In my opinion the best known example of a company which lets their employees work on “personal” projects, is Google. This “Internet juggernaut”, encourages its engineers to take 20 percent of their time to work on a personal project, which is company-related and is of personal interest. Google generated a lot of interest, when they shared information about their “20% time” practice inside the company. I imagine, that many people were quite shocked when they heard about it, especially people who are not from the technology or I.T. sector. It is hard to picture a bank or an accounting office allowing their employees to do this kind of thing!
However, in the technology sector, it makes perfect sense. Aside from certain benefits such as, sparking creativity amongst your employees, preventing burn outs and keeping people happy, this idea increases their knowledge if they use such “non-working” time to tackle new technologies. So, allowing this gives you the opportunity to develop a “new” product like Gmail or Google News (Google claims that 50% of their offerings originate from “20% time”)
In Selleo, we recognize the benefits of applying passion in our everyday work. Back in January this year we decided to “pull a Google” and experiment with the idea. Basically, what we did was we gave everyone in Selleo the option of spending 8 hours a month, on whatever idea or project they chose. We called it “Selleo’s Open Source Day” and originally we scheduled it for every second Saturday of the month (our normal working week is Monday to Friday, but only for “normal hours”). Of course teaming up was highly encouraged.
We have quickly discovered that, although the idea of gathering people together in one place for their “free day”, is a very nice one, it is difficult to implement in practice. Also some people have voiced the fact that splitting the “open source time” into smaller workload chunks gives you a greater perspective, and the ability to approach problems from different angles. This is something which is difficult to achieve when you spend a whole day on your “open source project”, but only once a month. Therefore, we have made some adjustments to our original idea. The principle has stayed mostly the same, we just dumped the “second Saturday of the month” requirement. From now, you could spend your “open source time” on any given day.
At the beginning of April, we decided it was time to invite everyone to a meeting where everyone would have a chance to tell colleagues what cool stuff they had been working on, during Selleo’s Open Source Day. I am writing this short article because I think that the projects of my co workers deserve broader attention. The world should know!