by Teresa Thomas
“Intentionality” has taken on a new meaning here at Sisarina HQ as we have grown this last year. As more folks have come to work with us, both in and out of the office, we have found that “setting the mood” gets more and more complicated. Even though we strive to be very “non-corporate” in everything we do, we’ve had to find some creative ways to codify our culture. We’ve had to define and then find ways to protect our cultural “DNA”.
Creating eye-catching and easy-to-use websites takes a great deal of outside-the-box thinking, as does marketing a web firm in a bulging market. The very “cool” atmosphere of our antiques-meets-modern office helps keep minds open, but our most important tool here is hiring folks who are able to see life from a different angle. If you’ve ever paid attention to our hiring process (which is generally pretty public), you’ve noticed that we ask for some pretty unusual things.
We’ve also been known to discard whole lists of applicants who, contrary to instruction, sent us a standard, run-of-the-mill resume. Bringing folks in who want to thrive in that kind of environment makes keeping a creative office culture effortless. We continually try to find creative ways to encourage one another, to speak about and track projects and to get our work done. We live and breathe creative thinking and are VERY intentional about it.
This part of our office culture is far less about hiring healthy people or codifying a workout routine and far more about encouraging one another to continue in healthy habits. On any given day, shouts of “Drink More Water!” can be heard echoing through HQ as one of us suddenly remembers we’ve not had anything to drink all day but a cup of coffee and thinks that maybe others could use the reminder to hydrate. We try to always keep healthy snacks on hand and any mention of exercise is strongly applauded and encouraged. Our efforts at helping one another continue in healthy habits is what led us to try “Plank-a-Day”. While not always consistent, we do regularly all (including anyone who happens to be in our office at the time) get down on the floor on yoga mats and hold low plank position for 60 seconds. You should try it. It requires a great deal of encouragement! For us, healthy living is more about building relationships and being positive than anything else, but we’ve been carefully intentional about it.
By now, you’ve probably heard of our “F-Jar”. As Sisarina grows and grows and the workload gets heavier and heavier, it can sometimes be hard not to let the stress come out as frustration towards our clients, our contractors and one another. We found ourselves grousing out loud more and more. We knew it wasn’t good, but the final straw came when we were “caught” by a client. We weren’t even upset, just being silly. The complaining had just become habit. Something had to change, so we instituted the F-Jar.
All frustrations are written down and put into the jar to be shredded. This prevents us from complaining in emails or chat windows or even across the office, where the complaints can, at the least, become habit and, at the worst, truly hurt someone. Our F-Jar is also the repository for curse words, especially the “f-word”. Those are not written down however, they are paid for in cash. Cursing was becoming a method of complaining that we each wanted to curb.
Other aspects of our office culture have been harder to codify: putting helpfulness before bankroll (without breaking the bank), being an open and welcoming office, celebrating each others’ successes and being social. Sisarina is still a good size for these things to spread naturally. As we continue to grow, these may have to be codified as well. By then our “DNA” should be well and truly established and the codifying will just feel like “stating the obvious”.