Normally, we talk about code at Oursky, but a discussion about period leave in Hong Kong this spring got us thinking about our team culture. Our first question was, why is this even a debate? Do all companies need to have meetings and legislature to figure this out?
Oursky has 12 female team members who make up about 25% of the company. We solved the problem with a simple e-mail update to the entire company. Not all important issues need discussions before implementing a solution if you have the right company culture. We’d love to share with you how we solved this problem before it even became one.
Period Leave at Oursky: None
Everyone in at Oursky get’s the same morning e-mail notices. Part of Oursky’s policy is that team members e-mail the entire company if they are away from work for any reason (half or full-day). You could receive all these notifications in the same morning:
- AL [annual leave]
- remote work until noon
- [Insert name] sick again today
- I’ll have a physio appointment at [HH:MM]
- Pregnancy doctor’s visit [guys included]
- Period cramps, remote working from home
- Cramps, coming in the afternoon
No questions asked. Instead, reply e-mails are usually condolences and well-wishes!
Team culture saves awkward conversations
Every company wants to have a productive environment. Solving for efficiency has many solutions and depends on the characters of the founders. Me (Ben), Rick, and Roy cared about quality of code, people, and society. Their perspectives shaped the company’s approach to self-management, continually improving one’s code, being socially progressive, and using data-driven methods to make company decisions.
Where does period leave fit into this?
No asshole rule.
The team started with 3 guys, but 25% of the company is now women. We quickly learned that for some people, their time of the month feels like this:
The company has a lot of geeks, so we learn new things from every team member. It can be about photography, making furniture, video gaming, growing plants, or raising cats. They’re part of the family, so we don’t judge.
If we don’t judge people for taking leave for physiotherapy or going to a concert, so there’s no logical reason to stop someone from resting if they can’t focus on work. If someone leaving the office early tells you they’re dying, just step aside and don’t be an asshole.
The other thing is that not everyone has pain when they have their period. Does it make sense to create special leave days?
We’re a medium-sized company where every knows each other, so we trust people to manage themselves. We encourage everyone to be as influential as possible to the company and business.
Our rule of thumb for office hours is that everyone attends their meetings and finishes work. Many team members may work remotely in the morning before going to the office. To help people with productivity, we suggest people track with the free app Toggl.
So no, the period leave isn’t needed because Oursky created a higher framework that was fair to everyone: work from home if you need to, when you need to. Be transparent about your reasons.
Top Quality Code!
Some people might be skeptical. If someone discloses their reasons, will a manager challenge them, or will it affect their promotion? Oursky, like other companies, focuses on productivity and quality. If a team member finishes their work on time, there’s no reason for complaint. Since Oursky works mostly with clients, once the work is done, there is nothing left to do, so employees who take leave won’t “fall behind”.
Instead, we emphasize quality code. A developer who works quickly, but not up to coding standard will not perform well. Taking a day off to refocus would be more productive. We respect individual differences, but when it comes to quality, we expect the same standard from everyone.
Lastly, Oursky is founded and filled with millennials. We believe in social changes and contribute to progressive social projects. We also want our team members to have a life and enjoy what they’re doing. If a team member proposes something that makes them happier and at little cost to the company, we basically won’t say no.
Tips for tech companies to encourage female developers.
Even though you could create a period leave policy, we think that focusing on the company culture is even better. For one thing, female developers are awesome, so you should definitely try to make your company one that they’d want to work in! Below are some of our action item tips:
Don’t think of it as a ‘sick leave’ or anything special. Focus on sticking to your goals and standards, and removing barriers that stop team members from achieving them. If you’re using a data-driven approach, what seems “normal” or not doesn’t really matter!
Make changes without changing anything. Nothing changed at Oursky when team members began announcing period cramps as the reason for leave. Team members took leave like everyone else did and avoided awkward conversations with managers. Change happened overnight and other female team members did the same thing if they felt like it. A solid team culture is when new things are included, rather than added as extra, as part of the company.
Working together is a learning experience. Some of the guys never knew women could have period cramps, but they found out anyway.
Spend energy solving, not judging. We didn’t need a policy because we have a team culture that encourages transparency, quality, and learning. Whether it’s a client project, our own in-house product, a side-project, or a team management issue, we approach problems the same way. Problems can be identified, solutions suggested, and implemented. We don’t judge the person who comes and identifies a problem that stops good performance. They’re doing the company a favour!
Effective team culture empowers action-based solutions rather than heated discussions.
None of our female team members can remember when the notifications started. It’s just a fact of Oursky life. If your company has a great way of supporting female team members, we’d love to hear it.
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