Does work life balance exist in startups?October 19, 2009
One of the goals I had when creating FMYI was to grow the business while offering work life balance for our team members. This seems paradoxical and insane. But if you think about what a startup is all about, it’s putting ideas into practice. And the only way to come up with ideas or think strategically is to make sure your brain isn’t fatigued. Worklife isn’t just a nice to have, it’s essential to coming up with new ideas and tackling all the challenges that come your way. You need to be able to take a step back constantly to evaluate where the startup is headed in order to make needed course corrections along the way.
The irony of this blog post is I put it off in order to spend time with my family. Our second child was born a week before our FMYI 6.0 release, which presented some challenges. I touched on this topic briefly in the The Oregonian recently. I want to live a full life with family and friends, while contributing to the economy by helping to create jobs in a sustainable way. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, but it is a challenge to balance them.
So how do you enable work life balance in a fast paced startup environment? Fortunately, technology makes so much possible these days. A lot of attention is on real time tools like live videoconferencing, but most of your day isn’t meetings (and if it is, maybe it’s time to work somewhere else =) ). It’s emails and “water-cooler” chats. This allows you to reflect on what’s being said, rather than the immediate reaction required at meetings. Most of the FMYI team members were telecommuters in the early days and many still are telecommuters, and we rely heavily on our own collaboration system to make everything run smoothly. Similar to the phenomenon of Facebook where you can stay up to date with what your old friends are doing in between phone calls and seeing each other face to face, browsing your FMYI site keeps you up to date on what’s going on — but at work.
In the end, it’s all about the quality of your work, not how many hours you’re investing, and whether you’re in the office or not. This applies to startups and big organizations (definitely check out Best Buy’s successes with results-oriented work). We’ve found that offering your team work life options like telecommuting, flexible schedules, fewer meetings, family leaves, and involving friends and families with events and work opportunities can help. Of course, there are times when balance is difficult due to new projects. But it’s the new projects that enable you to grow and provide worklife benefits.
Next up in my series on starting a business: leveraging technology and social media. In the meantime, have fun enjoying your own worklife balance with friends and family!