We’re big believers here at Splendid Beast that work should be enjoyable and stress-free.
Obviously, that’s easy to say when your business is creating custom pet portraits.
Even so, we think a lot of the values we hold and the practices we use could work perfectly well in other workplaces, too, if managers and owners would give them the chance.
Here’s what we recommend.
Let people set their own schedules
Your employees have other things going on in their lives besides working for you, right?
Well, when you let them prioritize their lives in a way that matches with their actual priorities, guess what, they become loyal to you.
When you need to cram for the holiday rush of dog portraits and cat paintings, they’ll be there for you. They’ll remember all the times you were flexible in letting them take trips or mornings off.
What about all the work that needs doing?
You need to communicate with your team when it needs to be done by and make sure to plan accordingly so you meet your deadlines. Better yet, when an employee needs some flexibility and you have a looming deadline, ask them how they can take the time off they need and still get their work done on time. Then hold them to that new plan.
Need to meet at specific times that work for everyone? That’s to be expected. But shoot to keep meetings to a minimum. There are other ways to coordinate now, like Slack, email, and shared documents in the cloud.
Set (and Practice) Reasonable Communication Turnaround Times
Most of us receive email on our smartphones and have near-constant access to the internet now.
Does that mean we should immediately respond to every question people throw at us? No!
In fact, every time you switch tasks you lose productivity.
We’re big believers in Deep Work, which is the focused time we spend on difficult tasks in which we’re the most productive. That means turning email notifications off, and batching communication time to just two to three time slots per day.
That’s right. Most of the time people don’t need answers in under 24 hours, so we stick to that expectation. It has very rarely steered us wrong, and saved us a ton of task switching time.
Schedule your email time for yourself, and stick to it. Communicate to others (maybe in your signature) about how you work, and don’t be embarrassed to tell them you’re doing it so you can better serve them.
Need answers faster sometimes? Then call the person. Or text them. Or have some other means of quick communication when needed.
Note that this 24-hour turnaround time goes for communication with customers, too. Many people in business are nervous to leave customers hanging too long for fear that they’ll lose the business. But that rarely happens in most industries.
In general, people aren’t sitting around and waiting for email responses; they usually move on to something else while they wait.
Never work when sick and don’t let others do it either
It’s very strange to us how, by default, people in the U.S. seem to work while they are sick. This never made sense to us. When you’re sick, your body needs to rest to feel better. And it needs to feel better to be productive at work.
Oh, and there are these things call germs. You spread them when you come into the office sick and endanger the productivity and health of everyone else.
So. Just. Stop.
You can always find a way to shuffle around the work when someone is out for an extended period. You should have backups for each role in your business anyway in case people leave or can’t work do to emergencies.
Building in redundancies is part of your job as a business owner or manager. So flex your flexibility muscle when illnesses present the opportunity.
Let people work remote
This is admittedly a controversial one, but for reasons we don’t totally understand.
The topic has been treated best in the book Remote: Office Not Required.
Here’s the gist: you need your team to complete their work and communicate clearly. It’s now the 21st century, so you no longer need to be in the same physical space to do those things any more.
You don’t actually need to care about the hours people are putting in, you just need the work done.
And how will you know the work is getting done? You will check it.
Yep. That’s it.
(We use Trello for our internal project management, but there are many great tools for this.)
Need to communicate face-to-face? Use Zoom or another video meeting tool.
Don’t trust your employees to enter their hours honestly? Then you have bigger issues. Businesses are built on trust.
The benefits of a stress-free work environment
These are pretty straightforward: your place of work with be more enjoyable for you and your team.
Moreover, your team will speak well of your company and really dig in during the inevitable busy times with little complaint.
You’ll have given them what other work places didn’t, a stress-free way to earn a living, so you’ll have their loyalty, respect and appreciation.