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Imagine that your employer keeps a reserve of gold coins in a conference room down the hall. According to the employee handbook, employees are entitled to unlimited gold coins. The employer is cool with that, they don’t even track who’s taken what. That’s right. You can walk into that room, grab as much gold as you can hold, not tell anybody and, in turn, nobody tracks it. Tomorrow you can do the same thing. And the next day. Back to reality now. Switch out gold coins for paid time off and you essentially have what many employers consider to be an employee benefit: unlimited time off.

All that glitters isn’t gold

Amidst the recent wave of layoffs in the journalism industry one company in particular, BuzzFeed, was blasted for trying to weasel out of paying former employees for unused paid time off. While the company ultimately did right by their former employees by paying them out, it laid bare a bait and switch scheme employers use to save money while appearing to be progressive workplaces. The scheme is called unlimited time off.   

Unlimited time off is great in theory: adult employees are entrusted to decide when and how much paid time they take away from work. Employers lovingly pay for that time off as acknowledgement for the hard work employees put in. Everybody is happy and there are palm trees.

In practice however, most employers aren’t interested in employees taking more time off, and that’s exactly why unlimited time off policies are so alluring; with no actual policy attached, unlimited time off can play to the house’s favor, because employees take less time off. While there are myriad reasons why, it mostly boils down to employers creating a non-finite resource of an otherwise well-structured benefit.  There’s no urgency for employees to take it, and they’re left judging one another for doing so. As for management, they’re tickled with the results; more work, less pay, less taxes.   

It’s the law, son. Just kidding.

Inadvertent or not, former BuzzFeed employees got hosed and the only means of redemption for them appears to be that their former employer worked across state lines which means some former employees, namely those in California (where a pay out is mandated by state law), got paid while residents of other states ultimately wouldn’t have been paid were it not for their activism.

Since most states have no enforceable point of view on the matter (California being an exception), former employees rarely have the means to demand pay for the unmeasurable amount of time off they may or may not have been entitled to from an employer that may or may not offer time off at all. See what I did there? For example, in Illinois there is, in fact, a recommendation that employers pay former employees for accrued, unused paid time off. It’s mostly toothless though, as there’s no law stating Illinois employers have to actually offer accrued time off. That’s the regulatory sound of one hand clapping.

Creating structure in the realms of the unlimited

Unlimited time off without practical guardrails is, simply put, a way to lure job prospects into a workplace. Once they’re in, they’ll quickly realize the benefit is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

So what are some practical guardrails employers can use to comply with what an ethical time off policy?

  • Unlimited time off should be offered in tandem with minimum time off; a number of days (start with 18) that employees are required to take leave from work. That minimum number of days off ensures employees get away from work, and it gives the employer a benchmark for accruals when someone leaves the organization.  
  • Determine a time off ceiling – how much is too much? It’s a question employees have, and one that employers should know the answer to. If you’re fine with fifty days, but one hundred is a problem, fine, let everyone know.
  • Track it. Time is money, and time off is an expense, so create a tracking and approval process, because paid time off costs a business money regardless of how little employees use. Any business interested in their money should know how much money they’re paying for employees to not work.    
  • Write it all down, share it, and make sure employees understand your company’s commitment to keeping employees engaged at work through regular breaks from it.  

Note that employers using unlimited time off as a compensation ploy will scoff at these suggestions, because they do three things: they ensure employees take time off, they put oversight back onto management where it belongs, and it holds employers accountable for paying employees for earned, unused time off.

There is such thing as good, unlimited time off

Employers should be interested in employees taking time away from work; it builds a more resilient team, and more dedicated team members. Employers who offer unlimited time off should be lauded in that regard, but they need to go the whole nine yards and put their money where their mouth is, via policy. Good time off policy takes more than an “All you can eat time off” sign on a company’s door to build responsible, well balanced employees. It takes design, practice, and the desire to do what’s right for employees past and present.   

The post Unlimited time off: paying former employees for unused PTO appeared first on Kin.

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Imagine that your employer keeps a reserve of gold coins in a conference room down the hall. According to the employee handbook, employees are entitled to unlimited gold coins. The employer is cool with that, they don’t even track who’s taken what. That’s right. You can walk into that room, grab as much gold as you can hold, not tell anybody and, in turn, nobody tracks it. Tomorrow you can do the same thing. And the next day. Back to reality now. Switch out gold coins for paid time off and you essentially have what many employers consider to be an employee benefit: unlimited time off.

All that glitters isn’t gold

Amidst the recent wave of layoffs in the journalism industry one company in particular, BuzzFeed, was blasted for trying to weasel out of paying former employees for unused paid time off. While the company ultimately did right by their former employees by paying them out, it laid bare a bait and switch scheme employers use to save money while appearing to be progressive workplaces. The scheme is called unlimited time off.   

Unlimited time off is great in theory: adult employees are entrusted to decide when and how much paid time they take away from work. Employers lovingly pay for that time off as acknowledgement for the hard work employees put in. Everybody is happy and there are palm trees.

In practice however, most employers aren’t interested in employees taking more time off, and that’s exactly why unlimited time off policies are so alluring; with no actual policy attached, unlimited time off can play to the house’s favor, because employees take less time off. While there are myriad reasons why, it mostly boils down to employers creating a non-finite resource of an otherwise well-structured benefit.  There’s no urgency for employees to take it, and they’re left judging one another for doing so. As for management, they’re tickled with the results; more work, less pay, less taxes.   

It’s the law, son. Just kidding.

Inadvertent or not, former BuzzFeed employees got hosed and the only means of redemption for them appears to be that their former employer worked across state lines which means some former employees, namely those in California (where a pay out is mandated by state law), got paid while residents of other states ultimately wouldn’t have been paid were it not for their activism.

Since most states have no enforceable point of view on the matter (California being an exception), former employees rarely have the means to demand pay for the unmeasurable amount of time off they may or may not have been entitled to from an employer that may or may not offer time off at all. See what I did there? For example, in Illinois there is, in fact, a recommendation that employers pay former employees for accrued, unused paid time off. It’s mostly toothless though, as there’s no law stating Illinois employers have to actually offer accrued time off. That’s the regulatory sound of one hand clapping.

Creating structure in the realms of the unlimited

Unlimited time off without practical guardrails is, simply put, a way to lure job prospects into a workplace. Once they’re in, they’ll quickly realize the benefit is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

So what are some practical guardrails employers can use to comply with what an ethical time off policy?

  • Unlimited time off should be offered in tandem with minimum time off; a number of days (start with 18) that employees are required to take leave from work. That minimum number of days off ensures employees get away from work, and it gives the employer a benchmark for accruals when someone leaves the organization.  
  • Determine a time off ceiling – how much is too much? It’s a question employees have, and one that employers should know the answer to. If you’re fine with fifty days, but one hundred is a problem, fine, let everyone know.
  • Track it. Time is money, and time off is an expense, so create a tracking and approval process, because paid time off costs a business money regardless of how little employees use. Any business interested in their money should know how much money they’re paying for employees to not work.    
  • Write it all down, share it, and make sure employees understand your company’s commitment to keeping employees engaged at work through regular breaks from it.  

Note that employers using unlimited time off as a compensation ploy will scoff at these suggestions, because they do three things: they ensure employees take time off, they put oversight back onto management where it belongs, and it holds employers accountable for paying employees for earned, unused time off.

There is such thing as good, unlimited time off

Employers should be interested in employees taking time away from work; it builds a more resilient team, and more dedicated team members. Employers who offer unlimited time off should be lauded in that regard, but they need to go the whole nine yards and put their money where their mouth is, via policy. Good time off policy takes more than an “All you can eat time off” sign on a company’s door to build responsible, well balanced employees. It takes design, practice, and the desire to do what’s right for employees past and present.   

The post Unlimited time off: all that glitters isn’t gold. appeared first on Kin.

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Kin HR by Craig Bryant - 3M ago

Happy new year! Since the late spring of 2018 we’ve been redesigning Kin and, as we gear up to release it to our customers, I’m reflecting on the choices we’ve made along the way. Our company has experienced a reorientation of sorts with the values of real community and social well being. That’s informed our view of Kin’s role in your workplace which has, in turn, informed the design of Kin itself.

 

Hey doc, are you here?

If you’ve been to a doctor lately, you may have noticed something peculiar: medical professionals spend an inordinate amount of time interacting with screens compared to the time they spend with you. How’s that make you feel? There’s a parallel in the workplace. The digital tools we depend on at work, from project scheduling products to employee feedback services, have nudged their way into almost every interaction we have with coworkers.

Many of these technologies make a workplace like ours possible. Our geographic disparity however (we’re a 100% remote workplace), has made us acutely aware of the value of authentic, direct human interactions in our feedback to one another, or when we’re troubleshooting code. Over the last year, we’ve actively sought to remove technology from situations where the human touch is unparalleled in its power to heal and solve.

As a result, we view the role of these technologies as that of a facilitator, rather than as an object of fascination. The tools we value most (with dozens of choices in any category) are the most frictionless, the most invisible. We certainly explore new technologies, but the bar for welcoming them into our work lives has been raised. We’ve raised that bar for Kin too.

 

Use it, then lose it.

As nonsensical as it may sound, one of the objectives of the new Kin is to decrease the time customers spend using it. The five year old app had some user experience problems that we fixed to speed up core jobs like scheduling time off, uploading files, and importing employee data.

More conceptually though, as we re-evaluated the myriad workplace challenges Kin solves, we considered that Kin, like so many other technologies, isn’t meant to solve all of them; people are. If Kin doesn’t help employees spend time working with one another, it’s not designed well. If Kin doesn’t help employees feel more fulfilled at work, it’s not doing its job. If Kin’s user experience isn’t efficient enough, it’s not doing its job.

In redesigning a workplace technology that thousands of people use each day, we considered it our ethical obligation to avoid making Kin the object of fascination in all the ways it’s meant to help. Kin should do its job, then get out of the way.

 

Looking beyond your attention span

I don’t think the makers of medical record software set out knowing that, ultimately, the quality of the medical care experience may suffer because of an improvement in the portability of patient data. I honestly don’t believe Mark Zuckerberg ever considered Facebook would subvert humankind’s trust. Yet, here we are. We live in an age where massive technology platforms are nearing ubiquity and we’re learning the price of deferring to technology for an ever-increasing share of our lives.

Kin – its mission and the role it plays in your workplace, isn’t following in those footsteps. Starting with a humble, if time intensive, redesign of our web app, we intend to be a facilitator, not a dominator; a platform that doesn’t vie for your attention, rather a partner that improves what matters most: your workplace community and the quality work it enables.

 

A new year, a new Kin

I’m excited to ship the new Kin in the next few weeks. There are so many improvements that are baked into it that we’ve seen validated over and over since Kin first launched in 2013. What I’m most looking forward to though is this fresh start for our own workplace. Kin’s codebase is faster and cleaner. Its interface is faster and cleaner too. The new Kin is our team’s springboard to build healthier, happier workplaces.

The post A new year, a new Kin appeared first on Kin.

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When a coworker isn’t firing on all cylinders, sometimes it has nothing to do with work. Life is heavy, in good ways and bad. We move, we get married. We lose loved ones, have surgeries, and go through divorces.

These twists and turns impact our work, yet employers and employees tend to avoid bringing their lives into the purview of the workplace;  that inhibits communication and, ultimately, our ability to do what’s right for both coworker and our business.

We’ve had a lot of opportunity this year to practice what’s become a cardinal management rule: before jumping to conclusions based purely on at-work data (missed deadlines, peer feedback, etc.), make sure there isn’t something going on beyond work that explains a coworker’s recent behavior.

If we know that work isn’t the source of someone’s performance problems, there’s an explicit set of actions we can take. We can put them on a four-day work week, take them off mission-critical work for a bit, or give them a month away from work with out-of-band time off. Note how different this is from penalizing or even firing someone for not hitting deadlines or snapping at a coworker. The prior keeps a good employee’s seat warm; the latter makes it empty.

As hard as it is for employers to believe, work isn’t always the most meaningful thing going on in an employee’s life. When we incorporate the entire three hundred and sixty degrees of our lives into our communications at work, it tips the scale of people operations toward empathy and listening rather than policy and consequences. That leads to better community, better retention, and ultimately better business performance.

The post Problems at work aren’t always problems with work. appeared first on Kin.

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Kin HR by Craig Bryant - 7M ago

In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott defines two employee types that we all generally fall into. The first one, “the rockstar,” is the steady-as-she-goes worker who provides the constant forward motion a successful business needs. They’re the bedrock of the workforce. The second, which she calls “the superstar,” is a high-velocity employee blazing the trail for the rest to follow. Most of us fit into one camp or the other but, as Scott observes, many employees move back and forth between them over time.

Scott uses these archetypes to aid in better employee coaching (the topic of her book), but the professional fluidity she discusses has helped solidify what I haven’t put clearly to words in the past: sometimes work is the center of my universe, other times it’s just a job.  It feels sacrilegious to write that as an entrepreneur, frankly, but I’m certain other founders feel the same way, and I know my employees do too.

I’m passionate about our company’s mission of helping companies build healthier, happier workplaces, but the very notion that my team and I sacrifice every ion of energy working on it betrays our own values. We have to live what we preach, and the routine practice of identifying work’s place in our lives helps us build our own healthier, happier workplace.

So, how does a company like ours get more out of life than just work? 

Get work out of the way.

We’re a remote workplace. That alone means we spend less time traveling to and from work, and more time at home. In my case, I eat two out of three meals with my family each day – the one meal I don’t get to eat with them is lunch, which my kids do at school.

Another benefit to remote work is the time efficiency with work itself. Not every work day is eight hours, which means if we find ourselves with a couple extra hours, we’re not holed up at the office staring at a screen. Likewise, the days we work longer don’t preclude us from dinner with our partner or bedtime routines with our kids.

On the topic of workload, how much is enough? My coach, Traci Barrett, gave me a succinct management tip for keeping high-performers (superstars) busy: “Always keep their plate full, and they’ll tell you when they’ve had enough.” For team members who fit the rockstar persona, I’ve found them to be more protective of their time. You won’t find them lingering at 5:31 in the afternoon looking for the next challenge so the onus is on us to ensure their time is used wisely and in as predictable a manner as possible.

Get to know one another.

How much should employers get to know their employees beyond work? I believe as much as possible. That doesn’t mean prying, forcing fake friendships, or trying to be omnipresent in every one’s life, but there’s no way to wholly know a person based only on their contributions at work. Getting to know what’s going on in someone’s life beyond business helps us dial up their velocity at work or tune it out for a few months while something more important has their focus.

Lisa, our COO, is an open book in this regard. She’s a tireless family member, furniture restorer, and entrepreneur. Because Lisa keeps me in the loop on the significant going-ons in her life, it’s easier for us to tweak her work when life gets stressful or, frankly, when it’s more fulfilling than work .  

Our job as employers, in my opinion, is to mentor employees on their professional path while they discover whatever life has in store for them. That often means reminding one another that work simply isn’t as important as whatever is going on outside of it.

Life is finite. Work isn’t.

In our recent Kin newsletter I challenged our readers to examine how they respond to the question “So, what do you do?” How we answer speaks volumes about our sense of purpose and identity. Many of us, especially in the U.S., define ourselves outwardly by the work we do, yet we’re all deeper than that. I’ve never seen an obituary reading: “So long Stacy, you were a great lawyer.”

A workplace might be the most efficient means of putting our talents to work, but it’s the hard, unanticipated experiences outside of work that develop those talents in the first place. Depriving ourselves or our employees of the opportunity to learn those lessons short circuits a fulfilling journey through life. As employees, our work suffers.  As employers, our turnover rates increase.

Work, in case you hadn’t noticed, is always on, like a river. Life rarely gives you the same look twice. You miss it, it’s gone. It’s incumbent upon us all to engage both with intent, but remember: you’ve got fifty years of a career happening while fifty years of life comes and goes too. Work, learn, and live like it.

The post Living to work or working to live? appeared first on Kin.

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Each morning our remote team signs into work via Slack. So does Kin, with a nice little message about birthdays, out-of-office notices, and work anniversaries. It’s nice to get the update in Slack as opposed to signing into Kin directly – one less browser tab to fire up each morning. 

This little feature is something any company using Slack and Google can enable, and it only takes a couple of minutes to set up.

1. Connect Google Calendar and Kin

The first step to getting Slack aware of Kin’s events is, strangely enough, subscribing your Google Calendar to Kin. We wrote a tutorial in our help center to get this set up. 

2. Connect Slack and Google Calendar

The next step is to get your Google Calendar events sent over to Slack. Slack, in turn, has a simple tutorial for that as well.

That’s it. At Kin, we have Kin events sent to the channel which the entire company has access to. We’re a pretty small company though. The integration is flexible enough to accommodate larger organizations which may not want to see 35+ events each morning in Slack … just use the filters in the Kin calendar to get the correct team work group’s calendar events showing, grab the subscription URL, repeat the steps above for each one of them, and you’ll be rocking in no time.

If you have any questions or need help, please let us know at TheTeam@KinHR.com.

The post Integrating the Kin calendar with Slack appeared first on Kin.

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Creating a personal time off (PTO) policy that works for your company and your employees can be challenging. I’ve seen my fair share of policies while working with customers at Kin. Some create great work environments, others put employees into a panic and create a constantly churning workplace.

Before we begin, let’s define what personal time off means to our team as often times it can mean different things at different companies. At Kin, personal time off is a stand-alone policy our employees can use for vacation or time away from the office in general. We have separate policies outside of our personal time off policy that let team members take time for illnesses, bereavement, maternity or paternity leave, jury duty, etc. For a closer look at different policies, check out a previous blog post of ours here.

By now, we know that PTO policies do much more than allow an employee to take time off work without a financial burden. They allow employees to recharge and regroup. They even allow employees to do better at work, since studies link employees that use all of their PTO to being more engaged at work and more likely to receive incentives, bonuses or promotions. Time off policies are one of the top benefits employees look at and weigh when thinking about making a career move. At times it even surpasses salary as a factor.

With the weight of this benefit, what is the right answer when it comes to setting up a policy that gives your employees the flexibility to leave the workplace that they need, but also the stability that you deserve as an employer?

The answer may not be clear cut, so let’s walk through the models and how to come to a conclusion that works for your company.

Personal time off policy models

There are various personal time-off models out there, but the three most popular types are upfront, accrual and unlimited.

Upfront: An upfront time off policy gives the employee all the time they are owed for the year on the first day of the policy period. For example, if a policy runs January 1 – December 31 and I receive 20 days off per year, I am eligible to use all 20 days starting on January 1 of that policy year.

Accrual: An accrual time off policy gives employees more time as they work more hours. For every day or week worked, the time off policy accrues a certain amount of time. For example, if I receive 20 days a year of paid time off within an accrual policy, I will have about 10 days ‘earned’ to use by July, and my full 20 days by December. Often times, these policies allow you to ‘borrow ahead’ if you want to take a large trip before you’ve accrued enough hours. This is not always the case, however.

Unlimited: An unlimited time off policy allows the employee to take as much time at any point in the year that they so choose. Occasionally, an unlimited time off policy will have a minimum amount of days or weeks an employee must use each year.

How Kin does personal time off

Instead of just creating a pro and con list for each model next, I wanted to walk through some real-life scenarios I’ve uncovered when working with our customers and while working on our own people operations.

For the sake of transparency, Kin and our parent company, We Are Mammoth, currently operate on an upfront policy. Employees have the ability to use as much of their allotted them as they wish at any point in the year.

We also have a policy of paying out time out when an employee leaves. This is when our accrual policy comes into play. If an employee has used more than their allotted time earned to date at the time of resignation, we will deduct the ‘borrowed time’ from their final paycheck. If they’ve used less than what they’ve accrued, we’ll add the monetary value of that leftover PTO to the final paycheck.

It’s a win-win upfront/accrual combination for us: Employees can take the vacations they want when they need to, and we don’t lose money if an employee leaves in the middle of the year and has used more personal time off than what she or he has earned.

The problem with the unicorn unlimited time off policy

We’ve seen a lot of companies come to Kin starting with an unlimited policy. Many folks doing so complain that the opposite happens of what you’d expect: people just don’t leave the office.

How could an unlimited policy create such a problem? Studies show that when you have an unlimited vacation policy, you may actually be creating an environment where people compete to take the least amount of time off as a way to show who is most loyal to the company.

There is no competitive, driven employee on this earth that will take advantage of the policy. And in turn, folks who don’t enjoy their job or feel ownership over their roles will be the ones likely to use it most.

Companies who see this deterrence are quick to put in a minimum time off amount per year employees must hit. Unfortunately, many great employees do just that and stop once the quota has been achieved. It sounds great – giving a benefit that our best folks don’t use? Talent acquisition through the roof, costs reduced and additional output! Yes!

Nope, not so fast.

When an employee doesn’t use their PTO, they’re more likely to burn out and perform poorly at their job over time. It’s proven time and time again. It’s extremely beneficial for both you and the employee to encourage and – in some cases – make them use their personal time off.

The scarcity mentality with upfront and accrual

Now that upfront and accrual models look like much better options, we have to talk a bit about their dark sides too. If you do not give enough time to employees each year, they are likely to have a scarcity mindset and not take it at all, or take a long vacation at the end of the year when they finally feel comfortable enough to know something couldn’t possibly go wrong in their personal life that they would need to take time off for.

For example, if your team only gets 8 paid days off a year, they may choose to ‘save’ those days for if their child is sick, or if an unexpected doctor appointment or family emergency comes up. None of the events I listed above are truly allowing the employee to take time off to unplug and recharge, yet that’s often what ‘eats up’ their personal time off balances. As an employer, is it worth adding a few more days to their compensation package to switch their mindsets to abundance versus scarcity? At Kin, we believe so.

We offer 15 days upfront the first year of employment. The second year, an employee receive 20 days and the third year on they receive 25 days a year. This is in addition to paid holidays, sick time and other basic policies such as maternity/paternity leave, jury duty, bereavement, conference time off, etc.

Most of our team takes their time away from work without hesitation, though we do frequently remind them to do so. It’s important to us that our team uses the benefits we provide them. At the end of the day, it makes them better at work and better family members and friends at home. No one loses.

With accrual, the scarcity mindset only gets worse. Since all of the time you can accrue in a policy year doesn’t come to you at once, you have employees forced to calculate how much time they’ll have at X date to see if they can take a vacation or not. It’s also tough on employees who may have a family emergency or another reason to leave, but not have enough time to take to adequately deal with it.

It gets even worse when accrual employees are left with a bulk of their time earned at the end of the year. Companies often tell us that they see massive exits of employees for vacation in the last quarter due to this, leaving a time when you should be finishing strong in the office and hitting those annual goals as a ghost town instead.

Should you pay employees to take a vacation?

Now that you have an idea of all the benefits that good vacation policies have other than attracting quality talent to your company, the question becomes, how do you incentivize folks to actually use PTO? Some companies have decided to go the route of actually paying employees to leave the office and dubbing it a ‘paycation.’

“I think this comes back to the idea of what is the purpose of this benefit? The business reason for me is to ensure that I have more T-shaped employees, meaning that they are very deeply knowledgeable in their expertise from their work experience, but that they also have a varied-interest personal life that allows them to bring different perspectives to the table. Far things allow for that better than vacation. And if paying for it makes them more likely to take it, I’m all for it,” Mary Ellen Slater, an HR consultant and business owner, told me a few months ago during a chat.

Paid vacation stipends can range from a few hundred dollars to lavish multi-thousand dollar checks. It all depends on your budget and your goals. While it is a great way to get people out of the office, it also does come with its own sets of worries. What’s deemed a ‘vacation’ to be paid for? Does a ‘staycation’ count? Make sure you address this thoroughly prior to implementing it so that you nor the employee are disappointed come time to redeem the stipend.

After reviewing the pros and cons of the three major time off models, which will you choose for your company and why?

The post What time-off policy type works best for employee engagement? appeared first on Kin.

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Two years ago we began doing character assessments and coaching to understand how we operate as individuals and, in turn, how that shapes our work. Our hope was that, through a better understanding our interactions with one another, we’d improve autonomy and team communication. In most every way, it did.

A new brand of communication at work

Our internal communication has improved because each person has a firm understanding of both what makes them tick and, likewise, that of the person they’re working with. That enables a whole new brand of communication which helps us identify challenges earlier than had we otherwise avoided talking about them.

It’s also helped us understand how we each of us fits into the machine of our workplace – we have a mix of personalities from task masters and introverts to a-types and extroverts. Knowing how every one fits into the organization has improved our role alignment and troubleshoot more efficiently when something isn’t working – a topic I wrote about recently.

Bringing (the best of) work home with us

What we didn’t anticipate from our coaching experience is that the practice of understanding ourselves and others would have just as much utility outside of work where the traditional effect of the workplace is typically measured in terms of stress.

The things I’ve learned about my own internal wiring as well as how others perceive me has been invaluable for me – it’s helped in my marriage, as a parent, a friend and, most recently, as a communication conduit for my extended family, who had been stuck in a rough spot for quite some time.  

I wanted to know whether others on my team had the same experiences – were the exercises we go through at work to be more mindful of our interactions with others helping beyond work and, if so, how?

“After having Jon (Lisa’s husband) take some assessments too, I realized that he compliments my weaknesses and vice versa. Jon truly enjoys managing projects and has a great ability to keep track of details and push things forward with solid planning, facts and logic. While he’s not necessarily going to create a huge vision, he’ll make it come to life and ensure it’s successful. Likewise, he’s not completely risk averse, but it takes him longer to be comfortable with a quick change of plans than it does for me. My excitement for the new plan usually wins him over quicker, though. He’s the yin to my yang.”

– Lisa, COO of Kin

“I’ve learned a ton about myself and what makes me tick. I’ve been able to refactor my approach to conversations and it has allowed me to get to a clear solution more efficiently. This has helped my relationships outside of work as well.  I can tell someone ‘Look, this is who I am, but this is how I want to be, and this is how I’m getting there. Likewise, I can zero in, in a non-emotional way, on how someone else needs to be engaged with. It’s helped me understand me, but it’s done just as much to help me understand others.”

– Grant, Engineering Director

“I tend to overanalyze things and get frozen in indecision. I wasn’t aware of who I truly am as a person before, so when presented with challenging question like, ‘What do I want to achieve professionally?’ I simply didn’t know where or how to start. I now have the ability to see how I work and communicate with people day in and out – it’s like a light has been turned on and I can see everything around me better. It doesn’t solve the problems so much as help me read the situation and understand why I work the way I do and why I am who I am in a more connected way.”

– Anthony, UI Engineer

“Since doing assessments with the Kin team, I have been open to a whole new way of thinking about my working habits and patterns. For example, I have been trying to get into shape (trying) and hitting the gym more lately. The process reminds me of learning a new exercise and seeing yourself in the mirror for the first time. You might think you were doing the exercise correct and just needed to keep pushing through, but only until you see yourself from another perspective do you notice how you keep swinging your knee out, or leaning forward too much. Only until you get that outside perspective do you know what you need to do to course-correct and fix those bad habits or patterns you naturally fall into.”

– Gage, Design Director

Employers have an interest beyond the workplace

Given that satisfaction and fulfillment in one’s personal life has an inevitable effect on how we perform at work, I’ve come to recognize the workplace’s ability and, perhaps even responsibility, to have a positive, profound effect on how people function outside of work.

Just like at work, life throws all of us curveballs at the least attractive moments – there’s simply no way to avoid that. What we’re armed with now though is a better way to talk through the issue, understand the various players who are needed to resolve it, and to do so with coherence and intent. In getting to know ourselves better, we learn to see ourselves reflected in others as well. 

The post Exploring work’s responsibilities beyond work. appeared first on Kin.

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Kin HR by Craig Bryant - 10M ago

Working remotely affords a lot of flexibility in the non-work part of our lives: we travel, move, and have more time for our personal life without worrying about our job security. That doesn’t come at the cost of purpose, productivity, or cohesion though. If anything, the fact that we’re all somewhere else, as we put it, means we have to double down on the upkeep of our company’s mission and organization. Strangely enough, that’s disappointing for some job candidates.

Some people look for remote work as a way to, what seems to me, work but not be a part of a company. They seek the security of a full time job with the flexibility of being a freelancer. They want work into the cracks in their life, with none of the risk. That may work for some companies, but we’ve learned to avoid hiring people who view remote work as their most important job criteria.

So how does a remote workplace like ours feel like day to day? How do we ensure there’s cohesion in a void of colocation? And what, in turn, are the core tenets of a team member who will be both fulfilled and successful with our company?

What we strive for as a remote team

As a remote workplace, we need to be accessible for each team member wherever they are. For us, that manifests itself in the following ways operationally:

  • Our workplace operations need to be digital in every form: communication, documentation, paperwork, and productivity.
  • The technology platform which drives #1 above needs to have near perfect uptime, but downtime does happen (as demonstrated by Slack recently) and there needs to be a fallback plan for how the team works and communicates when our virtual office disappears for a bit.
  • Building on #2 above, job and project expectations need to be explicit. We have fewer meetings, but that means there are fewer chances to catch signals about someone or something being amiss. Being ultra-clear with role and project-level objectives is mission critical. When we fail to do that, we lose good people.
  • Remote work is not to be confused with flex work: we require our team to be present for a majority of our six core business hours each day, regardless of time-zone. This helps avoid too much asynchronous decision making and the feeling that the company is nothing more than a loose network of freelancers.
  • A rock-solid mission, vision, and business objectives written down, shared, understood, and bought into. It’s too hard to lean on oratory-style torch carrying style of on-site visionary leadership.
What to strive for as a remote team member

Working remotely requires every team member to work harder to contribute to the team’s culture than they might otherwise need to in a physical workplace. Because of our lack of physical center, each individual’s contribution truly is an important piece of our company’s personality.

  • Be present, don’t be an island. Your communication, be it written, audio or video, is your lifeline to our community. If you aren’t proactive with communication, you’re on an island. If you’re on an island we can’t see you, hear you, or know what shape you’re in.
  • Be disciplined about work and family separation. This is a hard one for a lot of people. The allure of working for a remote company is big for parents who want to be present with their new family. That’s great. In fact, it’s the biggest perk. But, there is no way to be a full time new parent and a full time team member at our company unless you’re a seriously organized person with your private life. Note the use of “new parent.” Once kids are older and in school, this gets more manageable.
  • We want to know you beyond work. There are no team lunches or after-work drinks at a remote workplace and, while we get together as a team once in a while, it’s the daily stories and anecdotes we share about our remote lives that bonds us all together. If you think your non-work life has no business in a remote workplace, think again.
  • Working remotely affords us more time – via less commute time, fewer meetings, and more efficient business operations (generally). What will you do with that extra time? It’s important to create a non-arbitrary divider between work and life, lest work follows you around wherever you go.
Working remotely is a two way street

Remote work enables us to live our non-work lives more purposefully, but that only happens when we run our remote workplace with equal purpose. As Lisa recently wrote in a post, work is a constant in our lives regardless of where we do it – when times are tough, work can be there for us. The opposite is true as well, which is perhaps the biggest benefit of working remotely –  we become workplace that blends more seamlessly into the canvas of our lives, rather than being the geographic anchor of it.

The post Working remotely or remotely working? appeared first on Kin.

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Kin HR by Craig Bryant - 10M ago

What if I told you that the last time you took an extended break from work, your coworkers didn’t miss you as much as you think? Likewise, what if I told you that your contributions at work are important but, generally speaking, you’re replaceable within a couple of weeks? Would that make it easier for you to take some paid time off? It should.

“YOU WOULDN’T WORRY WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK OF YOU IF YOU KNEW HOW SELDOM THEY DO” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Here’s a dirty little secret employers use to keep you in your seat, sometimes without even realizing it: Humans are social creatures and we feel validated when we’re needed by our clan. If I’m needed, I’m not replaceable. By virtue of being non-replaceable, I’m important. Because I’m important, others depend on me. Since others depend on me, I can’t leave work.

I’m not the first employer to break this code of silence, and I won’t be the last: Take your time off. You need it, and so does your employer and, while you’re an important part of your team, the company doesn’t revolve around your presence. You don’t have to drop five grand on a trip to Tahiti, but you owe it to yourself to get some distance from your work. Please, go live your life.

We’ll be fine, trust us.

When I leave work for a couple of weeks, the founder of the company is gone. When I return, I get a good idea for how well the company operates in my absence. The answer is, most times, really well. While there may be decisions only I can make, they can usually wait for my return and, perchance there’s something absolutely business critical to discuss, my team can get in touch with me. In twelve years, I’ve been dragged out of vacation exactly once.

Before you leave work for a week or two, let your coworkers know about your current workload and dependencies.  If you return to a shambles, well,  it’s likely you didn’t do enough to set them up for your absence. Personally, I have no qualms dropping off the radar for a couple of weeks – I know, through and through, that the company has its mission and measurable objectives, and those are enough to carry them forward in my absence. Every one at every level of most any organization can describe their duties in the same way.  Your coworkers will cover for you, but you gotta set them up to succeed. Build trust with your coworkers and in yourself, and make a break for it.

Get perspective, and get a raise?

People who take their time off are statistically more likely to get a raise or promotion, according to Project Time Off. This implies a few things. People who use their paid time off are better planners and have the will to seek balance. They’re good self-managers and train others to do their work while they’re out. Perhaps most important is perspective – leaving work is a professional palette cleanser in that our distance from work doesn’t immediately go away when we return to work. Rather, because we’ve been gone, we see our workplace as an outsider might which helps us identify the good, bad, and ugly that wasn’t so obvious to us before. Maybe that helps us dig into a fresh challenge that nobody else sees. Maybe it means other people adopted the more routine work you didn’t like anyways which will give you more time to focus on more fulfilling work. Put simply, time away from work likely makes you more valuable to your employer.

It’s your time, so what’s holding you back?

Your time is money. If you’re a software developer making one hundred thousand dollars a year and your employer gives you four weeks of paid time off, that’s a big percentage of your compensation you’re leaving on the table by martyring yourself for your work. You’re literally paying your boss to exhaust yourself. In all likelihood, your employer isn’t going to hound you to take your time off, so it’s on you. Go. Work will be here when you return stronger, refreshed, and ready to dig into whatever is next.

The post Time off: the career builder appeared first on Kin.

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