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How to Create a Happy and Productive Work Culture

Toxic office politics. Micromanaging supervisors. The tyrannical boss. These signature hallmarks of a worker’s nightmare are, unfortunately, a daily reality for many people.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You – and your staff – can enjoy work by putting into place a few workplace policies and perks that foster a productive and happy work environment. After all, most of us spend more waking hours at work than we do at home. So why not make it feel friendly and comfortable? Doing so will not only stem high attrition within your workforce but have positive ramifications for the health and longevity of your business. Among the arsenal of items in HR services for startups, employee happiness should be checked off early.

So, how do you do create this workplace nirvana and do it in a way in which your goodwill won’t be exploited?

There are several options.

You can offer a variety of feel-good benefits to your workers that include flex work schedules, remote working, a relaxed dress code, unlimited paid time off or free on-site food (…because who doesn’t like free food?).

Although traditionalists might think of some of these perks as soft or unorthodox HR services for startups, offering benefits such as these could help you score better employees and build loyalty amongst your team, ultimately affecting your bottom line. For example, if you offer your workers more flexibility and a better work/life balance, the chances are greater that they will be happier, more productive and stay with the company for the long term. The upshot? Happy workers can translate into healthy profit margins.

For employees with family obligations such as children or ailing relatives, having a work schedule that affords flexibility can be a lifesaver. Of course, this benefit should be monitored so that it is not abused. Many companies use software that allows them to see when remote workers are logged in, which encourages workers to stay accountable and allows management to track hours worked. Remote workers who routinely take off hours during the workday to attend to personal matters, or who fudge the number of hours dedicated to a project, are not good for the morale of other staffers—or the bottom line.

Whatever option you decide on, make sure the employee’s self-interest is aligned with the business’ self-interest. It’s important that founders create a climate in which employees know that they will be rewarded for doing well and penalized if they take advantage of the benefits and trust the company has given them.

HR Services for Startups: Improve Work/Life Balance

The lack of an equitable work/life balance continues to rankle employees, according to a 2015 study entitled “The Work-Life Imbalance Report” conducted by Workfront, a provider of work management software. Among the findings, 60 percent of employees blame bad bosses for the most negative impact on their work-life balance, while 38 percent of employees said they missed life events because of lopsided work-life balance.

And, if you’re the type of entrepreneur who likes to text or email staffers during non-business hours, maybe you should rethink this tactic. The report also finds that 57 percent of employees think technology has ruined the definition of a family dinner.

The overriding message here: Recognize that your staffers have personal lives and family obligations outside of the office. If you empower them with certain benefits, such as flex schedules, they will often be more productive than if they feel they are punching the clock. Don’t treat your workers as indentured slaves. They are not beholden to you 24/7.

If you do have set hours, don’t guilt-trip them into working late if it’s not necessary. Allow them the luxury and freedom to leave the workplace when their work is finished, without scowls directed their way. If you do decide to offer flextime and/or remote work, make sure your employees know their specific goals and deadlines. This will prevent them from getting distracted.  

Going Remote

To allow busy staffers to be occasionally off-site to tend to a personal obligation, train them on digital platforms such as Slack, Salesforce.com, QuickBooks Online and Google Docs. This will give them the tools to continue working when they’re not on-site and meet project goals without being tied to a desk.

Some startups have found giving up office space in favor of going virtual to be a bonus. Not only can working remotely lower overhead costs, but it can also possibly increase revenues by having employees in the field at all times.

For instance, if founders decide to use a specific technology platform that aggregates all documents and communications into one hub or a server, staffers can work wherever they are. As a result, all that extra time and money it takes to commute to the office is eliminated. Employees become more available and passionate about work and efficiency skyrockets. Everyone—founders and staff—is happy and productive. Score one for technology.

Another advantage of utilizing this type of model for the workplace is the lifestyle it affords employees who might choose a startup that offers this kind of flexibility versus a larger, more established business that adheres to a conventional, uniform 9-5 office structure.

Don’t Hire Jerks

Just because someone is seemingly brilliant and has the chops to become a rock star at your company does not mean he or she will be a good fit in the workplace or will mesh well with others. Go beyond the dazzling resume to assess if the job candidate has the right temperament for your work culture. Trust your instincts and powers of perception. In the long run, it may be worth it to hire someone with less experience over another candidate if the former has a far more agreeable personality and a willingness to learn.

Here are a few other options you might also want to consider:

  • Offer free food. During days when your staff is working overtime to complete a project, you might want to offer them free food. This way, their hunger pangs will be satisfied and they’re less likely to feel resentful or angry that they’re stuck in the office longer than usual. Take it a step further and get creative: bring in a sought-after food truck once a week and treat your entire team to lunch or provide a bar cart for Friday afternoon happy hours.
  • Recognize your employees for a job well done and celebrate wins. The latter can be in the form of singling out workers for their stellar performance in a company newsletter to offering gift certificates to a hot new restaurant or tickets to a concert or sporting event.
  • Listen to the feedback from your workers. Take their ideas into consideration. Engage with the customer service team as they’re the ones talking to the customers and you want them feeling positive about the company they’re representing.
  • Pay competitively. Even though you may be in startup mode, this isn’t the place to skimp. Offer a base salary that’s commensurate to people’s skills and experience while offering a full complement of benefits that include health/dental/life insurance, stock options (if applicable), 401(k), etc. Nothing kills workplace productivity like the feeling that you’re being underpaid and underappreciated.
  • Unlimited paid-time off.  Trust your employees to make the right decisions for their workload and rely on your management team to maintain the right balance.  Unlimited PTO policies also come with the added benefit of not having to accrued unused vacation liabilities. These policies can make the employee feel that he or she is not just a cog in a machine but someone who is a respected and trusted part of your staff as well as someone with a life outside the office – a win-win, if you ask us.

The key to fostering a happy and productive workplace hinges on how flexible the founders are willing to be. Communication is key. When managing any new work arrangements, be clear with staff about your expectations. Expect a few snags in the beginning, but keep in mind that in our world of 24/7 instant communication, allowing flexibility for your employees has never been easier. And when you start noticing the company’s productivity and profit margins soaring, you’ll know you made the right decision.

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