By: Yossi Friedman  | 

Google’s 20-Percent Rule and How It Could Benefit You

Leaders strive to improve their team's performance and achieve the goals that lead to success. One of the traditionally overlooked metrics that significantly impacts the team's success is the happiness levels of the group. While it may seem counterintuitive, one way to build a more connected team and achieve quantifiable success is to give each team member paid time off to research and pursue personal projects related to the organization. Sticking with the status quo and ignoring this initiative is one way a leader can fail their team. 

On the surface, time off from the workplace may permit team members less time to work on crucial tasks. Instead of sitting in the home office, classroom, or traditional workplace concentrated on projects with approaching deadlines, time away from the office allows workers to focus on undertakings that may have no apparent connection with the organization's current objectives. In addition, leaving the workplace and its unfinished duties behind can foster a sense of procrastination when another mandated task arrives in the work inbox. However, despite these potential downsides, the data highlights a positive angle for implementing paid time off to pursue individual projects. 

Many upsides can negate the adverse side effects of providing paid time off for unassigned projects. First, leaders who offer consent and motivation for workers to pursue their passions will foster loyalty and gratitude within the organization. When leaders give time, arguably one's most valuable asset, the data shows that users are willing to reciprocate significantly more than the original gift. Providing the initial act of giving will subconsciously motivate grateful workers to give back to their organization through working extended hours, a positive attitude, and loyalty. Finally, having the option for workers to pursue personal projects can persuade employees to stay at organizations for longer and even recruit other prospective workers. Consequently, managers who do not provide employees with personal time can lead to organization-wide resentment, decreasing overall commitment to the team's success. 

Permeating this initiative within all levels of an organization can increase the team's happiness and morale. The time users invest in their projects can allow them to decompress from the stresses of the workplace and focus on the aspects of their job that make them happy. One study shows that happy workers are 31% more productive. Not only will happiness increase overall productivity, but it can make employees three times more creative than their unhappy counterparts. To outline the importance of spreading this initiative to every organization, look at one of the world's largest companies, Google, and its parent company, Alphabet. Since 2004, Alphabet has encouraged its employees to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will benefit Alphabet. The "20-Percent Rule" initiative includes projects that show no promise of providing immediate dividends, thus empowering employees to be more creative and innovative in their work. Some of the projects completed through the "20-Percent rule" initiative are Gmail, Google Maps, and AdSense. Alphabet is just one company that pays its employees to complete tasks that are not directly related to assignments given to them by executives. 

Granting employees paid time for unassigned projects can increase the employee's overall productivity. Early in the nineteenth century, organized labor unions successfully persuaded factory owners to decrease the imposed workday length to eight hours and found that output surprisingly increased. Instead of pressuring their workers to work harder and longer shifts, they reduced the time spent in the factory, which helped eliminate costly mistakes and reduce the number of accidents. In addition to eliminating errors from the workplace through overworking employees, implementing Parkinson's Law can help save the organization valuable resources and time. According to Parkinson's Law, when a manager delegates a single-day task to someone with a deadline of seven days, the job will stretch out and take the individual the entire week to complete it. By implementing a new initiative to allow workers to pursue unassigned projects while on payroll, many benefits can arise to help the organization achieve its goals and surpass its competition. 

An organization that gives time for unassigned projects may receive benefits including reciprocated loyalty and gratitude, raised morale and happiness levels (which can increase productivity and creativity), and long-term projects that could bring sustained success to the company and its employees. Overall, whether the leader is a project manager, CEO, or professor, ignorance of this initiative and the tremendous dividends it can provide is one of the ways a leader can fail to guide their team to success. Those who implement this strategy may not see the constructive results immediately, but with time this initiative can provide immense rewards for years to come; just ask Alphabet.

Photo Caption: Google’s parent company, Alphabet, encourages workers to spend time doing what they think will benefit the company.

Photo Credit: Pixabay