Rainbow Socks and Mobile Apps: Why Flexible Culture Matters to Us

By katie simpson on August 19, 2014

Friday was our intern, Jose’s, last day at work. He strolled in a little after nine wearing this:

In many companies, especially in the DC area, his timing and clothing would have raised many eyebrows. But here? No one batted an eye at his timing. Most of us just complimented him on his socks. 

So what’s the deal? Are we actually working here, or just another startup stereotype? Actually, our company culture at GoCanvas is purposefully relaxed, and flexible. Why? Because we get more and better work done.

Work the hours you work best

At GoCanvas, you choose the hours you want to work. Some people, like me, come in the beginning of the day, say around 9, and leave around 5. Others, like our designer Lynn, stroll in around 10:30 or 11 and leave around 6:30 or 7. Everyone comes in at the hours that work best for them. So, if I need a little more sleep, I roll over and go into work a bit later. Everyone still works hard, but we provide our best when we’re our best.

Studies are showing more and more that flexible work options make employees happier and healthier. A recent NIH study showed that employees with flexible work options felt more supported by their supervisors, had more time for family, and more productive in general. Personally, I do my best work earlier in the day, but some of my coworkers are night owls. We create our own schedules to bring our best to the company.

So do we work from home? Not often. While occasionally a snow storm or a head cold happens, it’s important for all of us to be in the office. More often than not, we need to work with each other in order to get things done. One of our sales reps might have to ask a developer a question, or I may need some design help from Lynn. Collaborating online can work, but it’s often slower and less productive. 

This flexibility isn’t the same for everyone. Sales has to be in the office during business hours, to be able to reach customers. But these flexible hours underpin an ethos that runs throughout our company: we trust each other to get work done. We are accountable to each other via our metrics, not how many hours we put in each day. Jose may have come in after 9 am, but he’s often been at the office far after 6 pm, helping to create better mobile apps.

Okay, flexible hours are great, but what’s the deal with the rainbow socks?

When I joined a year ago, casual was the name of the game. Our work attire is generally jeans and t-shirts, maybe some dresses during the summertime. To better understand our casual mentality, I went to a man in our office that was dressed in a John Lennon t-shirt and jeans.

“It was a natural evolution” James Quigley, our CEO, said. “From the beginning, we’ve cared more about what people do than how they dress. If there’s anything we wanted people to share it wasn’t an arbitrary dress code, but a shared company vision.”

As we grow, it’s something that hasn’t changed. Over a year after I joined, I look around our open office. What do I see? I see jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and summer dresses. Everyone focused not on their clothing, but on the work in front of them.

I won’t lie: we have fun together. Halo tournaments happen after hours and we have beer in the fridge (perfect thirst quenchers at 4:30 pm). We come as we are to the office, in all of our wacky varieties. But with all our various hours and fashion senses, we share one thing: a passion to create a great mobile app experience for customers. 

From our CEO to our interns, all of us have our piece in the puzzle for making our product better, stronger, more visible. We measure that in metrics, but it reveals itself as a commitment to the company, to each other, and most importantly to our customers.

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