Four Kitchens

Is work-life balance possible in web development? It is at Four Kitchens

5 Min. ReadWork life

Of the many lessons drawn from the pandemic, the most enduring may be the simplest: Work isn’t everything

Obviously, if you’re viewing your work-life balance sheet with the right perspective, it never was. But as we’ve seen, the world changes fast. Whether we’re talking about public health or the unpredictability of life, any workplace has to be flexible to accommodate what people need

However, old perspectives about the way we all work have started to return. Web development especially has a history colored by late-night coding sessions and sprints that feel more like marathons. Can you create great things in this industry and be there for your family? Or make time to exercise, meditate, and pursue whatever outside activities you need to thrive?

Absolutely — and we know from experience

As you evaluate the next steps for your career, we wanted to offer a deeper view of how our teams have autonomy with their schedules. As long as work demands a trade between time and money, you have a right to be sure that trade is fair.

Flexible schedules should be the norm for every web design and development role

The pandemic forced most organizations to adopt remote work structures. In theory, this also provided everyone with greater flexibility in their day. However, working from home too often proved to be a double-edged sword. You may not have been going into an office, but by working from home, you were never really leaving it either

At Four Kitchens, our teams transitioned to a distributed workplace in 2016 — well before the pandemic forced companies to adapt. As a result, we had time to assess the different personal preferences among employees for the right means of support for more flexibility in their schedule

And contrary to what you might think, this autonomy we provide wasn’t planned as a benefit exclusive to senior staff or those with roles outside of production. We believe that you should be able to enjoy flexibility in how your day is structured regardless of where you fit into a project. All we ask is for you to be present for internal and client meetings and complete your work on time and in a way that doesn’t impede anyone’s progress. The rest is up to you

Your schedule depends on your personal needs. But for us, promising flexibility is more than an attractive line on a job posting. At any interview, we offer a live look at someone’s week-by-week calendar in a comparable role to demonstrate flexibility in action

For example, here’s how one looks for a support engineer:

In this example, standing meetings are blocked out over the course of the week along with a daily standup with the support team. They have also indicated events outside of work, such as upcoming appointments and school pickups. No one schedules meetings over that without the engineer’s approval

You’ll also notice all the empty space at the end of the week. That’s our company-wide block on everyone’s calendar. Nobody has meetings on Fridays.

Flexible work schedules thrive with transparency

There’s no secret ingredient required to provide flexible schedules for everyone in an organization. Realistically, it starts with each individual. You need to be intentional with how you share the time you require to accomplish what you need while building a good relationship with your team

Four Kitchens thrives by ensuring everyone here trusts one another with their work and their day. When something comes up, you have to be able to communicate appropriately about the time you need away from work

Your team members trust that you’ll hold yourself accountable to complete your work. No one’s disappearing into the woods for three days to decompress without first telling the right people. You need to strike a balance between doing what you need and doing your part

Transparency also means being honest with yourself with situations such as illnesses. If you wouldn’t go into an office when you don’t feel well, you shouldn’t power through it from home, either.

Providing the right tools streamlines time management for everyone

Our experience with remote work has allowed us to find a few best practices. Everyone is different, and not everyone will gravitate to the same tools to communicate. The important thing is to find what works best for the entire team

You might find that the easiest way to let your team know about a schedule change will be firing off a quick DM in Slack. Or, we’ve also set up a #whereabouts channel, which allows you the option of widely sharing where you’re going to be on a given day. We want to remove any stigma attached to self-care. If you need to go to therapy or yoga, we encourage you to say so. Or, if you’d rather skip the details, just block off time for an appointment

Google Calendar is our foundational tool to keep everyone on the same page with internal and external meetings. You can also use it to set aside time for your own needs. Here, a lot of people use Clockwise with Slack or their calendar to indirectly communicate blocks of focus time. If someone wants to connect about a project for a few minutes during that time, they can ask. Whether you accept that meeting during that time is up to you.

Flexible schedules start at the client level

Just as transparency is key to setting expectations for our availability, we do the same for every project. We identify our core working hours in agreements so those who work with us know what to expect. If something catches fire (figuratively, of course) and they need to reach someone on our team, we provide an escalation process. But those hours are billed at a higher rate. Setting boundaries is the foundation of a flexible and ultimately successful working relationship. At Four Kitchens, that’s how we like to work with our clients, and how we like to work together. If that sounds like an environment that will also work for you, have a look at our openings. We’re always looking for the next right person to join our team.