The Kuma Difference: How We Reimagine the Workplace 

The business environment has changed immensely over the years, hastened to new frontiers due to the pandemic and rapid advancements in technology. The new way of working requires a new kind of corporate operating model that takes advantage of available technologies and data access, but more importantly, truly empowers employees to be their best selves which in turn creates better results and builds a better company.   

Keep in mind, we didn’t put this operating model in place due to the pandemic in 2020. It’s been thriving, and has been tested, for over 10 years! 

Work from Anywhere 

One topic that really gets me fired up is when I read articles about “4 day work weeks” or “3 days in the office, two days out”, etc. Understanding that many companies are still trying to figure out what works for them in this new work reality, I really urge people to stop worrying about this topic altogether, stop wasting time thinking through new office policies, and instead adopt a “work from anywhere” approach.  

Work from Anywhere policies truly empower the employee and allow them to work where they want, and ultimately use their time more effectively. How many times have you been sitting in traffic on the way to the office thinking, “Why do I have to come in for this??” There are so many problems underlying this thought that are driven by not feeling respected, inferring a lack of leadership understanding, and just mired in a sense of overall frustration.  

A 2023 study found that while 41% of small businesses are asking employees to return to work, 64% of US on-site employees who prefer exclusively working remotely intend to quit their jobs. Employees overwhelmingly prefer working remotely because it saves them money and time by not having to commute, and gives them back time and freedom to have more control over how they spend their days. 

This stat is the one that I think really says it all: companies allowing remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than those without. 

And Work from Anywhere is not simply about allowing flexible work locations and reducing time driving to offices; it’s really about creating a culture that allows your employees to be their best selves. Some people work better in an office, some don’t, who cares – build an environment that allows for both and watch your employees, clients, and products thrive!  

Unlimited PTO 

Thinking differently about where the workplace should be requires a concurrent shift in how we structure and think about PTO. A Work from Anywhere policy means that an employee is potentially in an “always connected” environment, and they need the flexibility to take time off whenever they want or need to. Burnout is a real thing, and is happening with increasing frequency as the line between living and working space and time blurs. Going a bit further, is it fair or do current PTO policies meet the goals of PTO if they require you to think ahead several months to plan a trip? What if client work comes up? What if you’re killing it and need a break sooner? You really don’t know when you may need to take time to rejuvenate, and having the flexibility to do so whenever the need arises means you can come back to your work reinvigorated and inspired, which always leads to better work. Isn’t this the goal of PTO? 

In addition to encouraging more energized employees, an unlimited PTO policy frees up working capital that would have been reserved for paying for PTO or unused PTO. Another advantage is that you don’t need to have someone in HR or leadership worried about PTO tracking. The money and time that’s saved when you’re not micromanaging your employees’ PTO is freed up for more impactful use. 

In over 10 years of working with an unlimited PTO plan, we have never had anyone abuse the system.  

It’s time to reframe our thinking as business owners and release our attachment to the “way things have always been”. When it comes to driving your organization to success, PTO doesn’t matter, where you work doesn’t matter. . . what ultimately matters is where and how you produce the best results. 

Trust and Transparency 

Trust is critical to strong leadership, company growth, and how our Kuma Operating Model succeeds. Employees who feel their judgment and skills are fully trusted to succeed are more likely to come up with creative solutions and feel respected and empowered in their work, which will lead to better workplace happiness for them as well as better outcomes for their clients. Trust isn’t simply a talking point either; trust is a skill that needs to be learned, earned, and maintained. 

David Horsager’s book “Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars that Drive Results” (a great read for leaders!) calls out the eight pillars that are necessary for building trust: 

  • Clarity – People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.  
  • Compassion – People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.  
  • Character – People notice those who do what is right over what is easy. 
  • Competency – People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. 
  • Commitment – People believe in those who stand through diversity.  
  • Connection – People want to follow, buy from, and be around those who are willing to connect and collaborate.  
  • Contribution – People immediately respond to results. Ultimately, you must deliver timely results. 
  • Consistency – People love to see the little things done consistently. 

Putting some of these into practice, one clear way an organization can show and demonstrate trust is by making all meetings open to everyone. This doesn’t mean everyone has to attend, but anyone can attend if they like. Financial meetings, client meetings, and meetings of the different teams are open to everyone for full transparency and demonstrated trust. 

Practicing full transparency can be really scary for old-school organizations, who get hung up on questions like:  

  • What if the employee knows we have a growing pipeline and uses it as leverage for a raise? 
  • What if the employees knows we had an unusually strong quarter?   
  • What if the employees all learn of a big problem we have with a client account? 

I have seen through years of implementation that full transparency truly only helps the business. Rather than worrying about an employee using information and transparency as leverage, being trusted with transparency actually makes them more invested in a positive outcome for the company, and they use that information to help when they can – help close the sale, help recognize up-selling opportunities, help navigate the company through a tough time.   

As for worries about financial leverage: if you have fair salaries, fair reviews, and a means for sharing company success, there is nothing to worry about.  It is only when there is a win/lose scenario in place that knowledge and transparency are a threat. 

Flat and Empowering Organization 

After putting all these things into play, it’s critical that all levels of leadership walk the talk. Leaders have to be ready to not only make decisions, but make fast informed decisions every day. Remember: the speed of the leader is the speed of the team.  

If leadership moves away from tracking status to focusing on empowering employees and driving future growth, you’ll see faster and more impactful results, guaranteed. By stripping away all of the “noise” of a traditional business – office hours, work location, transportation, policies and processes surrounding all of these things, unnecessary meetings and status updates, unnecessary or ineffective lines of management – you are left with a results-oriented business, staffed with trusted employees who are able to make quick and innovative decisions that help the whole operation succeed. Empowering your staff and having policies and processes that are built mindfully for today’s workforce are what powers a flat organization – of any size – to reach new heights that a hierarchical business clinging to the old ways of doing things just can’t touch.  

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