It’s time to cut down the crazy hours at your startup

Have you ever heard someone share the number of hours they worked this week, as if it’s some kind of competition?

“I haven’t been to the gym in ages. I worked 80 hours last week. How could I?”

Then, they wait — hoping for the validating reaction of, “Wow, you work too much!”

To which they can respond with their proud membership of the “Overworked Entrepreneurs Club”.

“Hey man, that’s just how it goes when you work for a startup.”

But is killing yourself with insane work hours really something to be proud of?

When the negative emotional and physical effects overpower productivity — then no, it is not.

Consider the negative effects of working long hours. Employees are “less efficient and less effective“, and according to a recent Fast Company article, are more susceptible to anxiety and depression.

Which is why, as CEO, I’ve strived to support a work environment that does not award long hours over quality of work. We focus on working smart — finding the most efficient ways to get our work done while leaving plenty of room for the rest of our lives. The better we feel, the better our work is — and no matter how much there is to do, we always make sure to keep this in mind.

The following is the plan we’ve devised at Skaled for working hard and smart — and not killing ourselves to get it all done.

1. Whenever possible, don’t work on the weekends.

My people don’t answer email over the weekend and I don’t ask them too.  This can seem like a sacrilege in the startup world — especially because we are doing sales and sales support for our clients. I stopped insisting on responses over the weekend because I believe that completely disconnecting yourself from the stresses of the inbox is the only way to really re-recharge. I want my team to come in on Mondays, ready to run extremely hard for five days. Then come Saturday, they can shut down, rest-up, and focus on other things besides work, like friends, family, fitness, and hobbies — all those things that keep you happy, healthy, and sane.

2. Hold off on late night e-mails.

I used to send emails at all hours of the night. I wanted to get things out of my head and onto the computer before I forgot. Then I had the epiphany (at 4 a.m. one morning) that it might be super annoying to wake up and see six emails from my boss, first thing.

None of us are thrilled to hear our alarm clock go off in the morning. Why make it even worse by greeting each other with a blinking inbox before we’ve had our morning coffee?

Now, I save those ideas as drafts or send them to myself for a later reminder.  Better yet, I will add them to Asana with a future due date to help the team stay organized.

3. PDCA – Plan, do, check, act.

Operating standards are crucial for any organization to be successful, but this is even more critical to early stage companies.

Startups tend to fight rules and structure because “that’s not our culture” or “smart people will figure it out”. This edict might be true at times, but a lack of operational structure will keep even the most self-motivated teams on a more efficient track.

Our motto is PDCA — plan, do, check, act.  We adopted this about a month ago as a guide for our work and testing with clients to make sure that we were doing the right activities every day to support our client in both action and reflection.  The desire to do, do, do and then fix is strong in the startup world, but we’ve found that building in time to plan and check are critical to ensure that we’re optimizing our work approach.

Perfecting the approach through PDCA leads to shorter cycles and more reliable outcomes that don’t require extra hours.

The startup world values working hard to a fault. For leaders in this rat-race, it’s important to bring some balance to those expectations. Providing your team with the structure and skills that allow them to produce great work while also sleeping and having a life outside of the office, is crucial.

Now of course, there are times when you just gotta hold the gas pedal to the floor and make sacrifices around getting the job done — but this full-throttle pace should not become the norm. Create a work environment that offers balance, and you’ll be rewarded with a happier group of people who can produce reliable, quality results.

That’s what we strive for at Skaled, and what we hope to pass on to future sales people for startups. Let’s all stop trying to impress each other with hours, and focus on impressing each other with success instead.

Does your startup strive to maintain healthy working hours?

Interested in workspace? Get in touch.