Free swim in the workplace: 37signals gives over June to creativity

One of my favorite companies — 37signals — just moved up another notch in my estimation, declaring the entire month of June as an opportunity for experimentation and, apologies to Merlin Mann, blue-sky imagineering. 

This June will be a full month of free time to think, explore, mock up, prototype, whatever. People can go solo or put together a team – it’s entirely up to them. This is a month to unwind and create without the external pressures of other ongoing projects or expectations. We’re effectively taking a month off from non-essential scheduled/assigned work to see what we can do with no schedule/assignments whatsoever.

Some companies are famous for their 20% time where employees get 1/5th of their time to work on their own projects. In spirit I like this idea, but usually it’s executed by carving out a day here or a day there – or every Friday, for example – to work on your own projects.

But all time isn’t equal. I’d take 5 days in a row over 5 days spread out over 5 weeks. So our theory is that we’ll see better results when people have a long stretch of uninterrupted time. A month includes time to think, not just time to squeeze in some personal work around the edges.

The culmination of this month of free work time is Pitchday – the first Thursday in July. That’s when everyone will get a chance to pitch their idea, mockup, prototype, or proof of concept to the whole company. The better the pitch, the more likely the project will happen.

Awesome idea, and a bold (and expensive) move. I can’t wait to read about what comes out of this.

Photo: By Ville Miettinen. Creative Commons license.

Tim Windsor

VP, Content & Conversion at LendingPoint LLC
I lead media companies and other organizations that want to develop and improve their mobile and digital strategies and technologies, grow audience, and build sustainable digital revenue.