Back in the very beginning when there were only three of us and an idea, we knew we wanted to put together a website that promoted honesty, transparency, and above all, a resource that encouraged people to take better care of themselves.
But how could we* hire a team to do that without first promoting a work environment that did all of those things? We can’t ask people to write about the importance of self-care while working them to the bone, disrespecting their concerns, and being dishonest with them.
We needed to set up a framework that would eventually become the Sleep Advisor culture. You’ve maybe read about Culture First or People-Centric companies or articles about how to develop a remote office, and we’re not here to tell you that ours is the only way. But it may spark some ideas that you can take into your workplace.
It doesn’t matter what job you’ve had, you’ve experienced a culture at work. Some companies put a lot of time and effort into creating their cultures. Some just happen organically based on who leads the company and who they hire. Either way, there exists a set of values that are promoted, errors that are punished, and rules that everyone understands, even if they aren’t specifically written down.
Establishing a culture that has practical applications is really important. It’s not enough to say nice things on paper, you have to be prepared to identify what those things look like in the day-to-day operations of the company. Everyone has had to sit through mind-numbing powerpoint presentations about Integrity, Diversity, and Respect–then walked out the door into the hands of supervisors who contradict all of it.
Before you start setting up how you want your company to operate, sometimes it’s helpful to identify the ways in which it’s not working. Let’s talk about some of the biggest warning signs that your work environment isn’t healthy.
Do you loiter around the time clock? Panic while you’re sprinting through the parking lot because of a boss who will have something to say if your sheet says 8:01 and not 8. Do you often sit at your desk and wait for 5 PM to roll around so you can go, but not look too eager. You spend time working on your “oh gee whiz, I guess I’ll leave face” so your boss thinks you’re sad to go. This is a good sign that your culture equates time with loyalty and values it more than it values your contribution.
Some managers see it as their job to control their employees, outsource and delegate work that is done exactly how they themselves would do it. There’s a lot of watching over shoulders, and every decision (no matter how small) must be passed by a manager before it can be implemented. If your creativity stays at home when you go to work and you make very few decisions for yourself, you may be micromanaged.
Of course, it’s not possible for every profession, but allowing folks to work from a home office if they desire can greatly expand the available workforce to include people with disabilities or caregivers who need to be available for loved ones and children. It can be very rewarding for the productivity both for employers and employees but is only possible in relationships and companies that foster trust. And not many do.
Cultures that stifle creativity and discourage honesty open themselves up to a whole host of problems, including gossip, bullies, power trips, favoritism, passive aggression, and other poison pills. Furthermore, if you’re only counting on management to come up with creative ideas, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities. If you ignore, scoff, or otherwise dismiss the concerns of good employees, you allow a toxic culture to fester and stifle growth.
It’s natural for employees to move on to other opportunities, but if you’re seeing a constant turnover of valuable and high-performing employees, it may be down to your culture. The data is very clear; employees who are happier in their job and feel valued contribute way more than those governed by fear or the clock.
A lot of what makes us successful is our team full of rockstars. For real. But before we even got those folks on board, we started with a vision and mutual understanding of what our core values are.
Get a fresh piece of paper and jot down what your mission, vision and values are, but be realistic. All of your values should be actionable things that your entire team is prepared to live by when they come to work.
Your mission is what you want to put out into the world, and your vision is how you want to do it. Your values should reflect who you are, what you believe, and who you aspire to become.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to better health and better rest, but no one has time to sleep, let alone figure out how to upgrade the sleep they’re getting.
From figuring out how to buy a mattress, suggesting ones that are good for different needs and body types, or breaking down the newest science behind the technology and wellness breakthroughs, we are committed to uncovering the most useful information and presenting it honestly in a way that is relatable and easy to understand.
We are a people-oriented company where good work is recognized and rewarded, where employees are valued as people not just as labor, where the ability and willingness to work hard for the good of others is the ultimate asset. We strive to be a respectful and inclusive community that welcomes everyone willing to contribute to making our work better. We want you to experience how it is to work without a traditional structure, where suggestions for improvement flow up and down, and where the community is king. Leadership around here isn’t about power; it’s about building us all up.
This industry changes really fast, and new research comes out every day. Moreover, online companies require agility and continual education to stay alive. Our staff is constantly seeking out books, courses, or new avenues of research to share or pursue. Anyone who wants to investigate or try out the work of another department should feel free to do so.
Everyone likes to think they’re honest, but speaking truth to someone who you perceive has more power than you can be really difficult. We all strive to keep lines of communication open and clear so everyone, from the new recruits to the seasoned veterans on the team feels comfortable voicing new ideas, as well as accepting and giving criticism. This way problems are addressed sooner and new opportunities are seized quicker.
Sleep or mattresses is a weird thing to get obsessed with, we know. But it sneaks up on you. We hire people and nurture an environment that respects what we do and feels like what we each contribute is important.
However, the person who sits at their desk the longest isn’t given a prize. Being a passionate and hardworking person sometimes means stepping away and maintaining a work/life balance to avoid burnout and plummeting productivity.
Hiring can be an arduous and time-consuming ordeal, and it’s not hard to understand why many larger companies automate so much of the process. However, you can leave a lot of good people out of the running by tightening your perimeters and removing human gut instinct from the equation.
Sometimes it pays to have a little imagination with how certain skills may translate, as it’s easier to train a smart and trustworthy person to do something new than it is a mediocre person who’s been whiling away at the same job without much movement for decades.
Instead of looking for people who can do what we tell them to do, we look for folks who can teach us new skills and new ways of looking at old problems.
As great as it is, remote work is not for everyone. Some folks need to work in an office and struggle to be accountable otherwise. That’s fine, but it’s not us.
Remote work allows for more flexibility and freedom with hours. It helps to ensure that we are only working when you’re “on” and we have an opportunity to take breaks and “walk away” when we’re not.
By not being limited by geography, location has not been a limit on who we can hire, but our values of independence and self-sufficiency have been. When we are seeking to hire someone for a full-time position, we first hire the person on a trial period where they work freelance on a project.
Then, if the relationship looks promising, we’ll hire the person on a short-term contract before they are hired full-time. This helps to establish trust and ensures that the new recruit acclimates to the culture and feels passionate about the work.
Anyone who fails to live up to our core values during that month is thanked and paid for their time but doesn’t join the staff full-time.
To continue to foster independence and freedom of information and ideas, we have tried to rethink the concept of bosses. Some bosses get that title because they decide on a course of action and issue instructions to their crew. But this isn’t a ship, it’s a website.
Another way to look at management is someone with more experience who guides you and encourages you to make your own decisions. We call these folks “believable parties.” Rather than issue orders, these folks lead discussions on strategy, help people set their own goals, and act as a sounding board for ideas and concerns.
The goal of a “boss” is to tell people what to do. The goal of a “believable party” is to create more believable parties.
Every employee has an opportunity to have a weekly meeting with a believable party on their team, but this isn’t a performance review. This is not an opportunity for management to call people onto the carpet and critique their work.
Instead, the employee is in charge of this meeting. This is their time to discuss goals, problems that they’re having with the work, conflicts with other employees, or bright ideas that came to them in the shower. Often times the BP, who often has a better idea of the bigger picture, can share insight that can sharpen ideas into solutions.
We don’t hire based on the skills people have, but instead the skills they want to have. Who says you have to stay doing the same thing forever?
Our success depends on our agility, and our agility depends on constantly asking questions and seeking answers. Sometimes a book is an answer, or it may be a course of study. If one of our people wants to pursue an avenue that can help expand our reach or their own skillset within the company, we do what we can to help facilitate that.
Healthcare and retirement concerns can breed stress, so we try to provide that for all full-time employees. Also, people who have the opportunity to recharge and regroup when they need to come back ready to work harder and with more creativity. Our vacation packages are generous.
There’s a lot to be said for an office environment and face-to-face interaction. Skype is one way to start relationships, but it can be better to get your remote office moved to the same remote location, even if it’s only for a week.
This strategy gets all of the teams into one room with each other so that no one feels left out of the bigger picture and the broader company goals. Sharing meals, excursions, and maybe a beer or two helps us to grow relationships.
Not everyone can make it to every remote meeting, and these aren’t mandatory. However, we do what we can to facilitate everyone’s participation so we can make sure we’re all on the same page and headed in the same direction.
So far, we’ve been to Spain, Thailand, and Budapest.
We don’t know everything there is to know about remote offices, nor do we claim to have all the answers for the (plenty of) challenges that crop up daily with this kind of business arrangement. However, we have been at it for a while and think some of these suggestions may be helpful for those starting out on their own remote journeys.
*”We” refers to DIGITALPOINT OÜ and other companies that we contract.