I'm on record as having a game plan for helping your company become a Great Place to Work. See that Kinetix whitepaper here.
One of the easy ways to buy attention that stacks up towards a GPTW award is to give more vacation time then reasonable companies are inclined to provide. That leads to big vacation packages, the no set vacation package (take it when you want it!) and all the other flavors that you've seen toward the GPTW goal, wished you could give, then gradually grew to hate because you work at a standard place that can't buy GPTW attention (or decides not to).
But one vacation policy recently caught my eye - a week off ever quarter in addition to the company's standard vacation policies at a startup called Quirky. Notes from the CEO of Quirky:
"We’ve found that our cadence as a business is very centered around 90 day sprints. Retail seems to have 4 major seasons, our best products seem to be baked in 90 day time frames, the longest we can lock in tactical plans without completely guessing as to what products we will be talking about/investing in is quarterly.
Pressure slowly builds throughout these 90 day periods, culminating in an extremely stressful and magically productive final 2-3 weeks of a calendar quarter. It’s been this way for 3 years.
Historically, we’ve jumped right back into it. But beginning in 2013, the first week of every new calendar quarter will be lights out.
We are going to shut down the entire machine for 4 weeks next year. Instead of running for 52, it will run for 48.
This is a full, mandatory shutdown of all internal activities. Lights out. Deep breath.
Time for us to explore other creative interests. Relax without worrying about what we’re missing. Time for us to get our head back into the game. For some of us, time for us to clean our apartments, see the dentist, and buy a new pair of kicks."
I know. You hate it. "I got your kicks right here" is what you are saying. I hate these guys and gals too. For being small. For being edgy. Most of all for doing sh#t that puts pressure on everybody else.
But here's the thing. This one actually makes sense. They're doing the smart business thing for their type of business.
Software development shops run in what are known as sprints. The product team decides what's going into the next release, and the development team literally "sprints" across a defined period to get the roadmap features built. In shops like these, it's more than a 40-50 hour week to get it done - for the entire sprint period.
Shutting down at the end of the clearly defined sprint period is actually pretty smart and innovative.
So why I'd love to scream, "GIMMICK" from the top of my building like so many other countless vacation policies that are chasing the Great Place to Work designation, I can't on this one.
Shutting down once a quarter actually makes sense for a software development shop.