Work From Home Policies: Finding The Right Balance For Your Creative Team

Work from home policies and “flexible” office hours can be tricky things to get right. I admit we’ve struggled with them at times at Tyrannosaurus Tech, and I think we’re still fine tuning where we stand on them day by day.

How can we properly strike the right balance? On one hand, work is evolving and, we want to embrace that. Gone are the days of clocking in/out, having to be in the same physical place to collaborate, and staying late just to “prove” to the boss that you’re a hard worker.

On the other hand, face time still means something. We’re a team after all, aren’t we? Don’t we grow together and often accomplish more when we can hash things out in the same room face to face? Of course! That camaraderie and culture building is especially important in the early stages when you’re really trying to define who you are and what your company wants to be when it grows up.

I think weighing these different perspectives is especially important if you are, like us, working with a team made up mostly of creatives. In our case, creatives means primarily designers and developers. These super talented folks are cut from a different cloth, and that is what we love about them. But it also means you can’t treat them like regular business-oriented or customer-facing employees if you want to get their best work from them and have them feel engaged and fulfilled all at the same time. Strict office hours, long meetings, and noisy office environments with frequent interruptions seem to be the antithesis of a productive work environment for many creatives. They need to be able to focus, get into the “flow,” and go deep into the problem they are solving. On top of that, as the modern workplace has evolved over the years, folks in these roles have come to expect a fair amount of flexibility so being too rigid can also damage recruitment and retention. But again, we want everyone to have a physical presence in the office and feel like they’re truly part of the team. So, how do we find the right balance?

At Tyrannosaurus Tech, we’re evolving and rethinking day by day how we can be our best. For now, though, here’s how we’ve decided to handle this one….

Results Oriented Approach

At the end of the day, we’re lucky to work in an environment and have tools where results are constantly tracked, logged, and reported on. If you’re not getting your work done, we’re going to know it. It is as simple as that. Want to write code and push commits at 2AM because that is when you are at your best? Not my cup of tea but, hey, you be you. Just get it done! Let the results do the talking.

Earn Our Trust

We generally try to be a pretty “flat” organization but, let’s be real, folks who have been with us longer typically are given more leeway. If you’re a junior developer in your first month working with us, we’re going to want you in the office on a pretty “normal” schedule. That being said, as you grow and prove yourself, we’ll loosen up. It takes time to build trust with everyone on the team. Once that has been established, we want to enable each team member to do their best work, period.

Communicate and Be Reachable

If you’re working from home or working off hours, no worries, but let us know by putting it on your calendar or Slack status. You also need to be reachable via Slack or telephone. You might not yet be working at 9am but, most of our clients are so, all we ask is that we can get a hold of you if something comes up that is time sensitive.

Standup Meetings

Whether everyone is dialing in or ducking into the conference room, daily standups for each project go a long way and participation is mandatory. These meetings should be short and sweet (less than 15 minutes) but everyone walks away with a renewed sense of what is (or isn’t) being done, who needs help, who is blocked, etc. Standups give a lot of day to day transparency.

Basic Universal Working Hours

On any given day, we still need some basic overlap in everyone’s schedule. This means there needs to be predictable hours in the office where meetings can be scheduled, face to face collaboration can take place, and culture and rapport can be further built. At Tyrannosaurus Tech, that is generally 11am to 4pm. Of course, folks are working hard on either side of that range of hours but during that range of hours, everyone should be in the office.

All-Hands Meetings or Activities

We host a quarterly all-hands meeting where we update the whole team on how we’re tracking against our goals, highlights big “wins” or team members who have gone above and beyond, and speak candidly about any challenges we’re facing. On top of that, we try to do one fun team activity outside of the office per month (go to a movie together, grill out at someone’s house, go to a local brewery, etc). Just doing these things in a regular cadence seems to do a pretty good job of getting everyone together, maintaining relationships across the team, and making sure everyone is aligned with the greater vision.  

So, there you have it, folks. That’s our simple take on how to handle work from home policies and flexible office hours. Every company and team is different so, talk to your team, experiment, and see what is right for you. At the end of the day, we all just want to do our best work and enjoy what we do.