Charlie is the HR software for teams with big ideas. We created CharlieHR to solve the challenges that we faced while starting our own businesses. We know the difference that even a few saved hours can make in a busy working week. CharlieHR gives you more time to do more of what matters, and more of what you love.
If you try an unlimited holiday policy and it breaks, what do you replace it with? What could be better than unlimited days off? In this post, Ben Gateley explores what a great time off policy really looks like – and introduces CharlieHR’s new way of doing holiday for 2019.
In my last post, we talked about Charlie’s old unlimited holiday policy, and how it eventually broke. This time round, I want to talk about what comes next. If unlimited holiday isn’t the answer, then what is? What does a great time off policy actually look like and how do you go about implementing it?
Back to basics
To begin with, realising we had to kill unlimited holiday was frustrating. It forced us to admit that we didn’t have the answer to a problem I thought we’d solved for.
But that did come with some upsides.
Ripping it up and starting again forces you to be really mindful of what you actually want from your holiday policy in the first place. It means you have to ask a few questions... What are we even trying to achieve with our holiday policy? What’s it even for?
With those questions on the table, I drew up a few objectives – a few ‘must-haves’ that we would absolutely need our new policy to deliver if it was going to be a success.
1.A rested team, all year round
In a nutshell, we want our team to take the time off they need to in order to do their best work, from the start of the year to the end. That doesn’t just mean taking a certain number of days per year – it also means spreading that holiday around so they don’t burn out from long stretches without a break.
One of the main takeaways from our experience with unlimited holiday was it introduced an element of ‘option paralysis’. The limitless choice afforded by endless time off wasn’t empowering, it was overwhelming. The lack of a specific number was in itself discouraging people to take their time off. If we were going to fix our holiday policy, we needed to change that.
Another thing the last three years have made really clear is that people need clarity around what is expected of them. Unlimited holiday is inherently lacking in that clarity – refusing to put a number on a policy means there is no guide to what is or is not acceptable.
That placed a huge amount of emphasis on the individual to make the right call. It cloaked every holiday booking in low-level anxiety, with team members guessing at whether they were doing the right thing or if they were going to be thought badly of by colleagues.
3. Equality of rest
One outcome of unlimited holiday we hadn’t foreseen was that it led to a big gap between the most and least holidays taken. This felt unfair for a whole load of different reasons, but especially because it meant some people were getting hit twice. The people who took the least holiday would always have to cover for those who took the most.
For our new holiday policy to be a success, we needed to equalise that disparity.
If anything was clear at this point, it was that our holiday policy needed a number.
A numerical limit would act as a guide for the amount of rest we wanted our team to take, and help dispel any anxiety about what was or was not acceptable. But what should that number be?
That question brings us nicely to our final ‘must-have’.
4. We want to be better than market
Anyone familiar with Netflix’s now-famous culture deck will recognise the principle of always ‘paying top of market’. Their argument is that you shouldn’t be paying your team just the bare minimum they’ll accept, but the absolute maximum you’d pay to keep them.
The fundamental idea is that building great teams is about attracting and then keeping great people – and those people don’t have to settle for lacklustre employers. If they want to, they can find work somewhere else.
I’m not saying the best people simply flock to the employer with the longest holiday allowance that month (although it is a factor). I’m saying that lacklustre pay or middling holiday policies are frustrating distractions from what is really important to them: engaging with their work at a personal level and making progress in their professional lives.
This is a really the crux of my role as a COO – identifying and getting rid of anything that could distract my team from that end. That’s why I think it’s important to offer our team a better holiday policy than they could find elsewhere.
With this in mind, we surveyed over 50 London tech companies, asking them how they structured their holiday offerings and how much time off they gave their staff. Here's what we found:
These figures include Bank Holidays and Christmas breaks (if offered).
By far the most popular amount of holiday among other tech companies was the 33-35 day range, with a handful either side of that.
So, with all of this in mind...
This is the Charlie holiday policy for 2019
We offer 25 days of bookable holiday per year.
Those 25 days do not include Bank Holidays.
The office will close over Christmas – this is added on top of the 25 bookable days.
There is a company-wide 22-day minimum limit.
Everyone is strongly encouraged to take at least five days off each quarter.
Holiday cannot be rolled over.
If you add up all those days it brings you to 37 days off for 2019. That puts Charlie above both the UK statutory entitlement of 28 days, the countrywide average of 33.5, and comfortably inside the top bracket we identified in our survey of London tech companies.
I don’t want this to be the headline takeaway of this article though – it’s only one aspect of our new policy, and I actually think the most important change here is the introduction of compulsory minimums.
These aren’t intended to be ‘rules’. I’m not trying to catch people out so I can send them packing on a holiday they don’t want to go on.
I see them more like Laszlo Bock’s ‘nudges’ – light touches that encourage people to make good decisions. Yearly and quarterly minimums are designed to make people be more mindful about their time-off and what they need to deliver their best work. It encourages our team to be proactive about taking holidays, rather than reactive after they’ve already burnt out.
Setting a 22-day minimum brings our team’s holiday usage to the forefront of their mind – the quarterly quota helps keep it there.
Right now, I’m feeling pretty hopeful for this holiday policy. But I’ll also be the first to admit that it’s a work in progress, and we don’t know how it’ll play out in reality. What I do know is that we’ll keep on talking openly about what is or is not working, and we’ll keep moving in the right direction.
For a recap of our experiences with unlimited holiday and everything that went wrong, click here.
If you’re trying to set up a new company, then you probably have a hundred different things on your mind. You’re working on your business model, assessing profit margins, and looking for the new hires who can turn your idea into reality. In that scenario, it’s easy for employee contracts to fall to the bottom of your to-do list.
You could be forgiven for asking yourself: do my employees really need a contract right now?
The short answer? No
There is no law stating that employees must receive a written contract from their employer. If you want to carry on employing your team without providing one, then you certainly can. The option is there.
It’s just not a good idea. Here’s why.
All employees have a contract... even if it’s not written down
Just because you haven’t written down a contract of employment does not mean it doesn’t exist. This is one of the peculiar quirks of UK employment law – the arrangement for you to pay someone in return for their work is enough in itself to constitute a contract of employment.
And while you do not have to provide that contract in writing...
...you do have to provide a ‘written statement of employment particulars’
Every employee working for your company longer than one month is entitled to receive what is known as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’. It doesn’t matter how many hours they will be working, or what working pattern that might fall into – this applies to everyone.
By law, the employee needs to receive that statement within two months of their start date.
Now, legally speaking, this statement does not constitute a formal contract of employment. But it does need to contain much of the information that you’d have to provide in that contract anyway.
The information that statement must contain is as follows:
The names of both your company and the employee
The date on which they started work with you
Their job title
A description of their role and responsibilities
The amount of pay they will receive and how often they will be paid – for example, weekly or monthly
Their hours of work (and if they might need to work Sundays, nights, or overtime)
Their holiday entitlement – how many days off they are entitled to, whether that includes Bank Holidays, and your holiday pay policy
How much notice you will give the employee if you decide to let them go
How much notice you will ask from the employee if they decide to leave
Where the job is based – for example, if they will need to work at more than one location
Details of any collective agreements you have made with the employee’s representatives (such as trade unions etc).
While it doesn’t need to be in the employment particulars, that statement must also let the employee know where they can find information about the following:
Pensions and pension schemes
Disciplinary and grievance procedures
The appeals procedure for disciplinary and grievance processes
So… should I give my employees a contract?
Let’s rewind a minute. Remember, all your employees have a contract of employment – it just hasn’t been written down. Given that you are legally obliged to provide all of the above information anyway, then there is very little reason not to go ahead and provide them with a full written contract.
You lose nothing by doing so… and stand to gain a lot.
Why you should provide your employees with a contract
The statement of employment particulars is really designed to protect employees, and give them clarity over their work. In terms of the employer’s own interests, it doesn’t do much at all.
A written contract is your chance to set out exactly what you expect from your team, protect your company from any misunderstandings, and lay the foundations of a good relationship with your employees.
Here are a few of the reasons why you should make getting your contracts sorted a top priority:
1) It’s your chance to be explicit about terms
If you choose not to set out your contracts in writing, you miss out on a chance to be very specific about what you expect from your team. There’s a whole host of reasons why that is a mistake.
If you need any of your business operations to remain confidential, for example, then the employment contract is the place to make that clear. This not only makes that expectation obvious but also helps protect your company from a legal standpoint.
Alternatively, you might want to make clear any agreements around intellectual property. Otherwise, some companies use contracts to set out non-competition rules, ensuring that ex-employees do not set up competing companies immediately after leaving the business.
All of these things need to be explicitly stated in a contract – if it’s not, then you can’t rely on being protected.
2) It gives everyone clarity and peace of mind
It’s true that verbal agreements can often constitute a legally binding contract. The thing is, reaching agreements verbally leaves a huge amount of room for misunderstanding.
What's more, if that relationship ever does go south then proving that verbal agreement was made is notoriously difficult.
Having your agreement with an employee set down in writing means everything is much clearer and, crucially, much more robust. That peace of mind isn’t only for the employer though...
3) Written contracts encourage good relationships between you and your team
From an employee's point of view, having a written contract is a really important aspect of feeling comfortable in their new role. To simply not receive one is needlessly jarring. It could mean they feel ill at ease about the company they’ve joined, and make them wonder if they’ve missed something important.
This is especially true of early-stage startups, where there is the potential for a certain amount of uncertainty anyway. The lack of a more formal HR structure certainly doesn’t help either.
One of the most crucial parts of the HR or Operations mission is to help your team to perform at their best. If your employees are stressing over the particulars of their employment, then they aren’t doing their best work.
If you need to get your employment contracts written up, then it’s a very good idea to get specialist advice – it’s one of those areas you just can’t afford to get wrong. For convenient and reliable assistance with any query on employment contracts, take a look at our HR Advice service. Our in-house HR professionals are available for live chat and email support, for advice whenever you need it.
After three years, we are killing Charlie's unlimited holiday policy for good. We've decided that offering teams an unlimited holiday allowance just doesn't work – but probably not for the reasons you think.
Ever since we founded the company in 2015, every single person working at CharlieHR has received unlimited, fully-paid holiday days – no matter your role, and no questions asked. That policy has been in place since Day 1 of the Charlie journey, and over that time we have flown the flag for unlimited holiday pretty passionately.
As a company we want to be at the forefront of reimagining work for the better – in some ways, unlimited holiday was that commitment made real.
And yet, we've always known that it is far from perfect. Over the last three years we've seen up close the stresses and strains that come with the unlimited holiday system. Eventually we realised we needed to address those strains.
A couple of months ago, we decided to review that policy in depth, sitting down with our team leads to learn more about how it was affecting everyone at Charlie. I reached out to the COOs of over 50 other startups, asking them how they chose to run their holiday policies and why.
Our conclusion? Unlimited holiday doesn't work – but probably not for the reason you think.
But before we get down to it – some context.
Why did we offer unlimited holiday in the first place?
When Rob and I started CharlieHR in 2015, unlimited holiday just made sense to us. We really didn't care what an arbitrary number living on a spreadsheet (or now, in our product) told us about a person. We cared about what they did at work.
We want our team to deliver outstanding work, and we trusted them to take the time off they needed in order to get that done. They're all adults, and they are mature enough to know what that means for them.
Back then, there were already a couple of big companies doing unlimited holiday and their reasoning went along the same lines. Patty McCord, formerly of Netflix, is well-known for her focus on 'tolerating only fully-formed adults', arguing that as long as you hire the right people you don't need to worry about having rules in place.
The team will just run itself.
There's also an empowerment aspect to this. That wasn't immediately obvious to us from the start, but it became clearer as time went on – extending this amount of trust to our team invited them to take ownership of the company's future. It made it clear that Charlie wasn't just their employer, but something they were responsible for taking care of.
And finally... I've just always hated the idea of someone missing out on an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience because of a holiday allowance. That's just not what life is about.
So – that's where unlimited holiday came from. This is why it failed.
Why unlimited holiday doesn't work
Now, I know what you are thinking... and the answer is no. We aren't scrapping unlimited holiday because everyone sacked off work to go to Bali for 6 months.
In fact, it's mostly the opposite.
1) High performers will perform highly
Put simply – a lot of people just weren't taking enough holiday.
While many people were using the policy as it was intended, there were a number who weren't – we had quite a few people lingering around 21-22 days off per year. Personally, I don't think that's enough to keep you fresh and at the top of your game.
There's some interesting psychology at play here.
Putting a numerical limit on holiday time has a counterintuitive effect. If you are given 25 days holiday that are yours to take, then you are subconsciously motivated to take them. It's some kind of psychological quirk of ownership – when something belongs to you, then you immediately value it far more highly.
Whereas the lack of a number – the very concept of unlimited – potentially meant you didn't value that holiday time in the same way.
The people we hire at Charlie are hard-workers who are passionately engaged in their work and careers. In that context, I'm not surprised some people weren't being conscious enough about their time off. Without that numerical allowance, there's no visual cue for you to refer to, no number hanging over your head.
As one team member pointed out in our company survey:
“'Unlimited' means there's all this possibility... there's so much choice, that you never choose”.
You have all the time off in the world, and all the time to take it in... so you don't.
2) It opens the door to unfairness
We provided unlimited time off so individuals had the freedom to do what they needed in order to do their best work.
But what we perhaps didn't appreciate at the outset was that holidays aren't singularly about the individuals taking time off. It also affects everyone else in their team and everyone across the company as a whole.
While one person might only want to take 20 days off in a year, someone else might feel they need 30. But when one person is away, their work needs to be covered – and it's the person still in the office who takes up the slack.
There's another aspect to this as well. As with every business, Charlie is made up of many different roles that demand very different skill sets and levels of expertise, and we pay people accordingly. This naturally means there is a wide range of salaries across the business.
What this meant in practice was a gap between those who could afford to take lots of holiday and those who could not.
But how much you are paid shouldn’t be relevant to how much holiday you take – that was never how unlimited holiday was intended to work.
3) The anxiety of not knowing the limits
I think this is really the clincher within the whole debate.
Numerical limits on holiday allowance don't just define how many days you have to take that year – they also help define what is acceptable behaviour. They act as a company's handrail, letting everyone know just where the edge is so they can feel confident about where they stand. Unlimited holiday policies take that handrail away.
This was a theme that came up again and again in our internal survey.
"I always felt a little nervous asking for time off because I wasn't really sure if I was asking for too much – I didn't know what the norm was".
"I remember guessing at whether I was taking the mick... and what other people across the company would think of my usage? I felt like I was somehow doing something against the best interest of the company and my team-mates."
This was a real kicker. We provided unlimited holiday to try and make sure everyone was always at their freshest. The fact that it was causing so much anxiety was a big problem – if you're fretting every time you book a holiday, then you aren't relaxing properly.
4) Unlimited doesn’t really mean unlimited
Now this is the tricky part.
Because ‘unlimited holiday’ cannot really mean unlimited holiday. It just can’t. The reality of running a business dictates there will be occasions we need our team not to go away.
What ‘unlimited’ really means in this context is “we’re not counting”. But using that word meant our team leads felt they had no grounds on which to deny holiday requests if that request went against the needs of the business.
In that context, a team lead denying a holiday request became so much more personal than it would be otherwise. It wasn’t just “ah, sadly you can’t go away on that date”. Instead, it became “No. And I don’t trust your decision-making on this”.
For us, and the culture we’re trying to build at Charlie, those conversations are too fraught to be baked into our holiday policy. It was making life more difficult than it needed to be – for everyone.
So... Could unlimited holiday work?
I expect at least a few people reading this might be looking at this policy for their own company, or maybe learn how to run theirs better. So I guess their question is this: can unlimited holiday work?
I can’t speak for every company out there – but for Charlie, I think the answer is no. We had a really good crack at unlimited holiday, and personally I’m not sure where else we could have taken it.
There are bigger companies than Charlie out there happily using unlimited holiday policies. Many of them have been around a lot longer than us, and are successful enough to lend the idea some serious weight.
Companies like Netflix and LinkedIn have obviously found a way to make it work for them, but I don’t think it’s the right policy for Charlie. I think the system leaves all the emphasis on the individual to make the right call, and that decision will always contain just a little too much anxiety.
So where do we go from here?
For a little while at least, we thought we knew the answer to the time off question. Now, I’m a little less sure.
In my next post, I'm going to be looking at where we go from here. If we tried unlimited holiday and it broke, then what do we replace it with?
We’ve already unveiled our new holiday policy to our team, and I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the solution we’ve designed. But we won’t know for sure how it plays out in practice until we start using it for real.
Make sure you don’t miss Part 2 by subscribing to The Workspace Newsletter. Want to share your thoughts on unlimited holiday policies? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In startup culture, ‘hard work’ is something of a sacred cow. It's been this way for a long time but in recent years that emphasis has only grown stronger - at companies like Revolut the concept of hard graft is now all but venerated. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is essential to startup success - but a common mistake that so many make is to equate flexibility with ‘slacking off’. Whether you realise it or not, that mindset is forcing good people out of your business.
Six years ago, I joined an ambitious young startup called Songkick. Back then, I had all the hunger and drive of every other twenty-something cliché in an up-and-coming, high-growth tech company.
I was able to pour myself into the job. For those who have never worked in tech, the industry comes packaged up in a particular culture; one of long days and intense hours. Your work comes home with you, to the pub, to the park, and pretty much anywhere a colleague is.
At the time, I was free to do this because I had little to no responsibilities. Fast forward to today, and things are a little different.
I still work at an ambitious startup. I still work hard. The difference is now I have three children, a mortgage, and all the other moving pieces that come with that. Those changes have dramatically affected the way I can do my work.
I no longer have the elasticity of schedule that I possessed during my youth - I can’t just throw time at a problem until it gives way. As much as I may want to be in the office working on something to completion, sometimes I have to close the laptop and head home.
About a year ago, that battle between work and home came to a head. I was walking a tightrope, trying to balance my responsibilities as Head of Product at Charlie with my ever increasing responsibilities as a father and husband. Every day, I would leave the house before my kids had finished breakfast, and arrive home long after they'd gone to bed. Eventually, that tightrope began to fray.
This wasn’t an easy time for me - I was caught in the middle between what seemed like two diverging forces. The company I loved was moving in one direction, while my family was headed in the opposite direction. I was left in the middle, trying to hold everything together.
This problem was by no means unique to me or to Charlie. In fact, I think it’s something every young startup will have to wrestle with eventually.
Within startup culture, hard work can be held up on a pedestal - the ideal that everyone is asked to hold themselves to. And there’s no problem with that: we work hard at Charlie, and we actively urge one another to commit with intensity and energy.
What is problematic is the side-effect of that commitment - a spillover viewpoint that encourages you to equate ‘hard work’ with longer hours.
That view is driving people out of your company.
This isn’t simply a theoretical problem; it’s a reality. When the tightrope I was walking eventually snapped, I booked a meeting with our COO, Ben Gateley. I told him that as things stood, I wasn’t able to commit to Charlie in the way I wanted to. I was very close to walking away and looking for a job elsewhere.
The fact that I didn’t is a testament to Charlie’s willingness to think outside the box. Ben and I found a solution together - but I wonder how many people even get as far as having that conversation? How many people reach the same tipping point… then polish up their CV, and leave the all-or-nothing tech bubble for good?
A better way
The good news for founders is that it is a lot easier than you think to accommodate enough flexibility - both in your communication, and your company culture - so people don’t have to make those trade-offs.
Be honest with yourself - nobody is capable of maximum productivity at all hours of the day.
Energy ebbs and flows, inspiration goes through peaks and troughs, and different tasks present different challenges. Achieving that state of peak flow can be easier or harder depending on the context and environment.
Rather than deny this, challenge your own assumptions about what it means to be more flexible. It’s all too easy to assume that ‘flexibility’ is just a euphemism for ‘slacking-off’. I believe that’s a mistake.
2. Allow your team to own the solution
When I went to Ben with my dilemma I was in a mood of glum resignation. It felt like the diverging responsibilities I had to my work and my family were irreconcilable.
But instead of digging in his heels and telling me all the many reasons why things couldn’t change, Ben did the opposite. He asked me to suggest a solution, then own the delivery of that solution across the company.
This flipped my state of mind completely. I was no longer dealing with an irreconcilable difference, but a project I was free to approach on my own terms.
Together with my wife, Lizzie, we worked through exactly what I would need from Charlie in order to continue working there and laid out how that would, in turn, pay back to the company in increased productivity and a fresher mind when in the office.
The end result was a form of flexible working pattern we call ‘core hours’. But the exact details of the arrangement we struck upon isn’t really the issue. What’s crucial is that Charlie allowed me to own the problem, then gave me the chance to deliver the solution.
3. Attack presenteeism
It’s all too easy to see someone at their desk after everyone else has left and think: “that’s what real dedication looks like”. In reality, it’s not that simple.
Earlier in my career, I could afford to let myself be sidetracked by small problems, to procrastinate or be lazy about prioritising my time. After all, I could just stay late and make up the time.
It’s possible that I fooled others, but I wasn’t under any illusion: working later didn’t necessarily mean I was working harder.
This is the trap of presenteeism - the mistake of equating visible desk hours with output. It is the founder’s responsibility to make sure their company doesn’t fall into that trap.
Place your emphasis on output - not on hours worked. Or to go one better: define the outcomes you want, and then give your team the freedom to work out the best way to achieve them.
4. Define what success looks like
This is perhaps the most crucial part of the process. How can companies be sure that new flexible working arrangements are actually working?
I’ve already touched on just how jumpy tech companies can be about anything that could be mistaken for taking their foot off the pedal. For that reason, knowing that flexible working produces results - and being able to prove it - is a serious issue, and we defined several success criteria upfront.
After a two-week trial, I’d asked a colleague outside my immediate team to act as an impartial surveyor: she polled my teammates, asking them if they thought the new changes had a detrimental impact on their work or my own performance.
Overwhelmingly, the answer was no (phew!) - although there were some excellent suggestions about how I could get better at communicating where I would be and when.
Flexibility is not a dirty word
I never wanted to leave my job. What I wanted to get away from was a culture that felt incompatible with my family life. The fact that my company was willing to make the changes I needed is testament to its founders and a credit to the open culture of communication they have fostered there.
But I’m certain there are many other Product Managers facing much the same dilemma who won’t get as far as having that conversation. If you want to keep them, then you need to look at making your workplace more flexible. Those people want to work, and want to work hard - but they won’t stick around if it means sacrificing their family life.
You’ve probably noticed the blog is looking a little different these days. What you’re seeing is the Charlie blog, reimagined for future: created to showcase the best and most vital writing from the world of People, Operations and HR.
When we launched CharlieHR in 2015, we had a very clear goal in mind. We were here to make it easier to build and run small businesses - to banish the administrative headaches that mount up as your company scales.
As Charlie has grown, the scope of that mission has naturally grown with us. We’ve always understood there was more to good HR than just automating admin - our founders have been building small companies for years and if one thing was clear, it was this:
When it comes to building a truly great place to work, the banner of ‘Human Resources’ barely even scratches the surface.
Building a great place to work encompasses hiring, interviewing, onboarding and everything else it takes to find and keep great people.
It accounts for individual development and progression, as well as helping people grow both personally and professionally.
It spans nurturing relationships, building teams, and then helping those teams do amazing work together. Underpinning all of this is the indefinable, ungraspable concept of ‘culture’.
The scope of this work is deep, and its breadth is wide. But the more we immersed ourselves in this field, the clearer it became there was no one place to learn about these ideas. There’s no single forum to read the latest arguments and air your own thoughts, no central hub to compare challenges and swap solutions.
So - we decided to build it ourselves.
The old blog - which listed content in reverse chronological order, cramped our illustrations with crowded formatting, and provided limited navigation - has been put out to pasture.
In its place, we have a new design. One that not only showcases the sheer breadth of thought and debate within the world of HR, but also makes it easier for you to discover and read it.
Welcome to The Workspace
From early on in the design process, we tried to develop a broad understanding of what we wanted the blog to look, sound, and feel like. To get started, we went back to the very earliest iterations of the CharlieHR personality.
Among all the briefing docs and style guides, this quote stood out.
“What was this thing we’re trying to build? It was essentially the best person you’ve ever met. They’re smart, but not a show-off. They get things done, without bragging. They’re attractive, but not arrogant. They’re funny, but at the right times. They’re cool, but not so hip that you’re intimidated.” - Tom Carrington-Smith, Charlie Co-founder.
While it was no good to just ape the original personality of the CharlieHR product, it was the right place to start. Charlie is a character built on clarity of communication and a crystal clear UX; a friendly and approachable touchpoint for team members.
The Workspace was something else - connected, but different. It would be a platform for many different voices from the world of HR, a sounding board for ideas, an exchange of competing (and sometimes conflicting) viewpoints.
If Charlie is the ‘perfect person’, then The Workspace would be the conversations they have and the arguments they follow - the lively debates that happen around their dinner table.
With this idea in mind, we nailed the spirit of The Workspace down to three words.
Bold - The Workspace is home to the newest and bravest ideas in HR - it is opinionated, straightforward and confident.
Informed - The Workspace thinks critically about everything we write about - it talks not only about what is done, but what works best.
Hopeful - The Workspace is hopeful about the new shape of work, and believes in a better way of building and running businesses.
Making it real
When it came to putting these ideas into practice, the first task on our list was deciding what this new space would look like, and how it would be laid out.
First and foremost, we wanted it to be a true hub - a destination in its own right. We wanted our audience to come to The Workspace and lose themselves in a topic, encouraged by a reading experience that immersed them in the subject they were exploring.
To this end, we structured the blog around three themes:
Culture: Create a workplace that your team loves
Operations: Everything that makes your company tick.
Performance: Help your team deliver their best work.
While by no means all-encompassing, we feel these themes structure our content in a way that is at least discoverable. On other blogs, that end had been taken to the other extreme - sub-categorisation to the fragmented nth degree, making discovery harder and trickier rather than smoother and cleaner.
With each theme hosted on its own designated homepage, we were able to cut away some of the noise that plagues other blogs in this space. Meanwhile, with each post serving up a set of suggested reads at the bottom of the page, we hope our readers will be able to travel easily through the themes that interest them.
Over and above navigation, we wanted to ensure that reading the blog was an engaging experience. In the blog’s previous iteration, our illustrations were hamstrung by a busy and cluttered layout. Now, they are given centre stage.
At a more technical level, we optimised our ‘characters per line’ to around 60 and honed our vertical spacing to keep our content clean. On the home page we incorporated suggested read lengths, to ensure the content always respects our reader’s time. Meanwhile, a new integration with Pocket makes it easier for you to read our writing when and where you prefer.
Finally, we made sure to include more info on the post’s author, to help reinforce a fact that is often overlooked - that HR content is about people, writing about other people.
The Workspace is by no means a finished project. It will inevitably grow, change and adapt as we better understand what our readers want from it. We’re excited to see where it goes.
The Charlie blog is dead. Long live The Workspace.
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