Startups are notorious for high levels of pressure and long days. With the pace of growth in the technology industry, the level of competition for funding and the never ending process of testing and pivoting, operating with a high level of productivity is paramount to both the company’s success and its survival. While this is well known to both the founders and employees of startups, there are many instances where expectations for productivity may be set too high. Even for top talent, it is important to remember that one person can only achieve so much in a given time. And if you push too hard and expect too much, you may actually end up holding back your own progress. So how does a startup manage to go about accelerating productivity while avoiding employee burnout?
Hire the Right People
Not everyone can or wants to work for a startup. Narrowing down the scope of skill sets and experience you need is only the first step towards finding the right people. Although the above are necessary prerequisites, finding the right cultural fit, passion for the work, and necessary level of endurance is equally important. And make sure the people you hire know what they are taking on. The last thing you need is a hire who is not expecting the long hours, stressful deadlines and unexpected pivots. A lot of people want to work for startups, but not everyone wants the stress that goes along with it. Be mindful of how critical you are when hiring though. Weeding out the wrong candidates will take time, but if you find yourself without anyone promising after a month or two, you may want to determine whether your expectations for top talent are realistic or not.
Establish Realistic and Achievable Timelines
Put significant effort towards accurate and detailed planning early on. Without the right goals and timelines in place, your employees can end up getting burned out due to unrealistic timelines or putting focus on unnecessary tasks. Yes, your employees will put in the long hours and undergo stressful times, but optimizing their productivity only goes so far if they are distracted or the benchmarks are unachievable. Timelines can be difficult to create early on because so much is nearly guaranteed to change, and there is only so much you can know going in. To better plan, get advice and second opinions from former founders, startup employees, and advisors on creating realistic timelines and benchmarks.
Be Realistic About What One Person Can Do
Even A-players can only produce so much. No level of planning, pay, or passion can push your employees past their limits. It is important to realize that every employee has an optimal level of output, and that more time does not always equal more production. The amount of work an employee can get through is a product of the time spent working and the level of productivity for each hour. This means that at a certain point, an additional hour of work will actually lead to less production. While this holds true for everyone, the maximum amount of work that can be completed within a given period differs for everyone. Planning ahead is important in managing this, but careful monitoring and a certain level of trial and error will also come into play. Make an effort to monitor your employees’ physical and mental health over time, and take notice of any significant changes in attitude, energy levels, or physical appearance.
Create a Place Where People Want to Be
Finally, work towards building a fun workplace that encourages employees, maintains a positive environment, and allows employees to enjoy the process. Startups can be stressful places to work, but your employees are there to experience the journey, to be a part of something new and to follow their own passions. It can be hard work, but the people who succeed at startups again and again are there because they are working on projects that will have a real impact on the world around them. They are ready to work hard, should understand the goals that their work supports, and should naturally enjoy being a part of the work. Reinforce this mentality, and you will see even better results. A positive enviroment and mentality can push productivity a long way.