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On workplace flexibility

If you’re a leader of an engineering team, you’ve likely had this survey from HackerRank thrown into your inbox. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably ignored it every time it’s been shared with you.

A few days ago, on a lazy weekend afternoon, I finally sat down and took a hard look at their results — data gleaned from a survey of roughly 40,000 developers. They found that developers are primarily seeking quality of life and opportunities for continued learning in their professional endeavors.

Indeed, this is why I think many top-end developers work as independent professionals — working as a freelancer offers the ability to set one’s own schedule and work on an ever-evolving set of problems. In other words, flexibility.

Flexibility is not just about quality of life
Back in 2009, Paul Graham famously pointed out the value of interrupted thought for software development work.

Our belief is that flexibility — specifically, the ability to determine one's periods of rest and work productivity — is massively important for sustained individual productivity over a multi-year time horizon.

And, with clear KPIs and a results-only work environment, more control over one's schedule and pace should make it easier for strong performers to outperform.

We buy into the mythos of the 10x programmer, and believe that increased flexibility can lead to better software.

What one gives up in pursuit of flexibility
However, flexible work arrangements are not all [insert idiom for nice thing? Roses?] as anybody who has hired a freelance programmer who then suddenly informs you of their upcoming 2-month backpacking excursion can tell you (thanks Rolf Potts!).

Indeed, how should organizations reconcile commitments to customers that require objectives to be met inside of a year or inside of a quarter while simultaneously championing a transcendent ideal such as flexibility?

Our view: balancing flexibility with consistency
Flexibility — while important for many reasons — must be tempered with consistency. In a time where even companies like Deloitte are building flexibility initiatives, we champion the value of building durable arrangements between and within client and freelance teams that end up in between traditional contract work and traditional employment.

We believe this approach strikes the best balance for clients — who care about hiring reliably excellent talent and receiving strong returns on their engineering dollars — and for independent professionals — who care about working on interesting projects and income predictability.

Our view is that workplace flexibility — while good — is not the highest good which an organization ought to champion or for which an individual ought to strive to achieve in their professional life.

So, what is? 

-Teja