Challenge: freedom versus pressure
We are an IT consultancy firm trying to work a-typical in the branch. We do not focus on personal utilisation (as a matter of fact, non of our consultants now their utilisation). We give the colleagues the freedom to work wherever, whenever to fit their own personal live balance. We do not have managerial layers and use self-steering for everybody. And most important, we all live by our core values; having FUN, making IMPACT and being a GUIDE and our vision #doingcoolstuffwithcoolpeople.
Result is that we have grown a well organised team of 32 unique individuals that are almost as close at family, a nice mixture of young graduates (hire personality, train skills) and more seasoned people.
So here is the challenge...
Corona hit us hard, as we are so close, working away from each-other has had a big impact on the team not being able to see each-other physically. Luckily we are seeing the whole team tomorrow for the first time during a fun event.
We have at this moment 3 people (so almost 10% of the company) at home with symptom of a burn out. That is really to much and we are going to have a dialog with the team what we have to do different (both the organisation as well as the individuals).
I would love to give the people even more freedom (no holidays, take time of when you need it, or even a 4 day work week etc.) but I am scared if the team can take this freedom. Are they not going to overcompensate and have an even bigger change of running into a brick wall.
Looking for people with similar struggles here on the Forum...
Thanks for openly sharing your struggles. Some additional questions I have:
* Did the burnouts already occur before corona / working from home?
* How about the balance between freedom and accountability? Besides giving lots of freedom (and maybe more), are people held accountable for their results? Or can the high amount of freedom also lead to unclear expectations and therefore stress/insecurity of staff?
Hi Pim, thanks for your reply.
One person had the burn-out before Corona, to put it in context, he also suffered a very heavy home situation with his partner. The other two occurred during Corona when we started working from home and were part of the same team (a new department we where starting up)
Well actually the expectations are pretty clear as we work with a individual year plan for every one, and as a company there is just one number (in euro's) that we want to reach and is linked to the group bonus and our yearly trip to some nice place. As we work with a lot of youngsters they are pretty new with consultancy work, and we give the opportunity to dive in deep from day one (with the right support).
What works really well for us is working with monthly goals. It makes it more tangible, actionable, and also a great way to feel productive and valuable as you can see on a monthly basis what you've contributed to the company.
Our process is very simple:
* Each colleague sets his/her goals for the month.
* They're added in Trello to fit with our overall strategy.
* Every first Monday of the month (like today) we're evaluating our past month. Did everyone achieve his/her goals? Why? Why not? Is any help required? Also, during this day, we look ahead at next month's goals. This helps us to know who's working on what and what we can expect from others the next weeks.
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Such a practice might help to translate those yearly plans into something more short-term and more tangible. Let me know what you think.
Hi Andy, we are a pretty transparant team. So two weeks ago during our first face-to-face event we gave everybody the opportunity to share their challenges.
Based on this we sent out a survey (actually today) with two simple questions:
- What should we do as a company to keep you all in the right balance
- What can you do to help your colleagues (or yourself) to keep the right balance
Based on the feedback we have set up a small team to define next steps. Actually the team consists off both people that suffered from a burn-out and who are all good (so they say).
That sounds amazing, I would love to hear the feedback from the survey, perhaps you can post the results here?
It's something every business needs to take seriously in these unprecedented times.
I think the quote "with great power comes great responsibility" is apt here, we are empowering team members with freedom and we have to give them the tools to act responsibility with that freedom.
Well done for leading the charge on this!
well, thanx for the honest words. From my point of view, your overall approach is quite good. A lot of transparency, help for the juniors etc.
The Pim´s input is a really nice an important addition to your overall quest, more freedom for the team.
Monthly, even weekly goals are especially important if you are dealing with younger employees. During my time as a business team leader in a digital agency with more than 25 people of all professions (graphics, creation, text, front- and backend development etc.) the number of career starters where high too. So these folks need goals, support in a shorter stints than professionals and seniors and even more when you give them more freedom, which sounds a little bit odd.
Maybe you and your team could try the change starting with a smaller group of starters, professionals and seniors and ramp up the process from there. During this process you can find usefull and team-accepted tools for communication/controlling (maybe G-Suite with additions) and the overall work-handling process for the team to give everybody the chance to find their own work/life/holiday schedule within the goals of the team, the company.
That´s the way we´ve done it, and it worked for over a year until the agency owners changed the overall strategy.
Earlier this year, I wrote about VkusVill, the Russian supermarket chain that is reinventing the retail industry. The Russian pioneer proves that you can rapidly scale a profitable chain of retail shops by letting frontline employees make all the important decisions. They do this with impressive results; the company is not only growing rapidly (CAGR 40%), it also manages to keep bureaucracy and hierarchy to a minimum, as upper management accounts for less than 10% of the total payroll.
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