We gave everyone TWO hours off every week. The results were dramatic. 

Every now and again I review our company values and the constitution. They boil down to some very simple principles. But I believe, because of their simplicity, they are very powerful and will help us achieve our mission to ‘Save the world and build its software’.

It’s a goal we’ve always had in mind since inception and combines our ambition to be the best at what we do by empowering employees, set up a charity that helps women in developing countries realise their potential and take responsibility for the environment by being carbon negative.  

Purpose and profit: Some of you will know I’ve had a very colourful career path comprising acting, being in a band, a stint as a nursing auxiliary and a home manager for the National Autistic. It’s difficult to sum up the life experience this afforded me into one sentence but if I learnt anything it’s that when life has purpose you profit financially and personally. 

And that’s why we have developed constitutional rights of which there are four. They are the right to:

  1. work anywhere
  2. prioritise our family and wellbeing over our work
  3. to be treated as well as our customers and 
  4. the right to be heard.

As HR policies go its short, but its encapsulated everything we do to help people be the best human they can be – at work and home – something which is reflected in our values:

  • We are willing to fail, learn, change and teach
  • We follow the rules or change the rules because we all own the rules 
  • We always have an objective, we always have a team
  • We make ourselves accountable
  • We are the nicest people in the room 

The challenge I have as a CEO is that it can be very difficult to be there for everyone all of the time. I make time for everyone but I also have to acknowledge that sometimes people don’t want to speak to me about something. They have other confidantes, just as I do. And sometimes you don’t want to talk at all, you want to exercise, you want to sleep, you want to play the guitar loudly. 

YooDoo: So in 2017 we introduced YooDoo. It’s a simple idea: take two hours at any time during the week to do something that matters to you and be paid. You don’t have to take it, and, if you do take it, you don’t need prior approval and you don’t need to give notice. 

A couple of things have happened as a result. Firstly our sickness rate is next to nothing. People listen to their bodies and if they think a cold is brewing or if they’ve had a family crisis or just need a break, they take time off there and then. They recuperate rather than limp along. 

Secondly, everyone respects each other for doing it. You want people around you who are on top form and taking responsibility for themselves. It’s created a culture where people act as a safety net. If someone doesn’t show up its ok, the team is designed to still function, clients still get exceptional service. 

Finally, overall productivity has improved by 10-15%, even though people are working fewer hours. They turn up ready.

During the pandemic we took this a step further and extended the time you could take to 6 hours. In effect creating a quasi-four day week, although your 6 hours didn’t necessarily have to fall on the same day. It was in response to helping people support their community or family differently. As you can see, the ways people use the time are varied, and important for physical, mental and spiritual health: 

  • A nap
  • Working on my classic car to relax
  • Exercise
  • Shopping for my neighbour
  • Piano Practice
  • Working at food bank
  • Visiting Mum
  • Prayer
  • Spending time with the cat

Why am I telling you this? The point I want to make is that small unprescribed interventions are a very important way of preventing prescribed intervention when it comes to mental health. If you remove the notion of ‘letting someone down’ people take responsibility for themselves when it matters most. They invest in their well-being and they turn up to work engaged, switched on and ready to be productive. They benefit, their families benefit, their colleagues benefit, clients benefit. 

Feel free to call me if you’d like to know more, but it’s no more complicated than what have written. Give people the permission to look after themselves and they’ll give you their best work in spades.