Work-Life Integration

Are you thinking that this is another new buzz-word? Not really, it’s just the way that one leader describes the balance between personal time and work time, a value that his company lives. Enlighten leadership for the new century – more than one company is breaking with past practices and recognizing that the 21st century workforce wants more from life than just work.

Chad Dickerson is the CEO of Etsy, one of the largest and fastest-growing commerce sites on the Web – a technology platform where artisans can sell their crafts, such as handmade jewelry, clothing and art. In 2013, the Etsy marketplace saw more than $1.35 billion in sales and the company went public in April 2015.

Etsy is very much a values-based culture committed to delivering social good. Many of its artisans are parents taking care of kids at home while making and selling things on Etsy. Flexibility is important to them – having time to spend with their families while doing something they love that provides an income stream. Thus, work-life integration – being able to integrate those two sides of your life into a coherent whole.

In 2012, Dickerson demonstrated his values and the company’s values through actions and not just words. He took paternity leave when he and his wife were adopting a child – a decision that the Etsy board supported and which meant a lot to the roughly 600 Etsy employees.

In Portland, OR the offices of Treehouse, a fast-growing tech company offering online courses in computer coding, are closed every Friday. It’s been this way since 2005 when Ryan Carson founded the company. The 80+ employees work a 32-hour work week Monday through Thursday and on Fridays are expected to be home, with their families, having fun, doing something, anything, other than work. Carson spends Fridays with his wife after getting their two young sons off to school.

Carson is one of a handful of tech entrepreneurs seeking to disrupt the grueling tech start-up culture that has been wedded to the idea that toiling faster and longer is the only way to hit it big. They want to work smarter, not harder. As one of Treehouse’s investors, Chamath Palihapitiya, puts it “The most forward thinking and successful companies are realizing that giving employees more time to be creative and connected to other things besides their job creates a better and more productive employee. Ryan just had the courage to go and do that.”

Is it working? So far, Treehouse is thriving with 103,000 students enrolled in Treehouse courses. It has raised $13 million, saw 100 percent revenue growth last year and has close to 100 percent employee retention.
Carson understands the pull of work, especially when you’re passionate about what you do. “I love my work and I could work crazy hours. But the kids are growing up fast,” he said. “And when I sit down and imagine my gravestone — what do I want it to be about? Metrics and money? Or relationships. It’s really that simple.”

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