How we re-designed work culture at SimpliFlying in the last six years (and our bold new experiment)

SimpliFlying has been truly global from the day it began its journey in 2009. Today, have a team of multiple nationalities based in Singapore, India, Spain, Canada and the UK. With such a difference in time zones and upbringing, how do you form a unique company culture?

We decided to be bold

At SimpliFlying, we are not afraid of running bold experiments when it comes to work culture. Our team can work from anywhere in the world, whenever they like. There are no fixed working hours. As long as deadlines are met. It’s hard work, really. We have recently completed a project for a major aviation client in four weeks, which would have taken a traditional firm a year (the results will be seen at Farnborough Air Show)!

The SimpliFlying team gets to travel a lot for work and pleasure too. We have four company retreats a year – the last few were in Agra, Las Vegas, Budapest, and Colombo. Everyone gets weekends and public holidays in their own countries off. The company shuts down for three weeks at the end of the year. And last year, we also instituted unlimited paid vacation for everyone. While everyone was excited about the unlimited vacations, not everyone took the time off voluntarily. So I decided to do something about it.

Instituted vacations – 1 week off every 7 weeks

I was listening to Neil Pasricha discuss his latest book, The Happiness Equation, where he mentions the need to find “space”. It’s when we do nothing – no thinking, no working. Highly productive people go between periods of “space” and high-doing to ensure they don’t get burnt out. For the smart, agile team at SimpliFlying, I wanted to ensure that my top performers don’t face burn out too. The unlimited vacations experiment didn’t seem to work as well as I thought it would. I liked Neil’s idea of space.

The question was, how do we institutionalize “space” in the work environment?

The closest I have heard of this being done is a brilliant TED Talk by New York-based designer Stefan Sagmeister, who takes one year off every seven years.

So I designed a bold new experiment in work culture – the SimpliFlying team will now be required to take a week off for every seven weeks of work. They will not be allowed to answer to any emails, Whatsapp or Slack messages. If they do, they will be penalized and will not be paid for that week of “space”. It’s our attempt forcing our energetic team to take time off. The hope is that they would come back rejuvenated after a week with a friend they might not have seen for long, or an outdoor activity they needed time for, or a painting they’ve been wanting to complete for long. A rejuvenated team member would be much more productive than a tired one.

The initial response from the team has been fantastic.

Having said that, it’s an experiment. Do you think it will work? Have you tried or heard of something similar being tried? What were the results like?

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about life at SimpliFlying, you will enjoy this video:

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