Startup Journal: Approaching Employee Happiness
When you're working so closely with the same small group of people day-in and day-out, it's imperative for everyone to get along, to be able to work well with each other. How many bands and businesses have you heard break apart because of "creative differences"? Employee happiness - synergy within the workplace - is crucial, particularly when developing a fragile, infant company.
We have a team of seven. Three owners, two additional founding members, and two employees who came on shortly after launch, all in varying life stages. Under normal circumstances, we're not exactly the group you'd see congregating at the local watering hole. But we work together intimately, and have had to figure out what's best for each other and for symbiosis every step of the way.
It seems that the biggest contributing factor to employee happiness, and to team success, is flexibility. If an emergency pops up for someone, they obviously need to attend to that. If a handyman is working on a team member's home, it makes sense that they work from home during that time. If one person is absolutely swamped, it helps for another to make room in their schedule to relieve some of that burden. If an old friend or family members comes into town, it's in everyone's best interest to get away from the office for a cup of coffee or a long lunch.
Each member of a startup team - possibly any operation - needs to be flexible. There has to be a mutual understanding that each team member is a person, not a robot. There needs to be an understanding of what allows someone to live life to fullest, to do their best work, and to be happy with their life as a whole rather than just when they finally escape the clutches of those incandescently lit walls.
Everyone's working towards the same goal. If you're part of a startup, you're not only working 8am-5pm. The company becomes a part of your identity that you take with you everywhere you go. To maximize employee happiness, we've learned that team members have to be flexible with each other. We have to willingly help each other out with tasks when others are too busy, and let them enjoy fresh air every now and again. We have to trust each other to get our work done, and to help everyone else reach our common goal.
People were not made to function rigorously like machines. If you want employee happiness, if you want team synchrony, you have to be flexible with each other.