Work Hard. Leave On Time. Everyone Wins.
by Open Work
Parisleaf CEO Chad Paris wanted “the healthiest company in the world.” Here’s how going back to a traditional workday schedule is making that happen.
While some 21st century companies opt for strategies that disrupt the 9-5 workday, Parisleaf, a branding and web design agency in Gainesville, Florida, is embracing the traditional 40-hour-per-week schedule – and that schedule includes a half-hour, catered lunch. “It’s not about work-life balance for this company,” says Allen Shorter, the company’s Senior Project Manager, “It’s about work-life integration.”
Parisleaf’s clients include national leaders in higher education, environmental activism, and technology. The business started small in 2010, and has grown to a dozen staff members who work together to produce award-winning web, print, and video content. From the beginning, co-founder and CEO Chad Paris knew he wanted to have “the healthiest company in the world.” Along with his co-founder and wife, Alison Paris, he’s experimented with policies and procedures to make that goal a reality.
Unlike many creative agencies, Parisleaf only takes on projects that can be planned and executed within their Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. schedule, striving to avoid crunch-time overtime for their employees. A late night in the office is a rare occurrence, partly because the company doesn’t overextend itself and partly because being out of the office by 5:30 p.m. is a company policy. Parisleaf makes this a reality, Shorter says, not just a talking point. “Management brings this up at every interview — if the interviewee hasn’t already brought it up to verify it’s true.”
Several current staff members came to Parisleaf from other agencies where working late was a badge of honor, and that ethic can be hard to shake. Here, though, they find that when everyone else leaves at 5:30 pm, they feel released from any pressure to stay beyond closing time. The regular schedule also helps staff work more intentionally when they are in the office. “We don’t have a lot of watercooler chat or other downtime,” says Marketing Manager Kaley Shorter, “or a lot of personal clutter at work stations. Everyone is committed to being fully present and efficient during the workday. Our personal clutter comes out at lunch.”
A catered, half-hour lunch, held four days a week, is one of the benefits of working at Parisleaf. Free food is definitely a draw, staff acknowledge, but people also show up to learn about what’s happening with co-workers outside of the studio. The staff’s outside activities include music performance, disc golf, community activism, surfing and parenting. The free lunch, Allen says, helps the team “run a tight schedule throughout the day. We keep internal meetings to a minimum. We work in strict cycles of 75-minutes-on/15 minutes-decompress to avoid as much distraction as possible, so we can focus our efforts and schedule projects as efficiently as possible. That midday break is something everyone looks forward to.”
Lunchtime can also be used to check in on a project or set up a meeting with colleagues, but the main focus is social. “I used to eat lunch in front of a computer,” Senior Designer Benji Haselhurst says. “I wanted to work with people.” Shane Buchan, the company’s Web Developer and a new father, echoes this sentiment. “In college, I had time to socialize with college friends. Now, with a full-time job and a family, I build relationships with my co-workers.”
The emphasis on relationships, both internal and external, is a natural outgrowth of the company’s statement of values, which includes kindness, workplace sustainability and fun. CEO Chad Paris says that these values, and the company’s 8:30-to-5:30 schedule, “lead to ‘we love what we do,’ which leads to amazing work, which leads to clients who enjoy working with us. If a potential client doesn’t appreciate that’s how we work, they’re just not a good fit for us.”
Creative Director Matt Steel adds, “We’re in this for the long run. We don’t want to flame out like a lot in this industry do in their 40s and 50s. We’re designing a life for ourselves that we can keep up with for a long time. The best way for us to do good work consistently is after a good night’s sleep or a weekend with family and friends.”
Parisleaf’s formula for sustainable success is working. “We can count on everyone to show up pretty much every day and give it their all,” says Chad. Most interns end up staying with the company as full-time hires, and entry-level creative staff average a three-year tenure. The business has experienced significant growth over the past six years, averaging an 80 percent increase in revenue. The company has also won a number of local and national awards for its work, and is regarded as a thought-leader in higher education marketing.
Story about Michele Leavitt; Video by Myrna Perez.