Business, People, and Culture

Mike Grill // July 5, 2017

In April, our sister company, GRAYBOX announced then Technical Director, Mark Middleton’s move to DPaC – Director of People and Culture. It is a move that makes a ton of sense and after a conversation at GRAYBOX’s 4th of July Barbecue it got me thinking about the role businesses play in employees lives.


The 40 Hour Work Week, Balance, and Motivation

My dad ended his career working in HR, but had stints in different HR roles throughout his career including a time as a company’s Chief of Recreation and another as the Grand Puba of Events. He was chatting with Mark about what exactly Mark’s role entailed. Mark stated, with a smile, that he was HR parallel: where HR worked to protect the company from employees, he worked to protect the employees from the company. Jokes aside, what Mark really does is ensure that employees feel heard, feel accepted, and feel engaged by planning events like the 4th of July BBQ, weekly yoga in the office, and lots of other fun internal events.


In general, GRAYBOX does a great job of keeping employees happy and motivated, they even won am Inc. Best Places award this year. Monthly staff meetings end with public acknowledgement of good work, there is a weekly informal way to acknowledge coworkers as well, and folks around the office are really good at simply acknowledging good work, even in passing.


There are quite a few folks here that put in well over 40 hours a week, but there is certainly a work-life balance. My wife and I just had our first baby, and I was able to take a few weeks off after his birth, come back to the office in the mornings and work from home in the afternoons for a couple weeks, and then return to the office full time after that. I can still work from home with little notice when my child doesn’t sleep all night, or attend any of his doctor’s appointments, without being hassled or harangued by anyone in the company. GRAYBOX’s receptionist was able to bring her new baby into the office for a month after she was born so that Rachael, the receptionist, didn’t have to make the difficult decision between another month of leave and sending her daughter to daycare so soon. It’s pretty amazing to work at a company that treats its employees like humans.


I have had no problem finding a work-life balance, even with the addition of my son, because of the company I work for. There is a ton of motivation behind working for people that I simply enjoy being around, but there is an added motivation behind working for people that respect me and the decisions I have made (i.e. to have a family).


Career Advancement and Motivation

Certainly, money is a motivator. My wife couldn’t stay at home with our baby if I wasn’t compensated enough. But I have worked jobs where money is the only motivation, and that gets old quick. While my in-it-for-the-paycheck jobs have helped me get to where I am, they rarely offered any sort of ability to advance my career. That has been the opposite of my experience with this job. I have been asked what I want from my future, instead of someone simply demanding that I fulfill KPIs or my job details from the craigslist job posting that I responded to.


GRAYBOX has brought together some brilliant folks from all over the place: Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, California, and Belarus (yup, Belarus). On a Tuesday night in July, a group of 60 or so employees and their families gathered together for a BBQ, talent show, and fireworks at our offices. Last night’s BBQ was a terrific example of how Mark and GRAYBOX have worked to build a culture where employees treat the office as a gathering place, not just an office. It was a prime example of how an office that could be full of misplaced employees on a holiday was able to bring them all together and make a night of it.



The culture at our office is something that my dad noticed immediately on his first visit, on a Sunday when no one else was around. It is something that Mark and the rest of GRAYBOX has worked really hard to cultivate, and it shows, even to the casual passerby. It is a culture of inclusion, internal motivation, respect, and excellence, and those things show to our partner-clients. We work really hard to deliver the best possible product, and that unites us all, no matter where our last address was or is now.


These were some thoughts that I was milling around on my way into work this morning, but if you are looking to build the kind of culture that attracts people, motivates them, and produces excellent work, feel free to contact our business professionals and start a conversation!

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