Every so often (though less often than I’d like), I ask one of my team into my band room, a place I created five years ago where the only rules are honest conversations and unbounded agendas. I built it to nurture my budding interest in playing music, but it’s also a great place to pour a drink, erase the white board, and see where the conversation goes. I believe we do far less of this “undirected conversation” than we should. I find band room sessions deeply productive, even if I’m a bit foggy the morning after.
In any case, last week our head of product Abe came over, and we were riffing on the bigger ideas behind NewCo. He’s quite a bit younger than me, a member of that much-debated “millennial” generation. As a group, millennials were born into digital technology, take climate change as a fact, and are now the most dominant force in the global economy (millennials are the largest single demographic in our economy, ever).
Our conversation turned to work styles, and whether his generation viewed work as “work,” or more as a calling. At NewCo, we believe that work can and should be more than a job, it should be a fulfilling expression of a person’s values and connection to community. Companies that enable that approach to work are NewCos, and we celebrate that idea.
In any case, I brought up the concept of “work life balance,” which has been much in the zeitgeist over the past decade or so. The rise of laptops, then of mobile, has meant work had “invaded” people’s personal and home lives, and most of the mainstream press is filled with hand wringing about what this all means.
But that’s not how Abe saw it. Instead he espoused the concept of work-life integration, a relatively new phrase rising concurrent to the entrance of millennials in our workforce. But as he explained his support for the idea, I realized I’ve been working this way my entire life. It’s fundamental to the entrepreneurial lifestyle – Life is simply life, and if you’re passionate about what you do, then work is part of that life. As you plan your time, you prioritize everything in that life, and because work is no longer bound to one office space during one eight-hour period of time, you can mix and mingle all kinds of experiences – some work, some family, some personal – throughout your waking day.
The flip side of this: If you adopt the philosophy of work-life integration, you must also adopt a philosophy of total individual responsibility. That means understanding how to prioritize things like exercise, nutrition, downtime, and family/friends into a demanding work life. It means that you are willing to be judged not on showing up or managing up, but on the work you deliver to your company. And it means you’ve joined a like-minded group who together have created a company that understands how to thrive in this new environment.
At NewCo, all of us simply assume we live in a work-life integrated world. People come into the office when it makes sense to come in, and they stay home when that works better for them. Conflicts are resolved as they might be between friends – openly and with genuine respect. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, we tell them, and figure out how to resolve it (or part ways). And vacation days are taken when they are needed – no one is counting.
It’s not easy to explain this concept of “work life integration,” but you most certainly will feel it when you run into it. While it certainly isn’t a model that the service industry can adopt (yet), it’s without question the best way to run a startup.