Timbre Media

Inshorts this morning informed me of this ridiculous development:

Woman giving birth after twins not entitled to maternity benefits: Madras High Court

I recall with shame the two occasions in a decade when I found myself making a request a member of the team to accept lower remuneration when their absence on account of maternity leave was expected to rock the boat, ie, require the hiring of an additional resource at similar pay at a time when we couldn’t afford such a measure.

In both cases though, luckily I saw the error of my ways almost instantly (agility is an advantage with small companies), apologised to the people these requests were made of and went on to realise that the company didn’t crumble on account of these absences.

I forgive myself that initial panic because in our line of work replacing an On Air Talent assigned to a large corporate for example, can appear daunting. In a small team a single person might end up shouldering all of that extra work for the duration. Distribution of deliverables to more than one resource may not be an option given most of our work is as persona based as it is task based. That is, it doesn’t just matter that the job is getting done for the client, who is doing it matters too for continuity and other reasons.

These incidents if at all strengthened my resolve to take an even massive eraser to all those lines that divide the personal and the professional.

In our 10-year old journey as a company we have strived to create a work atmosphere that encourages people to pursue interests and grow as people and families, outside of the Timbre context. In fact we’ve tried to define the Timbre Context as one pertains to the whole self. We haven’t put it down on paper, but that is exactly the spirit driving us. Paperwork won’t guide us through these decisions in the making. We’ve only known that working with interesting people with deep and varied interests can only help us in our journey. Of course, they’d have to find as deep an interest in what we did as an organisation too, for the relationship to work J

It isn’t always easy and of course, we aren’t yet there. This is work in progress and I suspect will always be, given we’re dealing with real, live people and not templates. It will always be a challenge to marry people’s personal aspirations with that of the collective. But we aren’t the first to grapple with such a challenge and with the rise of the gig economy, we certainly won’t be the last.

If you walk into the Timbre studios on an average day, you’re unlikely to see too many people around. The founders often argue about “how this will look should a client walk in.” In such a situation we must inform our folk to show up at work – it’s not something we take for granted.

The paperwork allows for two days a week of working from home but in reality there are large stretches of time when people don’t show up at work. Not because they aren’t working. Perhaps life is simpler for them without a 2 hour commute one way, or without having to worry about who would care for a senior or a child.

There’s a leave policy but leave is granted on the basis of need. If you ask, you’re never refused. Duration of leave? As much as you need.

I’m often asked about the danger of people gaming the system. I’ve stopped concerning myself with this question mostly because gamers of a system or lack of it will always exist.

I’m often asked if this is being too laissez faire and if this lack of definition and face time doesn’t cost the company something. I’ve realised the gains and losses here are mostly intangible – never really loss of a contract or missing of a deadline. And these surely happen in Fort Knox style companies too.

I also know that the holy grail of trust and integrity we see so many of our client companies aspire to, clamour for and design workshops around, is an intangible one. If you expect an intangible from people in an environment that is mostly defined in tangible terms, from the number of hours clocked a day, sign in-out times,  number of PL, SL, CL permitted, and performance appraisals that read like to-do lists, well you may as well want a pet pig with wings.

So here at Timbre we bumble through our days with this lack of definition but with imagination and the best of intentions. We talk about things. Ailing parents, bucket lists, menopause, marriage, children, exams, aches and pains, fitness, holiday plans, birthdays, homes away from home, romance, job offers, part time work,  bad energies, conspiracy theories, new on Netflix, everything. We argue, lose tempers, complain, make mistakes, apologise, express gratitude, miss deadlines, prove insanely resourceful, buy gifts, take selfies, deliver the unthinkable and plan for the future.

Along the way we find spaces in which to collaborate and produce things we can be proud of. And this approach seems to be working thus far.


Seetal R Iyer

Co-founder & Head of Content, Timbre Media