Why You Deserve Unlimited PTO And 32-Hour Workweeks

In early 2017, I sold everything I owned and booked a one-way plane ticket to Europe with my wife and 9-month old son. We spent the better part of the year living in Italy, Scotland, and Spain. In retrospect, it was one of the most life-changes decisions I ever made.

Photos by Hannah Brooks

One of my most impactful memories is of living in the little coastal town of Lerici in Italy. Every day, our family would take a late afternoon walk along a gently meandering path that encircled the town’s harbor which opened into the Mediterranean.

Without fail, the entire town would be out on the same afternoon walk. Shops and businesses would close. Children, parents, and grandparents would be out eating gelato, taking a walk, enjoying the sun, and embracing life and family in the simplicity of the present moment.

This made a deep impression on me because the unspoken understanding of the Italian culture was that there are greater priorities in life than working, achieving, or building endless amounts of wealth. It didn’t matter that the shops were closed, because no one was going to them anyway. Life and family were being savored and enjoyed.

The always-on workplace culture

This came at a sharp contrast to the “job first, family second” western culture that I came from. I don’t have to tell you that the lines between work and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred with smartphones and tablets constantly interrupting us with work-related emails, texts, and phone calls.

Our Facebook feed is littered with groups and articles related to work. Slack is pinging us as team members in other time zones come online. Even if we don’t engage or respond to these prompts, they continue to invade our lives and demand our attention.

Then there’s the alarming new trend of work-life integration:

For the most part, the strict boundaries that used to exist between our work and personal lives have blurred. But it needs to go further than that. If we spend more time working than doing anything else, then work really is life and life is work.

This kind of thinking saddens me because there’s so much more to life than work. Resigning yourself to this form of work-life integration is workaholism and self-deception. You (and your family and friends) deserve better.

As I learned from the people in the little town of Lerici, the answer is not to concede your own boundaries to ever-encroaching expectations of work and technology. The answer is to re-establish those boundaries and find an environment that helps you protect those boundaries so you can live an intentional, fulfilling life.

This environment is what I set out to create at Brooks Digital.

The Brooks Digital Principles For Meaningful Work and a Fulfilling Life

As the founder, I decided that there were six core values at the heart of what I wanted to create:

  1. Our Work Is Our Legacy
  2. Champion The Family
  3. People Deserve Freedom
  4. We <3 Systems
  5. We Exist To Serve Others
  6. Stay The Course

Here’s what each one means to me:

1) Our Work Is Our Legacy

When we die, I believe the outcomes of our work will be part of our legacy. The people we choose to help matters. The quality of our work matters. How we treat others matters.

In part, this is why I’ve intentionally directed Brooks Digital to work exclusively with nonprofits. By empowering the do-gooders of the world to do more good, each member of our team creates a lasting legacy by making a positive difference in the lives of others.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that I would choose to live again. For me, a big part of that equation is spending my life doing work that I deeply care about.

2) Champion The Family

Me and my then-one-year-old son, Weston, in Italy.

Me and my then-one-year-old son, Weston, in Italy.

Too often, I hear people paying lip service to the idea that family is more important than work. Then they proceed to spend long hours on the job and answer work calls and emails all weekend.

It’s not enough to say that family is important. You have to intentionally build a lifestyle that reflects those priorities. Unfortunately, that’s often an uphill battle in today’s work environment.

At Brooks Digital, everyone has a 32-hour workweek because I believe that your loved ones deserve the BEST version of you when you’re not working.

And frankly, many work environments exert subtle or overt pressure to choose your job over your family by praising you for consistently working late, romanticizing “the grind,” or expecting you to be responsive on Slack, email, or text pretty much all the time.

But your family deserves better than that. They deserve a “you” that’s fully present and available when you’re with them.

3) People Deserve Freedom

As someone who has been a remote worker for almost ten years, I learned that I work best when I have the freedom to create my ideal working environment. I believe extending that freedom to all our team members results in more fulfilled people and happier clients as a result.

This is a huge reason why Brooks Digital is not only 100% remote, but also offers unlimited paid time off. If you want to take time off, you’re free to take time off. It’s that simple.

Providing this level of freedom requires a healthy culture of accountability and an others-focused attitude.

At Brooks Digital, freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever you want, whenever you feel like it. It means you have the amazing flexibility to structure your work in the way that works best for you, within the boundaries of being a responsible team player who doesn’t exercise their freedom at the greater expense of the team.

4) We <3 Systems

When I leave work for the day, I want to sign off feeling productive and fulfilled so I can be fully present with my family. Systems are the way I accomplish this by keeping my work organized, efficient, and effective.

As Sam Carpenter says in Work the System, we are not fire-killers. We are fire prevention specialists. We don’t manage problems, we work on system improvements and system maintenance in order to prevent problems from happening in the first place.

There’s nothing more draining than a chronic problem that stays unresolved. But problems are gifts that inspire us to action. A problem is a sign that we have the opportunity to improve a system.

At Brooks Digital, my goal is to support our team’s ability to fully focus and effortlessly unplug by ensuring we create reliable, efficient systems that enable us to consistently perform at a high level.

5) We Exist To Serve Others

I believe a major component in living a happy, fulfilled life is giving our time, talents, and energy to help other people.

When it comes to work, this means serving our clients by making it ridiculously easy for them to work with us. It means creating an environment where customers feel like they’re doing business with a human, not a machine. It means fostering a culture of transparency where team members and clients don’t feel like they’re being held at arm’s length.

Speaking of giving to others, have you ever noticed how good you feel when you teach another person something new?

I believe everyone is a teacher. Every time we interact with a client or team member, we have the chance to impart our knowledge in a simple and straightforward way that will make them more effective. And by listening and asking “why?”, we uncover the deep motivations of each client request, team member question, or leadership initiative.

6) Stay The Course

Honestly, the hardest thing about all this is actually putting it into practice. Staying the course is all about ensuring that when the rubber meets the road, we’re doing what we say we’re going to do. Deadlines, written or verbal confirmations, and follow-ups happen as promised. Principles are lived out. Visions are achieved.

For me, part of this is about controlling growth to ensure we’re able to keep the culture we set out to create. That means taking the time to make sure things are working smoothly before scaling up, and ensuring we have the right team to keep the company and the culture on track.

Are You In?

In the business community, there’s a lot of team-building buzzwords like the “right people”, “A players”, “superstars”, etc. I simply believe that the right people for the Brooks Digital team are the ones that share our values.

When the right people are on the team, it perpetuates a circle of safety where the culture of family and work-life balance are protected and encouraged. People look out for each other and work to protect the culture that aligns with their values. And by doing so, they enable themselves and others to live more meaningful and purposeful lives.

If you want in, we’re hiring. 🙂

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