Why we do not have bosses and an office, and why we work 4 days a week
In 2008, my partner and I completed a computer engineering degree at a university in Argentina.
In senior courses, we did internships at companies such as HP, IBM, Intel. It was then that we noticed a flaw in their work. We could not understand why people without technical knowledge tell programmers what to do and, moreover, check how they do it.
Therefore, when we did Project eMT , a comparative search engine for Latin America, we decided to work differently: without project managers. Six years later, our team had 34 engineers from Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, and we still work without the use of traditional structures and work schedules, and our annual growth is 204%.
At large technology companies, we often observed how programmers did things quickly and poorly and received encouragement from management. Over time, this leads to the standard: "do it badly, but quickly."
Larry Page said: “Project managers with limited technical knowledge should not be above engineers.”
On the other hand, as programmers, we were very tired that the authorities arranged meetings at any time they wanted to.
The developer needs an average of four hours of continuous work for productive activities. Therefore, ideally, the programmer should work from 9 to 13, and then from 14 to 18, to achieve maximum efficiency.
If, for example, the boss makes an appointment at 11 a.m., the morning is lost, because I need to prepare for it, be there, say hello to everyone, discuss problems, go back to the workplace and continue from where I graduated. With all this fucking shit, morning is lost.
Paul Graham, entrepreneur, programmer and founder of YCombinator, said: "For a programmer, the cost of a meeting is always higher."
In truth, in the beginning the office was not available to us. We simply did not have the funds in the early stages to rent an office.
This continued until the second year, when we were able to enter the office with all kinds of goodies that we had long dreamed of (ping-pong tables, video games, cooks in cafes, a gymnasium and healthy TVs). This stage lasted only eight months, and then we decided to return to remote work, for several reasons.
To begin with, the road - no matter, by public transport, or in your car - took an average of an hour there and an hour back. That is, with a 9-hour working day, we spent 22% of the time moving. The cost of road and office rental was added to the cost.
But economic reasons are not the most important. The main reason was the fatigue that accumulated from these movements. This time could be used much better, for example, to communicate with family.
Now people from five countries work for us, and we believe that the habit of working remotely will allow us to grow further.
Four-day work week.
Reducing the number of days in a work week is our recent innovation. We have been working like this for the past two years and it has been a great solution.
At the dawn of industrialization, people believed that the more they work, the better the results - therefore, everyone works for 5 days and only 2 days are left to rest. In a technology project like ours, “more” does not always mean “better”.
We need engineers who are satisfied with the work and motivated for quality performance. We are not interested in quantity, quality is important to us.
This is fully consistent with the goal of hiring the best programmers. Such working conditions allow us to hire the best and as a result we have an extremely low percentage of staff turnover.
In our experience, an excellent programmer solves a problem twice as fast as average, and with better quality.
In addition, we are tired of hearing about the balancing between work and family time. For us, it was a great answer to an eternal problem - now you can spend 50% more time with your family.
Step by step
1. To begin with, we completely refused meetings. All communication is in writing. No calls, meetings or newsgroups.
This may seem uncomfortable, but we have been working like this for three years and this is absolutely normal for us. We read about how a manufacturing company saved the equivalent of approximately 200 salaries by simply reducing the meeting time to 30 minutes, and the maximum number of people at meetings to 7 — and realized that we were on the right track.
2. No agenda. Nobody includes meetings in our working hours and does not change our schedule. The work is organized by each of us, based on knowledge and schedules.
Thus, all communication becomes asynchronous. This means that we can program without interruption, and then, at a convenient time, answer questions.
3. Another important point is that we completely abandoned e-mail. We are tired of using mail as a to-do list. It was not intended for this, and moreover, it was not effectively imprisoned for this.
We have moved from the historical push methodology to the pull mechanism. That is, no one can send me an email demanding to do something. I choose my own business for myself.
Refusal from meetings and emails is ensured by our internal development, which we call iAutonomous. This is an application of the SAAS class, which allows each member of the team to participate in the development and creation of new tasks.
Thus, we all see task lists, progress, and we can create and participate in tasks to bring them to the end.
With this tool we can see who is doing what now. We do not need a boss who says what to do, and also whether we are doing it right or not. We are all programmers, and we know very well how everyone else works.
I believe that our main feature is the quality of the engineers we hire. Their main property is the ability to be proactive. People who work with us are entrepreneurs themselves - they don’t need a person who constantly checks to see if they work.
Inactive engineers harm our work culture. A high-performance engineer wants to work with someone who works even more (and better). We were mistaken in hiring programmers who did not have such qualities. But after a few days, a maximum of weeks, we discovered this. I advise you not to delay working relations that do not add up - this is better for both sides. If programmers need an overseer, they will find a place in another company, with managers.
I advise you to start with such habits immediately - it will be much easier than changing them later.