In these times of severe income disparity and worker insecurity, where those at the top of the richest companies keep making more and more, while every other employee knows that there are people queued up outside ready to take their jobs, it’s nice to hear about companies that look askance on such work environments. With The Sky Factory, a company started by artist and entrepreneur Bill Witherspoon that creates virtual skylights and windows of peaceful settings using backlit images, Witherspoon wanted to create a work environment that might be as beautiful as art, according to a story in Inc. To begin, Witherspoon disregarded notions of hierarchy. Each worker is on the same level—all are owners, none are employees. “In shaping The Sky Factory,” Witherspoon says,
I started with the assumption that people are naturally curious and creative. I wanted to craft an environment in which they would act like entrepreneurs, not like robots. My first decision was to give people the opportunity to purchase discounted ownership, and 100 percent of employees have participated. The responsibility for revenue and profit belongs to everyone.
From there, Witherspoon came up with five guiding principles that allow everyone who works at The Sky Factory to take part in all decisions, work together on everything, and share the rewards. My favorite principle is “Give everyone equal footing: Where there is no authority, there is no fear, and people rise to what is required of them.”
What is your work environment like? Does it resemble the environment at The Sky Factory? Or is it closer to the conditions of the average American job laid out earlier this year in Mother Jones, where we learned that “Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans”? Let us know.
Image of custom Luminous SkyCeiling at Sutter Imaging Center from The Sky Factory website.