With winter malaise in full swing and the holidays a distant memory, this time of year can kill productivity. To help you and your employees get through the February slump, here's a couple tips for that have worked wonders for us:
1. Passion trumps experience. When hiring, we look for passion above all else. When someone loves their work, work becomes fun. When work becomes fun, people work more, and more productively.
2. Work when you want to work. The science confirms it: some people are early birds, others are inveterate night owls. Why force a natural night owl to work at half capacity when they're poorly rested? We let our team set their own hours so that they can work when they're well rested and ready to work. Our team is free to come in when they feel most creative, and after five years it's yet to be abused.
3. Use the rule of three. Keep major decisions to three or fewer people. The more people involved the longer it takes to come to a consensus. Small teams coordinate and make decisions, while big ones quibble and form committees.
4. Treat employees like adults. Most people hated having their entire lives were laid out for them when they were children. In the adult world, these people are looking for their boss to let them step up and make their own reputation and find their role within the company. You hire smart people–let them solve their own problems and make important decisions within the company.
5. Focus on culture, not corporate mandated fun. We don't bother with air hockey tables, nerf fights, or any of the supposed hallmarks of a cool young company. It doesn't matter if you have an Xbox or a cool lounge if your culture is negative or your team isn't getting along. You could have the worst office in the world, but when people go to work on their own schedule, with people they like, and are given responsibility, it stops mattering.
6. Collaborate online as much as possible. Anything less than five-minute conversation can be hashed out with a quick IM or email. We built our task management and online collaboration product, Flow , because we needed an easy way to collaborate. Now thousands of companies all over the world use it to get things done more efficiently.
7. Meetings are toxic. Meetings are toxic to productivity, not to mention expensive. They can be useful for major decisions and brainstorming, but remember that a 1-hour four person meeting means four hours of productive time down the drain. When you do have to have a meeting, set an agenda, keep track of time, and avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae. Otherwise, keep it online.
8. Let people put out their own fires. Don't instantly jump in and save your employees whenever they get stuck or have a problem. Allow them to work things out on their own and grow from the experience. They'll surprise you.
9. Avoid unnecessary rules. If you're treating your employees like adults and you're letting them put out their own fires then you shouldn't need to have rules for every potential situation. If a problem does become a recurring issue and more structure is necessary ensure that you keep the tone in line with your culture. We aren't heavy handed or full of tough love, so when we implement something we make sure we're not scaring people off – we just want mutual understanding.
10. Don't play nanny. Let your employees get things done. At MetaLab we don't care when or how long your lunch is, or whether you have to run to a doctor's appointment–just go do it. We aren't your parents and we aren't going to time your bathroom breaks. You've hired adults, so treat them like it.
Andrew Wilkinson, the 26-year-old founder of MetaLab Design, grew his company from $19,000 in annual revenue to $3.1-million. Founded in 2006 and based in Victoria, B.C., MetaLab Design is an interface design agency