They tried increasing light. Result: increased productivity. They tried decreasing light. Result: increased productivity. Eventually they worked out that any change increased productivity. (reminds me of teleported Arthur Dent cautiously checking his body for injury, and encountering pain wherever he felt. Eventually he realized it was his finger that hurt)
Most large companies I've worked for require that you take one contiguous break of at least 2 weeks at some point during the year. Long enough that someone else will have to take over your day-to-day duties.
This is good for the employee (to have a proper holiday, and avoid the pressure of being the only one who can do something), and good for the company (it gives time for fraud and cover-ups to surface, and forces the spreading of information within the teams).
This is very interesting (and clever). Mind telling us more? :)
The idea of enforced contiguous vacation time is that this kind of fraud is revealed when at least someone else has to step in and fill in for the time the fraudster is away. Even if someone doesn't backfill the position during the vacation time, surrounding processes and controls are supposed to pick up evidence of the fraud now that the tampering cannot be engaged.
Basically, no one with control over finance and accounting functions is supposed to be so indispensible that they can only take a few days here and there off. In fact, someone in those roles that makes a big deal out of being able to be away for long is usually a red flag for auditors.
Their "20% time" policy has become 120% time.
Scaling these highly creative, productivity inducing policies simply doesn't scale when you reach a certain size. The teams are too large, the goals are too vague, and there's a vacuum of consistency/systematization necessary to keep predictable metrics flowing.
I love the idea for smaller, highly profitable per-employee companies, but the big guys, whether through their own ignorance or inability, can't effectively institute something like "take a month off to do whatever project you think is cool."
I don't think you've been misinformed, I personally think the marketing of the 20% time idea is better than its actual implementation.
Pitching the 20% time ideas to management is kinda killing the concept. Managers aren't particularly inclined to incorporate hours into your schedule, especially if that time could be used boosting their metrics.
I also find that the definition of 20% time varies a lot between individuals. For me, it's "All that time when I have nothing better to do, when I get to work on whatever I want" - in some weeks, that can be 80%, in other weeks it's 0%. I have a friend who spends one morning a week working at Google Research, and that's his 20% project. I have another friend that taught Lego Mindstorms to 5th graders one day a week, and that was her 20% project. I have another coworker that started working on a new project (sponsored by a different VP), and that was his 20% time. I have a few coworkers that basically do whatever they want - actually, my job description is pretty much like this now - and so it's all 20% time.
Actually, for a lot of my coworkers, the reality is probably much like it is in many other large organizations with decent management: "As long as you get your work done and are aware of the organization's priorities, you can do whatever you want." I know someone who moved to Uganda without telling his manager and regularly works from Paris, Thailand, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, etc. - his manager doesn't care, because he's responsive to e-mail and gets his work done quickly.
Regarding the idea, I think it is brilliant. We all know that we are stuck on a problem, going away from it for a while is healthy and productive. I do think it works on a bigger scale.
From my own experience I find that this possibly comes from the knowledge that you set your own hours and aren't trapped. I work all the time, but I've noticed a few times that when I am stuck working (say I have to stay until 9pm and know it rather than I choose to stay until 9pm) the experience becomes different for me at least. It's the feeling that I control all that work that seems to help in the "work all the time and love it" appeal for me.
Another example. I normally always drive to work. But just the thought that I don't have my car and therefore can't leave until the car is returned makes the experience different for me.
This applies to many things. We write on HN not because we are told do. But because we decide we want to. I don't know that I'd like someone telling me to sit up late at night with the laptop and write comments on HN.
OT: Love the shows. Regular listener here.
Thanks. Sorry we have fallen behind lately. A whole myriad of reasons. I hope we get back on track soon!
> Specially larger companies with more work than the people
> of 37 Signals.
Some quick googling seems to indicate that France has a higher unemployment rate than the US and lower GDP per capita. Same for Spain. Same for the EU overall.
The Netherlands seems to be in better shape but it's a much smaller economy, so it's not really comparable.
(The link's methodology isn't explained though, and maybe it includes public holidays, which would boost .nl with something like 10 days into the same magnitude as Germany and France)
And with two books under his belt dozens of blog posts, and a column in Inc. I surely don't think this was ghost-written, which seem to be insinuating.
They've also written a couple of books on their approach to work. About open source: 37 signals' products is not open source. But David Hansson, one of the co-founders, built the Ruby on Rails framework, which is.
They really aren't all-talk, no-walk kind of guys.