July 19, 2014 — Published by: Drew
This week I read these two articles on the same day with great interest:
- Company limits bathroom breaks to 6mins a day (sparking protests)
- The psychology of side projects: how creative hobbies improve our performance at everything
Over the last couple of weeks I have found myself presenting Battenhall's business model and our way of working at events, on camera and to panels of judges. Similar questions come back to me about it every time; how can the way you're trying to work at Battenhall work in practice?
We try to do a number of things differently to other consultancy businesses here at Battenhall (read our manifesto here if you're interested in going a bit deeper). We set aside 20% of all consultants' time for side projects, we offer unlimited holiday, flexi and remote working as standard, and we shower everyone in leading edge technology, including the highest-end tools available to do our jobs, small things like an unlimited Evernote Moleskine allowance, and a personal tech budget of £1,200 per person. This way of working is not only designed to attract the best people, it's there to foster the best working environment and the highest quality of client work possible.
So cultivating a culture of innovation and side projects leads to a more productive, engaged and successful team, I know that, as I have worked by that principle myself and encouraged it in my teams for years. It also breeds new ideas and innovation at speed. But only now, through articles like this, is the concept beginning to be documented.
How we work at Battenhall (link)
Most people ask me how we manage such a way of working. It must be a nightmare, right? One question put to me this week though was different - I was asked: how will you be able to build a profitable business when you allow your consultants to work in this way? It's a good question. Empirical evidence is only now starting to come out, such as in the above Next Web article, that shows the 80/20 rule when applied to billable hours in a consultancy really pays off. First hand, just over a year in applying this model to work, I can certainly see it working. The opposite, of course, is simply a long hours culture, where ideas are then forced, and all too often the big problems are all people problems. I have seen that first hand all too often.
More importantly though for us, as a consultancy and a people business, is the impact of innovation on our quality of work. If we do great work and foster innovation, we find hiring, new business and client retention all see the benefits too. It all goes hand in hand. And those three things are normally the three biggest obstacles, financially and operationally, when setting up and building a people business such as a communications consultancy.
So when I saw this business in Chicago and its staff protesting at its enforced 6minute toilet breaks, I saw the polar opposite to our side project culture. At Battenhall we get involved in all sorts of projects, from charity work to social media initiatives such as VEDA. Some of us learn to build products, and some go back to school. It's all good, and there isn't a complicated structure to making it happen. It has to be that way.
If anyone else is passionate about side projects, get in touch or comment below. We'd love to hear how this new way of working looks in other businesses.