Since the Coronavirus outbreak, like most people, we are facing a unique reality that is challenging us in many ways at the same time.
We are being challenged personally: our routines, our hobbies, the way we interact with our friends and family, the way we live our lives, our reality has drastically changed. Our sense of safety has drastically changed. We are worried.
We are being challenged professionally: facing yet another global crisis and its economic uncertainties, being forced to live and work in isolation without clear boundaries between work and life, coping with turnover and role changes.
It’s a lot to manage.
At Codacy, we started to see the effects of these challenging times and we started to worry that our team would burn out. We definitely felt the need to do something.
First, we understood what the problem was
As the People team, we frequently have 1:1s with every single teammate in the company which helped us understand our team’s biggest pain points:
- The number of meetings increased a lot! There was this tendency to try to mimic the same environment we had in the office; we were very used to hallway discussions and this brought light to how bad we were at working asynchronously. Besides that, being isolated created a growing need to be connected, talking to people, feeling normal – especially from those living alone, who were craving for human interactions.
- Pressure to be constantly available and work after hours. Being always at home, and with so much to do at work, the team felt the responsibility to keep working after the regular working schedule and always be available. Our teammates felt guilty with the thought of taking a break, lunchtimes started to happen in front of the computer and for some, weekend days were as good as any other day to work, because after all, in isolation, that was probably the most relevant thing to do with time. Wasn’t it?
- Balancing work and family. For others, being always at home with family, in a crowded house, caused a distorted sense of individual space. Especially for those with kids, struggling to balance playtime and desk work, scheduling meetings during naps, and turning off cameras in the middle of video calls to change diapers. For them, it felt almost impossible to manage both worlds, to healthily balance family and work in the same space at the same time.
We were able to see that the pandemic created new challenges and it also exacerbated existing issues. We could identify different pain points but one thing most of us had in common was the fact that we were struggling.
With these conversations, we were able to draw three main conclusions:
- We relied too much on synchronous communication but asynchronous communication should be our default.
- There was a mismatch between our team’s perception of what is expected of them during this period, and what the company actually expects from them.
- We had teammates working under a lot of stress, and even some with a non-ideal work/family environment on top of it.
So, we came up with a solution
After a long debate on the topic, we realized that the most impactful thing we could do for the team would be to implement Offline days. The definition of an Offline day is right in the name, it is a day where you are not online.
With this policy, we wanted to positively impact all the challenges that our employees were going through:
- It is a great tool to help us learn how to be more effective at working asynchronously.
- It clearly shows that the team’s wellbeing is a top priority.
- And, we believe it will lower stress, the risk of burnout, and provide more flexibility to adapt to different schedules and work/family demands.
This day can be used as the teammates feel it can be most productive to them and their team. We trust they’ll make the best choice on how to use their Offline day, and we provided a few suggestions:
- Deep Work day. The term was defined by Cal Newport, author and computer science professor at Georgetown University, as a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve competencies, and are hard to replicate.
This is in opposition to shallow work: non-cognitively demanding tasks that can be performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
There are different ways to practice deep work, however, the main requirements are to eliminate distractions and focus on one task at a time. Today our environment demands our constant attention (Slack, Virtual office, Zoom) which potentiates shallow work, and we need to tone it down to allow productivity and quality work to rise up.
- Learning and Development (L&D). One of the most impactful things a person can do to empower themselves to maximize their success, as well as the success of the company they work for, is to invest in their development. Hence, this suggestion needed to be on the list.
At Codacy, we support our teammates with $1000 of L&D budget, so another cool way to take advantage of an Offline day is to invest time in achieving our learning goals.
- Working off-scope. Take time to work and collaborate with other teammates on projects we usually wouldn’t.
- Work on a special project. Work on the project that we never have time for but we still believe could be very impactful for the company.
- No work. We added no work as a suggestion because our goal is to guarantee that we have time to focus on the things that matter. It might be the most important work item on the team’s backlog, or it might be accepting that sometimes, for us to be productive later, we just need to have a break.
- Others. There are certainly other amazing ways to spend an Offline day in the best, most productive manner, depending on the context and time at hand. We do trust our teammates to make the most out of this policy and we encourage them to be creative!
We defined a few constraints
- There is one Offline day per week.
- Offline days need to be scheduled so that the other teammates are aware of who’s offline.
- Offline days are easily scheduled on Codacy’s HR management tool and blocked as an all-day Out of Office calendar event. An automatic Slack message lets everyone in the company know who is offline on each day to set expectations of response time.
- During Offline days the teammate should:
- Avoid using communication tools that demand our attention such as Slack, Zoom, and Discord;
- Instead, use tools that respect deep work such as Jira, GitHub, Google Drive, and our Handbook.
Other benefits of Offline days
Besides the previously mentioned, Offline days have other great advantages:
- It empowers teammates to have ownership. They’ll decide what’s the best thing they can do for them and for the company, and follow through with that. As such, we believe we will be increasing accountability and engagement.
- It increases autonomy, collaboration, and group resilience because whenever we really need someone who is on an Offline day, we’ll take that as an opportunity to understand how we can become less dependent on that single individual.
- It potentiates better planning and documentation that leads to more transparency and alignment because we are forced to work more asynchronously.
- It increases productivity and quality work because it allows for deep work.
- It potentiates thoughtful communication as teammates have more time to process information before giving an opinion, contrary to what normally happens when you feel the pressure to respond instantly.
Moving forward we expect to become increasingly better at working asynchronously, allowing for a new reality:
- Offline days are the new normal and days with meetings the exception.
- Work hours are not a factor and we don’t expect these to be monitored.
- We use less often the communication tools that demand our attention like Slack, Zoom, and Discord; and rely more on tools that respect our deep work moments like Jira, GitHub, our Handbook, and our Google Drive.
- Work-related interactions will still play an important role in our organization but they’ll be efficient and take little of our time.
- Socialization will still play a very important role at Codacy and will be the goal of the majority of our synchronous moments.