The term “work-life balance” is a convenient shortcut, but I frequently struggle with that phrase. There is just life. Friends, family, fitness, finance, faith, and fun are all fundamental elements that are thoroughly interwoven. For me, a truly well-designed workplace should allow you to shape your life to maximize returns in those areas and balance them gracefully based upon your own personal priorities and choices.
And that’s not just my preference. There’s lots of research out there showing that in today’s workforce, many employees are demanding flexibility—or at least making important career decisions based on it. According to Fast Company, “One of the non-negotiables modern employees want is flexibility in how and where they work. In fact, many younger employees say they’d take a pay cut for work with flexible hours, and the likelihood they’d stay with a company is dependent on its flexibility programs.” So we’re onto something then.
Bring your definition to work
We were a little ahead of the pack when we designed Modern Tribe to be an engine for individual flexibility. What was our motivation? Well, to explain that, I’ll point to Modern Tribe’s mission: Live Well and Do Good Work. This is our North Star. The partner retreats, leadership retreats, and every group retreat I’ve ever run start with a couple questions. What is your personal definition of success (live well), and is Modern Tribe correctly structured to deliver that? Each individual needs to bring a reasonable grasp of their own values and their optimal approach to living well. It’s no surprise that we find each person’s definition of success and a good life to be fairly unique.
Flexibility & Intention
The value of ‘flexibility’ is only realized if you follow through on making decisions that help you live the kind of life you want. Flexibility is the environment that makes intentional choices possible. If you’re locked into an environment that is rigid, all of your good intentions are worth bubkis.
This relationship between flexibility and intentionality guides our thinking about how to build a successful organization that does great work and enables happy and fulfilled team members. It guides how we structure our meetings, our work allocation, our budget, and our methodologies.
Designing Organizational Flexibility
So how do we as an organization design flexibility into our DNA? To be fair, we have a long running list of experiments and wins, and a long litany of fails.
As long as your carefully communicate expectations with your team and meet your deadlines, you get to design a working schedule that makes sense for your life. Be a night owl. Work summer hours. Your day is yours to shape.
I don’t care where you work as long as you have a functional work environment and are available for your team an average of 3 hours a day. I walk the talk, living on a small island off the coast of Africa.
Full time, part time, contract, employee … we believe in creating a variety of working structures to accommodate each person’s definition of “live well.” While in a lot of companies, these contracts come with status or social implications, at Tribe, if you’re doing good work, you will always have an equal seat at the table.
We have designed Modern Tribe for longevity. My own personal definition of living well is grounded in adventure. Those two values combined have led to diverse lines of business. So when someone is tired of working on the same team or project, or wants to shift from Agency to Products or to R+D, we can plan for a thoughtful transition to help them meet their new goals. They have more career choices than would normally be available at an org our size.
Our health plan for full-time US staff is paid in cold hard (digital) tax-deductible cash so you can leverage it in a way that makes the most sense for your family.
We have a single bucket for all the time people need and no set holidays. Take your time when it makes sense for where you live, your family and your own schedule. We’re also exploring an option for staff to choose how they want to balance salary and PTO to create a compensation model that reflects their priorities.
We share a fair bit of financials and other company information with everyone. That serves as a vehicle for informing people so that they can make thoughtful decisions.
Got Ideas? We run a live well survey within the org every year to understand where people feel the freedom to choose and where the system or the world is misaligned. We can always be better! If you have any ideas we should consider, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn and share your suggestions.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have the flexibility and freedom to work on cool projects and make money while traversing the planet as a digital nomad. I love sharing experiences with friends and coworkers and family, meeting new people, learning about new places, wandering through stunning landscapes, and always bringing my dog along to ‘the office.’ I work at Modern Tribe because I value living a joyful life—which includes doing good work— and I’m so grateful to share those values with my team and my company.”
How Choice and Work Come Together
A two-way street
So where am I going with all this preaching?
Designing flexibility into an organization in order to empower people to live well is a two-way street. As a company, we work our asses off to provide a platform that allows people to make choices that lead to a good life. It’s an ongoing journey, and we will never stop refining. Our team has to leverage flexibility in a way that makes sense for them. And give meaningful feedback when it doesn’t.
We won’t ever tell you how you should live well. As a friend or mentor, I will definitely help someone who asks me to participate in crafting their own definition of what it means to live well. Otherwise, your definition of “live well” isn’t something Modern Tribe can or should create for you. That is on you and is a key part of your contribution. You don’t even have to share it. Just live it.
Flexibility is empowering. But it’s also a ton of responsibility. When you’re given the opportunity to make your own choices, all of your strengths and weaknesses are amplified. I love the puzzles that live at the crossroads of people and technology, so I’m easily consumed by my work. The flexibility we create can be dangerous territory for people like me. It’s entirely normal to be temporarily out of balance as we stretch to hit new milestones in life or as life hits us unexpectedly with stones. While life can shimmy back and forth, it’s critical to leverage your choices to ensure you are going to live well over the long term.
Modern Tribe has let me shape my schedule to surf most days and move my family to a small island off of Africa. It lets Jonathan homeschool his children. Carly trained to a 7th Boston Marathon finish. Ryan worked from Cuba this summer. Eryn balances a newborn without sacrificing work opportunities. Gary watches (almost) every Space X launch. Kyle is remodeling his house in the mornings with his wife. Matt climbs his mountains. Chris decreases our fish population one at a time. Karen gets to wander around Bali. Rachel takes afternoon bike rides. There are hundreds of moments, and I’d love to learn about them all. Flexibility isn’t always about the big things. It is the many little things which add up that make life something special. It is a platform we constantly refine to empower you to Live Well and Do Good Work.
If you aren’t at Modern Tribe (yet), are you taking advantage of your organization’s flexibility to create the best life you can?
Every two years my family takes a big trip to another country for a month or two so our children can learn about other cultures and experience a new and different way of life. This past Spring we spent a month in Shanghai, China. The flexibility and work life balance that Modern Tribe promotes enabled me to take this special time with my family. I am so thankful to have a job that allows me to take the time to go on these trips.”
Ryan spent several weeks in Cuba this summer, joining his wife for her intensive research trip in Havana’s archives. With the flexibility in location and schedule, Ryan split his time between exploring the culture and working remotely.
Jonathan flexes his schedule so he can be fully engaged in home schooling his kids. Working from home means educational moments can be more spontaneous — and often more fun.
Joel was able to relocate to Madrid with his partner without having to add a job change to the mix. “My flex time allows me to take advantage of our time zone differences so we can do fun things like theater, restaurants, and just walking around beautiful Madrid.”
I personally identify flexibility as the organizational principle that offers individual choice. Intentional choice is the cornerstone of your and my freedom.
It is so easy for the urgent and the rote to dominate our days. Make sure you carve out time for those things you consider truly important. And if the life you have chosen doesn’t ever let you move those forward and you are part of our team, then let’s sit down and figure out how we can realign Modern Tribe to help you prioritize them. Don’t work with us (yet)? Communicate your vision to your team. Who knows, they might surprise you in their willingness to support your journey.
Or if a fresh start sounds like a better path for you, I invite you to learn more about flexible opportunities with Modern Tribe.