COVID-19 upended so many aspects of our lives, including where we work. Now, one of the biggest questions on many startup leaders’ minds is what to do about their commercial office spaces.
Thanks to advances in teleconferencing technology, many businesses have learned they don’t need to operate out of a building to succeed. Employees are still productive from afar, and many people enjoy the flexibility that comes with working at home.
On the other hand, there are benefits of having your team in one place. It’s easier to build relationships, brainstorm, and communicate. In-person interaction is often less exhausting than sitting on Zoom for hours at a time.
So, how should we think about the future of the workplace?
Should startup leaders plan for remote work...forever?
Or, do we wait for a full return to the office?
These are tricky questions that we’ll try to tackle in this post.
Although several companies have embraced work-from-home arrangements forever (e.g., Twitter and Facebook), it’s highly unlikely that the physical workplace will disappear for several reasons.
First, many people thrive and feed off the energy of being in an office. They enjoy engaging with coworkers and maintaining separation between their working and personal lives. Meetings and brainstorming sessions are also more fluid when people can work off one another’s verbal cues and body language.
Second, we’ve learned that working from home is isolating and lonely for a lot of people. As the novelty of remote work wore off, depression and anxiety increased during quarantine for those who otherwise leaned on the daily social contact provided through their workplaces.
Furthermore, working from home is difficult for parents when children aren’t in school. They either have to hire outside help or enroll kids in extracurricular activities, which can be hard depending on the social distancing mandates of a particular region.
For these reasons, it’s hard to imagine a permanent transition to remote work. Many leaders and workers have come to appreciate what they once had in the physical workplace. Consequently, what we’re likely to see going forward is a hybrid model in which commercial office spaces serve as a central hub for workers to gather when needed.
Companies like WeWork, Industrious, and Knotel set the stage for flexible and shared professional workspaces. Before COVID-19, many startups leased offices from these coworking vendors to take advantage of shared infrastructure, such as high-speed WiFi, bathrooms, and common spaces, without having to invest their own capital.
In a post-COVID world, we’re likely to see many companies downsize their commercial real estate holdings and convert to a coworking-like model where offices are reserved by employees who need to come into work. Workplaces will be more fluid and serve as physical spaces for those who want access on a part-time basis.
Additionally, some predict that companies will swap their expensive, downtown real estate for smaller satellite offices as workforces spread out to the suburbs. Rather than ask all employees to commute in every day, companies can instead provide regional hubs that workers may visit when they want to be in a more professional setting.
The new “normal” will consist of a hybrid of approaches in which workers are given flexibility over where and when they work. In many cases, this will mean smaller commercial footprints and in-office workforce rotations. Fast-growing startups need to keep this in mind as they grow.
Of course, the right answer depends on your specific needs and business. If you value having a globally diverse workforce, you may never need to lease physical office space again. You can embrace remote work and invest in practices that help you ensure success along that path.
If your team values in-person engagement and appreciates having a unique work environment, it may still make sense to lease commercial space. Be mindful of your growth projections and how your employee count needs to ramp over time.
When you become big enough to justify developing or buying your own building, remember that you don’t have to have desks for every individual. Thanks to modern technology and shifting expectations, you can plan to host only a proportion of your company at any given time and implement a reservation system to manage who comes in.
Ultimately, the decision is yours. We trust you’ll make the right one for your startup!
How to Think About the Future Workplace
How to Re-energize Your Startup Team
2020 has been an exhausting year in so many ways. Those of you who run startups know this all too well. Dealing with the challenges of the current pandemic, along with keeping a business afloat, is tremendously hard.
Trust us, we understand.
However, at Funded.club, we’ve been able to stay positive and push forward by keeping our team energized, despite the uncertainty in the world. We thought it would be helpful to share tips on how you can re-invigorate your team and end the year strong. By finishing 2020 well, you will build positive momentum to carry you into the first part of 2021.
On top of that, you will be able to offload some of the burden you carry and empower others to step up. You can’t afford to burn out now, which is why we recommend implementing some of the strategies below ASAP. Let’s dig in.
Recognize Your Team’s Hard Work
One of the best ways to boost your team’s spirit is to recognize their hard work. Fortunately, you can do this in many ways. What’s important is that you are open and transparent. Acknowledge that it’s been a difficult year and that you appreciate every person for sticking with you through the thick and thin. Don’t dismiss or minimize what your startup has had to go through to survive.
Send out company-wide emails that highlight specific achievements and recognize individual employees who have been especially engaged. Host a meeting in which the only agenda item is to celebrate what you have accomplished. You could even schedule one-on-ones with every person to make sure they know you see their hard work.
For workers who haven’t been as motivated, have honest conversations about what you are seeing. Allow them to articulate their concerns and work with them to set short-term goals to re-energize their spirits. Doing so will go a long way towards letting others know you are there for them, which is especially important at a time like this.
Gamify Mission-Critical or Boring Tasks
If performance across a few crucial areas is waning, think about how you can “gamify” your team’s efforts. In other words, incorporate elements of game design into your workplace that encourage people to reach higher in enjoyable, low-pressure ways.
For example, you can create a point-tracking system that encourages consistency by monitoring “streaks'' for certain behaviors completed within designated periods. Or, you could give out “badges” when people hit specific milestones and dole out surprise rewards for exceptional results. When your whole team crosses some performance threshold, cater a nice lunch, or take everyone out to dinner.
If you go this route, you need to design a way to monitor progress and see how others are performing without explicitly encouraging competition (more on this in the next section). Through gamification, you can convert the mundane into the exciting and change how people approach their least favorite responsibilities.
Promote Friendly Competition
Instead of or in addition to gamification, you could promote friendly competition. However, be careful about how you approach such schemes, as you may inadvertently create tension within your team. Experiment on a small scale, at least initially, until you know how to foster healthy competition.
For example, design day-long competitive sprints where winners receive relatively inexpensive items (e.g., a single free coffee), and set up goals so that different people have the potential to win. If you want to expand the scope of your competitions, don’t let too much time lapse between rewards, as employees may lose interest.
Closely monitor how your team responds to such competition. If you have a group of highly competitive individuals, this approach may work wonders for your startup.
Invest in Fun Swag
People love swag. Come up with a gift idea that creates visual cohesion across your team. For example, you could invest in matching pullovers or jackets that people would actually wear (don’t be afraid to share mock-ups before ordering!). You could also design t-shirts that feature a company-wide inside joke or buy everyone a unique coffee mug. Even the smallest of gestures can send a positive message that livens your team and lets them know you care about them.
Furthermore, you could go above and beyond by investing in gifts with real monetary value. Consider getting your team members high-quality headphones, smart watches, or gift cards to a favorite local restaurant where they can take their families out for dinner. When finances are tight, this route can make a huge impact on morale.
Take a Step Back to Re-energize
These are just a few examples of how you can re-engage your team amid an unprecedented year. To choose the best path for your startup, you need to pick your head up from the grind and take a second to breathe. Then, you can conduct a pulse check on your team. If morale and energy are low, try implementing a few of the strategies above.
Best of luck!
How to Create the Ideal Culture for Your Startup
Culture is a hot topic in the startup world.
In some young businesses, culture develops naturally based on the personalities and working styles of the founding team. In others, culture is an intentional decision.
It can be the reason why startups thrive or why they fail. Culture can also be the difference between attracting top talent and average talent.
Startups benefit from being able to create their cultures from the ground up. In established companies, it can be hard to cultivate a new way of existence after years of operating and behaving in a certain way.
As a fast-growing business, it’s important to decide who you want to be when you grow up early on. You need to create the space for your founding team to discuss what it wants the culture to be and how it will come to life. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself years down the road working in a company that doesn’t look anything like the one you envisioned.
Below are five keys to creating the ideal culture for your unique startup.
1. Choose What to Reward (and What to Punish)
So much of a company’s culture is determined by what you celebrate. If you celebrate effort, you’re more likely to build a company of hard-working employees. If you recognize achievements, you may foster a group of results-at-all-costs individuals.
If you let gossip run freely, you send the signal, intentionally or unintentionally, that it is okay to talk about peers behind their backs. If you discourage pushback or debate, your employees could become “yes” people who agree to everything superiors put forth, even if they don’t support decisions on a personal level.
Think intentionally about what kinds of behaviors you want to encourage on your team. Reward the good and punish (or address) the bad. If you do this consistently, your employees will internalize the culture and orient themselves accordingly.
2. Align Culture and Vision
Your company’s culture should align with the overall branding and purpose of your business. You want to present a united front to the external world that matches what employees experience internally.
When culture and vision don’t agree, it can confuse both customers and teammates. For example, you don’t want to build a serious and stiff workplace if you sell children’s toys. It won’t work. Employees will feel the tension, and many will leave as a result.
Make sure who you are as a startup is consistent starting Day 1. When culture and vision align, powerful brands are born. Southwest Airlines does a fantastic job of this.
3. Create a Culture Scorecard
When building a company culture, it can be helpful to create a scorecard or tool for measuring how well you are doing based on your goals.
Although it may seem silly, put into writing what characteristics you want to define your culture. If you want to establish a culture of openness and honesty, put those “metrics” in a table and grade your startup continually. Evaluate anything below a B for correction.
Revisit your culture scorecard often and distribute it widely. Make sure everyone understands precisely what you are aiming for so that they can support the cause. If you keep your goals or metrics a secret, you can’t expect change to happen. Team members need to know what they should be aiming at if you want them to hit the targets.
4. Evolve Over Time
Startups do change over time. They mature as they discover more about themselves, customers, and market dynamics. As a result, company culture may need to evolve in step.
It’s okay if your business needs to go in a new direction. Be sure to communicate openly about what it will mean for everyone going forward. You may lose some talent as you tweak your culture, but if it’s the right move for the business, it needs to happen.
Your leadership team could also realize one day that one particular aspect of the startup’s culture has produced unintended consequences. For example, rewarding effort may inadvertently entice people to spin their wheels on projects when it would be better for them to seek assistance. An employee may see you celebrate hard work and shy away from asking for help for fear of looking lazy.
This is why it’s so important to keep tabs on your process and check in on your culture regularly. You can catch issues early and address them before they create other challenges.
5. Hire Through a Cultural Lens
There are some things you can teach when it comes to culture. But, not all talented hires will be natural fits for your business.
Sometimes, it might make sense to turn down an extremely experienced person whose personality or values don’t align with your company’s cultural vision. It’s easier to make these decisions if you hire good cultural fits consistently. Discerning a “good” fit from a “great” fit isn’t as hard when your office is filled with other “great” fits.
As a fast-growing scale-up, you likely can’t invest the time and resources necessary to get this right every time. It’s often better to bring in outside help, like Funded.club, to help take care of this critical piece for you.
Our recruiters take the time to learn the nuances of your company’s culture so that they can speak your language and represent your brand well. As entrepreneurs, we understand how important it is to make the best possible hiring decisions every step of the way.
To learn more about Funded.club’s recruiting approach, contact us today.
Ray Gibson is founder and CEO of Funded.club. He brings 20 years of experience in recruiting across Europe, North America and Asia and 5 years running his own startups.