Some of the best advice you’ll ever get is the stuff that goes against the grain, against all logic, against every fiber in your being. “Be calm if you encounter a bear,” “if you love them, let them go,” and “in case of an emergency, walk–don’t run–to the nearest exit” come to mind. These words of wisdom go against basic human inclination, and yet they’re inarguably important to know.
Logic tells businesses and employees that they should sprint forward whenever possible, without allowing for mental fatigue and burnout. The result is a vacillation between effort overkill and apathetic shoulder shrugging from employees. Work 12 hours or cut out early. Cram in as many meetings as the week allows or hide in an office feigning a conference call until people grow suspicious.
An even, measured level of effort and expectation would benefit management and employees alike, but reining in over-eagerness seemingly goes against good business sense. We speak to a lot of firms and I figured I’d share some of the habits that always seem to be present in firms where employees are harried, overworked and unhappy.
Checking Email First Thing in the Morning
Unless you want your clients dictating how the rest of your day will be, stop doing this. Instead, start your day with a list of things you want to accomplish. Check yesterday’s list. Consolidate them. Once you’re done hammering out the outline for the day, contact your team and consultants, and fill them in. Grab some coffee, enough to make it worth your while, and then start digging through your email.
Meeting with Project Managers Monthly
Too much time between important events can be disastrous. Anyone who has ignored their dentist’s suggestion to return within 6 months knows that.
Monthly meetings leave too much time between critical discussions. Time during which your employees and managers can astound you with how much got lost in translation initially. Companies that meet once a week have fewer fires to put out and surprises to deal with. If your project managers are ridiculously busy, do 15 minute stand-up meetings in the kitchen if you have to, just to touch base on brass tacks. Not doing so will result in delays, confusion and lost revenue. And cornering them in the kitchen will undoubtedly assure they’ll start making time in their office for you.
Believing There are 8 Hours in a Work Day
It’s a nice thought, like most unreasonable and idealistic thoughts are. Be logical with your expectations and let your staff have two hours unplanned/unaccounted for to catch up on emails and unforeseen tasks. If you want an engineer to work on a project for 30 hours, book him for six hours a day, for five days, instead of eight hours over four days. That way, the work will actually get done in the amount of hours assigned, plus he’ll still respond to emails and jump on any 11th hour tasks assigned to him. This will make a huge difference in stress level and quality of work.
Setting Annual Goals
You can set annual goals; in fact, please do. But you need to set monthly goals too. Whether it’s increasing your client base, putting in more billable hours, or decreasing your carbon footprint—create a list of goals and offer incentives for the team that helps you achieve them.
Not Partying Enough
Yes, you read that correctly. You spend more time with colleagues than with family, so you better enjoy it! Making the company a fun place to be for your employees increases productivity, engagement and involvement. We recommend a once-a-month Happy Hour with all employees. We do it here at BQE. Each Happy Hour theme is determined by a small team, who organizes the activities and keeps the affair within an allotted budget. The activities typically include competitions and games, and the winners get cash prizes at the end. Bonus—at year-end, the organizers of the best Happy Hour win a prize. The event gives organizers a chance to show off their creativity in a fun way, and encourages employees to get to know each other better.
Check out: Is Your Business Making Too Many Left Turns?
About the Author: Shafat Qazi, Founder and CEO of BQE Software, is an engineer-turned-entrepreneur who created the most awarded time billing software ever, BillQuick, while still in college. He set out to make time tracking, billing and project management easier for engineers as well as all service professionals and continues to perfect BQE Software products hands-on today.