Inspired by companies around the world who allow their staff to spend a percentage of their time on personal projects, Fat Beehive held a one day event in November to test out the idea.
The seeds of the idea were planted last spring by our developer Alberto. He sent Tom, our MD, an RSA animation and talk by Dan Pink on DRIVE, his bestselling book on the surprising truth about what motivates us. Pink’s assertion is that instead of more traditional external rewards, what really motivates us are 3 main internal or intrinsic drives: autonomy over how and when you work, mastery over the task at hand and having a purpose behind the work you do. Our MD Tom was so inspired by the video, he bought the book, read the book, loved the book and took one of the ideas to allow staff more autonomy (from software company Atlassian) and made it his own.
So on a Thursday in November Tom let the team know that we could work on any personal project we liked as long it could be delivered by the next day, hence named “Fed-ex Day”. The hope was that, unrestrained by the demands of a brief, staff could push the boundaries of their skills and knowledge and perhaps stumble upon something fantastic along the way.
These are the rules that the team played by:
The day ran from 10am Thursday until 10am Friday. Tom gave people a few weeks to think up some ideas, and from 10 to 11am people introduced their ideas to the group. If people wished to work past 6pm Thursday on their task, the company provided pizza and (non-alcoholic) drinks. The results of the day were presented back to the group on the Friday at 5pm with beer and cake (the classic combination.)
There was a fantastic buzz in the office on Fed-ex day, people beavering away to deliver something impressive to a rocking Spotify playlist. It was scary leaving projects and clients on hold for a day, but we think the results were well worth the investment. Here, the team report back on their projects:
Tom and Matt’s project: Beekeeper Demo Videos
I set out to determine a method of creating video demonstration and help files for the use of Beekeeper CMS. I first researched the various screen capture tools available to determine which was the best option for my requirements. I then set about creating a number of videos that demonstrated various parts of the Beekeeper Pages module. Next I worked with Matt to put a voice-over onto the video to describe what was happening. Finally I uploaded the videos to Vimeo and embedded them into the Beekeeper Help system. Coming to a Beekeeper near you soon!
Duncan’s project: Twig Template Engine
Twig is a modern template engine for PHP. I Implemented my latest website build with TWIG, which enabled easier use of views (separation of logic and layout.) This especially helped creating multiple micro-sites using one central micro-site template. The time to explore this was well used during Fed-Ex day, and I am very pleased with the outcome. I am tutoring other developers in its uses and implementing in future projects.
Alberto’s project: Charity Jobs Board
I wanted to do a job board for charities, a place where all our clients could promote their current job offers from their Beekeeper jobs module. I spent my day learning FuelPHP, a new and exciting PHP framework built using all new PHP 5.3 features. It was a fantastic opportunity to develop and learn something I had in mind for months and… it was fun!
Ash’s project: The Beekeepers Book
Honey produced by local bees can help alleviate symptoms for hay-fever sufferers. This project saw the initial development of a website aimed at helping you find honey made by a bee near you. Made using WordPress, it allowed us to explore what is possible in an often overlooked but powerful CMS.
Danny’s project: IE Basher
I built an online stress relief app where the web designer/developer can click aka punch a visual representation of Internet Explorer 6 to ease away those browser-bug-blues. I was well out of my comfort zone with my coding skills so I learned some new techniques. It was a nice change from the normal working day and was exciting to challenge myself to complete the project within the timescale given.
Rachel’s project: Googledoc A-go-go
We use Google Apps for document sharing, including agendas, development documents, policies and plans. I learned how to use collections and sharing tools to organise and rationalise the mountain of documents we have in there. I researched and created a staff handbook named “The Beeble”.
Abby’s project: Office Escape Pod
The idea: That we could make use of an unused space in the office to create an escape area. Because the office is so open, there is no place to privately go and “regroup” or get away from computer screens.
The plan: Remove all the “crap” from above the kitchen roof storage area and see if I could transform it into an escape pod with pillows.
The reality: I managed to get all the stuff down from up there (and there was a LOT.) I managed to give most of it away on Freecycle and Gumtree, which was nice. However, I discovered that the ceiling up there isn’t built to support a person’s weight, and would require professional building advice to complete. So I hoovered up all the dust and that was that.
Two of the projects would be so beneficial to the company and our way of working that they have been allocated R&D time. The overiding feeling was a sense of fun, achievement, learning and team spirit, not to mention pizza. We will definitely be repeating Fed-ex day in the summer.