Why We Prioritize the “Non-Essentials”
It seems like there are never enough hours in the week to get it all done, that's why we make the time. In today's blog we're going to show you how we make time and prioritize the "fun" things here at Bulb.
I've hear far too often about employees who feel like their job is running around putting out fires all day. Their interactions with their boss is essentially to get assigned a new task. They finally come up for air 6 months later to realize they haven't had any check-ins with their boss since the one they had 30 days after being hired. They don't feel connected and might as well just be a pair of hands.
Working hard produces revenue. But it can also have major costs.
There is nothing more powerful than a connected team that is rowing together. That takes a lot of intention and has to be constantly monitored.
I'm writing about this topic because at Bulb Digital we flip the order of operations so much so that we get asked often: "Do you guys work?"
We do. We work hard. But we also have fun and take time with each of our team members.
The Perception vs. Reality of Our Work:
The question comes from seeing us do fun team activities all the time. They see us cooking breakfast, making pizzas, and many other team building outings. They naturally don't see the work part as much. They see our fun and think "Those guys are crazy. I can't even imagine how we could do that, we don't have enough time in the day."
To give it a little more context, here's the makeup of our full-time team members:
- 3 Partners (who still contribute to projects)
- 1 Project Manager
- 3 "Doers" (the hard work team 😏)
- 1 Marketing Coordinator
- 1 Videographer
- 1 Designer
Year to date we've spent roughly 50% of our collective time on client work. The other 50% covers things like marketing, vacation, internal investments (like our Internal Communication Guidebook), and team activities. About 2.5% of that is part of our "watercooler shenanigans" bucket, which we wrote a blog about.
It's still imperfect, and we're constantly looking for ways to improve.
But it works. So, in short, yes, we do work, it's probably just a smaller percentage spent on client work than you might expect.
The Importance of Integrating Fun into Work
It's easy for things like team-building activities to feel like "extras". It feels like they're competing with real work. Or sometimes they're set up as rewards for things like performance - team pizza party anyone?
They don't have to feel like extras. They are essential to our culture, so we refuse to consider them extras. Instead, we "bake them in" to our business. They're "givens" and will happen because we prioritize them first.
Here's a few examples of things that we do that are baked in:
- A monthly birthday breakfast - we celebrate anyone whose birthday is in that month by taking a friday morning to cook hot breakfast in our office. The person with the birthday gets to pick the main dish.
- Quarterly Outings - our party planning committee plans an outing for our team to take a (usually) Friday afternoon to go out and spend time together. We've done escape rooms, river tubing, painting classes, and many more.
- Standups - 3 mornings a week we take 30 mins to check in on what everyone is working on and if anyone has any blockers. It usually starts with a bit of random conversation.
- Quarterly Updates - We gather the team to review what went well last quarter and get alignment around what we'd like to see next quarter.
- Quarterly Retros - We get the team together so everyone can share thoughts around our "sailboat exercise" - what was the wind that carried us forward, what things are anchoring us down, what risks lie ahead, and what is our goal we're trying to get to?
- Lunch and Learn - Every quarter we take lunch to learn about a topic curated by a team member. This can be work-related or not.
To someone who doesn't do these things, it might sound like a LOT. So I'll state it plainly:
These things are essential to who we are as a company, so they need to happen.
Making Time for Fun in Your Schedule
So how do we make time for all these things given all the other work we need to do?
It's all about getting them on our schedule (often in recurring meetings), and declaring them as "big rocks".
If you've heard of the concept of a glass jar being filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand, you know the most important thing about filling your time is what order you put things in the jar. This "good stuff" we're talking about is a big rock. It's going to happen, and our work is going to fill in around it.
Addressing Concerns and Questions
This brings up a lot of questions too.
Could we make more money if we didn't do things this way?
What do we do if we have tight deadlines?
Sometimes things move, but most often they don't. We will never have someone "stay behind" from an event to work. Maybe they'll work a couple extra hours outside of normal work hours if they'd like to (we pay hourly).
Do you pay people for these things?
I'm not trying to really sell this idea, I'm just sharing what works for us. If you've ever heard from your team that they feel like there could be more "extracurriculars", you may have an order of operations problem. Bake those extras into your business from the start.