News / Calgary

Workshift: Calgary ad agency lets staff work where they want, when they want

Walk into Woodruff Sweitzer’s offices in downtown Calgary and you might mistake the place for a giant loft apartment.

With a giant kitchen and eating area next to a ping-pong table and couch next to a television that alternates between playing music videos and providing video link-ups to clients abroad, the ad agency takes a non-traditional approach to its workplace – one that goes well beyond just décor and layout.

In addition to the giant, multi-coloured lamb that's at the front entrance (part of a rotating art display meant to catch both visitors and staff by surprise) and the office-dog schedule that sees a different staff member’s canine hang out each day, the company employs an unusual approach to office hours.

None of the roughly two-dozen employees clock in or clock out. No one has to be in at a certain time. No one even has to come it at all, on a given day, if they’d rather work from home, a coffee shop, or virtually anywhere with an Internet connection.

They call it “workshift” and they use it as a verb.

“My days aren’t 9-to-5; they’re never eight hours,” said creative director Alita Gonzalez. “I might get up in the morning and workshift for an hour with client stuff or emails and whatnot and then come in.”

Lead developer Evan Macleod typically works early – he’s in by 7 a.m. most days – but mainly because that works best for him.

“My wife works at a dental office and she has to be there super early so I just kind of accommodate that by working the same hours,” he said. “We can set our own hours as long as we basically get the work done and fill the required hours for the week.”

In order to be accountable, everyone records the time they spend working in 15-minute increments, a process Macleod said takes “a minute or so,” provided you get in the habit of doing it regularly after completing a particular task.

President Jeff Groeneveld said the company kept close tabs before and after adopting the workshift model and found both productivity and employee happiness went up.

Account director Shannon Anderson said the flexible work hours allow her to collaborate with staff in the office when need be, retreat to a quiet space for concentration, and never get stuck in traffic jams commuting.

The model “is not going to be right for every organization,” Anderson admits, but she also thinks other small-to-medium-sized businesses might benefit from a more flexible approach to work hours while also keeping employees on task.

For her, the philosophy boils down to one sentence: “We are all adults and we are all responsible.”

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