, we focus on great results than on the process.
We have been providing flexible work arrangement since two years ago. Last year, we can come in anytime as long as we are present in office during the core working hours from 2pm to 5pm if not on leave, and also clock in minimum number of hours in a month (6 hours a day x # of working days in a month). The fixed core working hour was defined for the purpose of cross team/dept work and to ensure that there are people around in office. Meetings cannot be skipped if we have agreed to attend the meeting on the outlook meeting request. Working at home is not an option as we value close team work and face time is necessary.
As part of annual exercises, we reviewed company policies and benefits at the end of last year and an idea of removing the minimum required working hours in a month was raised during management meeting. “WHAT?!! Removing minimum required working hours, does it literately mean that staff can come and leave anytime?” That was the first thing that came up to my mind. Then, I started to imagine all sort of scenario where this benefit could be abused and concerns about whether we are ‘ready’ for the change, despite we have been running self-organizing teams after adoption of scrum for nearly two years. And, more importantly, I was concerned about the potential implication of this change to our business outcomes.
So, this is what we did and tools used to derive the decision and address people’s concerns/doubts:
1. Decision Making Process
a) Brainstorming Session
- Generate a pool of ideas: “What does not having a minimum number of working hours mean to you?” Write down as many ideas as possible on sticky notes and post on the wall.
- Develop concepts: grouping of similar ideas into similar categories, build on others’ ideas
- Narrow down ideas: dot vote and select 8 ideas that had the most votes. The 8 ideas were:
- Productivity goes up or down
- No change from existing working hours
- Communication Problem
- Chaos & No Control
- Attractive benefits for hiring new & retaining existing staff
- Flexible and personal time
- A good challenge for us in terms of trust, self-organisation, responsibility, accountability
b) Write down the 8 ideas on A4 size paper and lay out the floor, see image below
c) Answer the following questions and stand on idea and share your thoughts:
- What do you wish “flexible working hour” to be?
- Which perspective do you not agree with & how do you make sense of it?
d) Majority vote:
After the discussion, each person vote to agree or disagree of implementing the new flexible working hours. If there is more than 70%, we will proceed the change and the result was 95%.
2. Deliver the Message
HR invited everyone to a briefing session on the introduction of new working hours, its implication and general guidelines. A few key points that we included in the briefing:
- Our intention – Why are we making the change?
- Desired outcome
- Success criteria – In the spirit of “inspect & adopt”, we decided to pilot it as a 6-month trial and evaluate the results at the end of the period. Each Department Manager is responsible to review its department performance, product delivery and most importantly, customers’ feedback on a monthly basis.
- Ground rules and guidelines such as staff being required to attend a meeting once the meeting request is accepted, and working from home would not be an option.
The purpose of this session is for everyone in various teams and departments to share their diverse hopes and concerns. Topics were raised and proceeded to Gallery Walk where participants were grouped and rotate to different stations for each discussion topics. After the activity, we returned to the main meeting room and one representative from each station summarizes the discussion. Read more about Futurespective here.
Is this new flexible working hours effective? We do not know yet at this point of time but in terms of outcome, we have not received negative feedback about our products or quality from our customers or stakeholders. Moreover, we observed that there have not been many changes on staff’s behavior in terms of their working hours. To us, we prefer to see this as a great opportunity to trust our staff and for them to experience self-organization and take responsibility in delivering valuable products, given more flexibility and freedom in a creative work environment. After all, we understand freedom comes with responsibilities. Netflix has a good interpretation of freedom v.s. responsibility in their culture code.