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Big Ideas

Encourage Daylighting

Sneaking side projects into a 9-to-7 schedule is becoming a way of life. We look at the benefits of encouraging "passion projects" at work.

Some call it the side hustle, others call it the side project, but it’s been coined as “daylighting” – working jobs on the side while at another one.  And for young creative professionals, it’s become a way of life.  “The slash/slash generation are best described as do-it-all teens and twenty-somethings that undertake multiple careers – often creating brand names for themselves.”

While the notion of employees doing their “own thing” at a business can be threatening, it may also be an opportunity for those who manage it responsibly. How can companies free people in the slash/slash generation from the rigidity of corporate policy?  Can companies accommodate multiple interests and passions to further develop the potential of their employees?  What if they actually allow, or even encourage, “daylighting”?Lines are blurring, and it’s no longer enough to just focus on work/life balance.  Companies today also need to focus on the work/work balance.  Side projects reflect the different interests and passions of each employee.  Rather than suppressing creativity, nurture it, knowing that a happier workforce is proven to be more productive, and loyal.  By encouraging “daylighting” in working hours, companies are making an investment in more well-rounded employees, whose increased knowledge and experience is bound to give back.

Of course, daylighting needs to be transparent to one’s team, and it can’t be in a competitive product or service. The obligation to exceed expectations in your full-time job must come first. And, there is a fine line between daylighting and procrastinating from other stuff that has a deadline. Daylighting should not happen at the expense of other responsibilities. Instead, daylighting should fill the time when you might otherwise daydream and zone out.  Done right, daylighting should serve your full-time job just as much as it serves you.

It’s no longer enough to just focus on work/life balance.  Companies today also need to focus on the work/work balance.

Google has taken measures to encourage outside interests, enacting the 70/20/10 rule, which allows employees to spend 20% of their time on “Innovation time off” pursuing their own ideas that relate to Google and then 10% of their time on stuff completely unrelated to Google.  This could be reading a book, drawing in Photoshop, or going to a museum.  By doing this, Google gains a loyal employee by allowing them to do whatever they want without Big Brother looking over their shoulder.  At the same time, it captures innovative thinking due to random stimulation.

Other companies like 37signals have gone as far as “paying for employee passions, interests, and other curiosities.  We want our people to experience new things, discover new hobbies, and generally be interesting people.”

We believe that all companies should encourage daylighting.  Here are a few tips each company can do to nurture the new talent coming up in the ranks.

1)  Set aside 10% of each day for “daylighting.”

Encourage your employees to pursue their own passion projects (whatever they may be).

2)  Fund outside projects.

Create a fund for each employee to pursue their passions.  Behance offers each employee $500 to always continue to learn.

3)  Mentor the side projects.

Set aside a bi-weekly / monthly meeting to mentor employees on entrepreneurial side projects.  Have employees present their findings / experience in front of the company.

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Comments (8)
  • creativecomponent

    This is very interesting. I guess I’ve always done daylighting, but never had a name for it. And further, I’ve known that ‘the man’ is watching — some companies MUCH more than others — but knowing if I ‘get my required work done’, I’ll be ok. I love the Google way, as it probably makes for a happier workforce.<br />
    <br />
    Great article.

  • Media Designer

    The old business model is dying. No longer is your identity being stolen and branded by the employer, but bosses are starting to see that people really are people. What a concept…
    Thus, hopefully, those of us creatives who are not one trick ponies will no longer be seen as the ______ guy who does one thing.
    Perhaps we should be consulting specialists who are able to provide more than one job/task/product and be, as mentioned, more interesting people.

  • Paul Lindsell

    Well, we’ve never gone as far as paying our employee’s to daylight but we certainly encourage it where possible. We also encourage personal projects and set aside time for this to happen and include this in performance reviews.

  • bombayhustle

    Haha, I created this t-shirt last year about this concept specifically:

  • BrianSJ

    The specific payment schemes are just the sort of HR paternalism that is obsolete. Pay people money. Let them decide what to do with it. Fire the HR people who came up with the scheme and use the savings to take on apprentices.

  • Vickypg

    Interesting concept. In fact, I think it already happens. But the important aspect is that it should not affect your professional output for the company that is paying us.

  • Part Time Jobs

    i like the quote above.

  • Dan Oksnevad

    wow, if anyone knows of a company where this actually happens – send me an application link!  🙂

  • ericbae

    Most of developers have side projects. But too often these interesting side projects get abandoned because of number of reasons. Solution? My side project is about side projects! helps you either “sell” your side projects or find a co-founder to your side project so you can continue on!

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