Paul Rhodes is the founder and developer of health and wellbeing platform, WellGiving, and Technical Director of established Ruby on Rails software firm, Green Gorilla Software. After his extensive experience with developing bespoke software solutions for businesses, Paul wanted to create a product that would help to connect remote and hybrid teams amidst the pandemic. The WellGiving platform was born to encourage and improve the mental and physical health of employees, offering teams an accessible way to partake in fun fitness challenges and create much needed water cooler moments.
What defines your way of doing business?
At the core of everything we do is the idea that “there is always another way”. As a founder, your job is to validate or disqualify your ideas and assumptions by putting them to the test, and let the market decide what they want and how much they are prepared to pay for it. It’s this mentality that has led us to create a solution that is the complete opposite to many of our competitors – it may sound like a cliché, but when everyone else zigs, we zag.
This is also reflected in how we conduct ourselves internally as a business. At the heart of everything we do is transparency and equality. We have developed a truly remote, flexible and open way of working where all ideas and issues are discussed openly. This has led to some unbelievable engagement and opportunity, and this approach translates into sales, too.
Green Gorilla Software has been an early proponent of remote working, what was the motivation behind this?
When we first started, our development company was fully office-based. We initially trialled a flexible model in 2014 purely due to pragmatic reasons including poor transport links and a key member of our team becoming a father. I wanted to not only accommodate that developer’s new lifestyle, but also extend those benefits to everyone on the team. This gradually transitioned into a fully remote model in 2015, when we realised just how much this would increase the pool of talent available to us, helping us attract and retain those key employees.
This same ethos is at the heart of our reasoning for switching to a 4-day week. It was raised by one member of the team, discussed and evaluated, then eventually offered to everyone. We believe this transition will continue to build on our culture of flexibility.
What has your approach been to implementing a 4-day working week?
As a company, I believe we are truly flexible. Everyone in our team knows our values and knows what is expected of them, and I think it’s far more important to create an environment that promotes this rather than micro-managing when staff choose to work their contracted hours. We’ve transitioned naturally into a 4-day week because of the culture of balance and trust we have already fostered over the years.
Coming from the tech industry, we are used to a process of iteration and improvement, and this has definitely played a major role in how we have rolled out flexible and remote work, and now a 4-day week.
What benefits and challenges has this change bought with it?
The reaction from employees has, unsurprisingly, been overwhelmingly positive, as it affords everyone much greater freedom in their work schedules, and allows them to fit work around other responsibilities and commitments. On a personal level, this is particularly important to me, as one of our company values is equality. If I’ve never missed one of my kid’s sports days, why should any of my employees?
We’ve already seen a marked increase in productivity and performance, and this is directly feeding into the results we are able to deliver for our clients and on the projects we create.
Because we had already integrated a fully remote model early on, we haven’t encountered any major challenges to rolling out a 4-day week. I think this is also in part due to the fact that we are honest and open with our clients, which has enabled us to communicate expectations to them early on.
As a company, we leave it up to each individual to determine their own work schedule, and this has been no different with the 4-day week. Not everyone wants to work 4 days, and for some they’ve chosen to use that time as a day of calm, with no meetings or other interruptions, affording them the opportunity for deep, focussed work.
How can businesses make the switch to a 4-day week themselves?
The working landscape has undoubtedly changed, and there has been a major shift in employee expectations, whether through a greater expectation of flexible working options, working from home full time, or working 4 days a week. I think it is now up to businesses to adapt to these changing expectations of their workforces not only to benefit their existing workers, but also to retain that competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent.
While I’ve seen a lot of companies exploring options for flexible work, or even looking to implement a 4-day week, many lack any pre-existing culture of flexibility, which poses a host of challenges when they come to implement these policies. The key for us is flexibility, not just a 4-day week. We enable a culture in which work fits around the lives of our staff in a calm and measured way that breeds quality. The majority of businesses that I’ve seen talk about transitioning to a 4-day week aren’t actually that flexible to begin with, with many proposing a system of 8am to 6pm at a desk in the office, with a 30-minute lunch. For us, the goal is fitting in periods of quality work around school runs, doctors appointments and life in general for our staff.
I think the best approach is to set clear expectations for staff, while promoting a work culture of openness and equality at every level of the organisation and allowing staff real input on when and how they work. Our ethos and passion is to deliver quality, and the key to this is calm, deep periods of productive work – when this occurs will be different for each of our employees and for many, those moments do not suddenly happen between 9am and 5pm.