Field Note: Building a Strong and Supportive Work Culture
Part 1: by Barbara Travers, Root Cause’s Director of Operations
I read something recently that explained quiet quitting as “not answering emails outside of work hours, or refusing to work overtime.” What? How is this quitting and not just, “being done with work.” Maybe that is the fundamental problem. Our culture, our work from home, our drive to be “first, richest, best,” and our belief in “healthy competition” have all led to a place where you are not allowed to stop working for fear of someone calling you out for not working. Even when you’re not supposed to be working.
Root Cause has never really operated this way. “Move at the speed of trust” we tell ourselves, as we discuss principles of adrienne marie brown’s Emergent Strategy. Of course, this takes time, building trust. Take time, give time. Real, meaningful time away from work. From everything I read, lack of time is the reason all of these people are quietly quitting. They need time to breathe, to recuperate, to think, to rest, to enjoy life. When we’re fully exhausted during our “down time,” it becomes almost impossible to enjoy wonderful things. Survival quickly gets conflated with self-care. How much can we expect people to dedicate to work if their energy is depleted? We are not our jobs, nor do we need to be to be successful.
At Root Cause, we have decided to trust our team and give time back. We try to recognize that each of us is a full human, with needs and experiences outside of our work, and that in order to show up every day (show up to work, for our families, for school, or for ourselves) we need to have our tanks up to full. How? We’ve implemented a few things over the last few years:
- No Meeting Fridays: This is just what it sounds like. Does it always work? No! But flexibility is easier when you know most of your time is protected.
- Additional time off: We’ve added personal days and offer random pop-up holidays for folks to disconnect.
- Encouragement to take time off: Real, true encouragement from leaders to say “we see you, you work hard, you deserve time” and then honoring that time by leaving people alone while they’re not on the clock.
- We’re lucky, we have a lot more flexibility and control over our own hours than many positions and jobs may allow, but even with flexible availability, it may not feel safe to take that time. We don’t ask (or demand) people to have butts-in-seats from 9am – 5pm. We know there are client meetings & work to be done, but we trust that each person will do what they need to, and we provide support when they need help.
- Allow folks to work at their own times, and set expectations that their teammates can do the same. By allowing for asynchronous work, we allow people to make decisions about when it is best for them to work, not for when we think they should work.
- Lead by example. Our leaders are GREAT at saying, “I need a moment” and taking that moment. They are also pretty great at saying, “it seems like you need a moment.” Having leaders who acknowledge and name the need for a break means that those of us not in positions of traditional power can still be empowered to care for ourselves.
Using these ideas as a framework for our thinking, we have begun to ask how do we create policies and norms to ensure quality of work through not over-working? We are working to build a culture of getting our work done — and done well during work time without spilling over into personal time. This starts at the leadership level, being comfortable setting the example of working the “right” amount.
In Part 2 (coming in December), you will hear more about our work culture from Root Cause’s Executive Director, Erin Rodriguez.