Creating a Family-First Work Culture

Since the early days of babyloania, my cofounder (Zhafira) and I were determined to turn the notion of the workplace on its head. A lot of you can relate to the following schedule:

  • Spend 1,5 hours in morning traffic to the office
  • Spend 9–15 hours at the office, most of it NOT working on anything of lasting importance (be honest, subtracting all the distractions, how many hours of quality work do you actually put in? Of this work, what percentage of it still has an impact 4–5 years from now?)
  • Spend 1,5 hours in evening traffic back home
  • Switch on zombie mode at home until it’s time to sleep
  • Repeat the whole thing the next day
  • Spend weekends recovering from the workweek
  • Repeat the workweek
  • Go on an annual vacation for a hard reset
  • Repeat the workweek

Life outside the office quickly just becomes a venue to decompress and recharge before running the same routines over again. In other words, there is no life outside the office. What’s even more heartbreaking is if you’re a double income family with kids; the kids are left at home or at a daycare with the company of someone who are often less competent in parenting (more on this on a later post).

Having experienced the schedule ourselves and witnessed our friends begrudgingly follow the same, we had 2 beliefs:

  1. We believe that work should be scheduled around life
  2. We believe that technology can enable us to do so

The first thing

we did was commit to not have a physical office space where people have to clock into all day. This immediately crosses off the need to spend more than 10% of their day stuck in Jakarta traffic, and the fatigue and headaches resulting from it, providing more time for creative thinking. To compensate for the lack of office space to commune in, we invest heavily in technology. And by invest heavily, I mean we download free communication apps called WhatsApp, Hangouts and Slack. We then talk. A lot.

Design the business process to fit our crew, not the other way around.

Prior to a potential recruit joining babyloania, we spend a lot of time deliberating whether we can fit in our business process (aka work) into their life schedule. For example, a recent team member quit her job at a blue chip consulting company to care for her 1 year old baby. After the initial competence and culture filtering process, we discussed and set expectations with her regarding the role she would play in babyloania and how to fit it into her daily schedule. The discussion was lengthy, but resulted in a work schedule that neatly wraps around her schedule of caring for a daughter in her golden age.

We also do this in setting the service levels we provide our customers. Babyloania currently only offers pre-bookings at least 3 days in advance. This constitutes the ideal amount of time we need to receive an order, verify payments, prepare the items and deliver. A shorter time frame will mean overtime for our operations team members and work will become less predictable. Of course, we constantly work towards shortening this time frame by refining our business process, investing in ERP software and working closely with partners to reduce this time (we have reduced it from 5 days to 3). Only when we figure out how to do so without compromising our team members’ life schedule, will we offer the new service to customers.

Have partners that are in alignment with our cause.

This working culture is not for everyone. It is therefore important to have partners (employees, third party service providers, investors) understand that this culture directly helps us achieve our cause: to make parenting easier for parents everywhere.

Analogous to wearing your own life vest first before assisting a child in case of airplane emergencies, to successfully help other parents we should be able to help ourselves first. In doing so, we can experience the problems first hand, implement solutions directly and bring them over as a service to offer babyloania’s customers.

Continuously Improve and Evolve.

We understand that this work culture will need a continuous stream of changes and improvements as the company scales. We make sure this happens by asking everyone a simple question every Monday: how will you improve the way you work this week? This leads to a flurry of discussions and implementation plans for the week. By the time of the weekly all-hands meeting on Friday, people that have successfully implemented an improvement will share it to the the whole company.

The math says it all: an improvement of just 1% every workday, will result in an accumulated 1342% improvement by the end of the year.