Run a company or manage a team? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have people working for you. You have the final say, after all. But, for you and your company to succeed, your mindset should be the opposite: as a leader, you are working for your employees, and not the other way around.
Your primary job is to ensure that your employees can do their best work. This requires building an environment in which they can thrive, taking the time to communicate, and being mindful of their needs and how they want to work. While you can take lessons from your own experiences and preferences, it’s important to put others first. Don’t assume that everyone is like you and wants the same things. In my experience as a startup founder and team leader, I’ve learned these lessons first hand. Here are a few key insights:
Building software for startups is a huge challenge. Not because writing the software itself is that hard, but most startups have managed to create the least optimal places to do work. In my 10+ years of experience as a software engineer at startups, I cannot trust employers to provide me with an adequate work environment, and this holds me back from doing the best possible work for them. I am an ambitious, driven individual, and I want nothing more than to provide the places I work with my best possible output. I will give whatever company I am working at 100%. Most of the places I have worked have done a great job at preventing me from doing this. That’s why from here on out, I am taking a stand and drawing a line in the sand. Henceforth I will only work in a “remote” arrangement.
Most startups nowadays are obsessed with the open office environment, and it’s nearly impossible to find companies that do not implement this type of layout. They’ll claim it’s because they want an “open and transparent culture” (myth busted*), but if you know anything about the subject, you’ll know this is the worst possible setup for actual work, and doesn’t improve communication or culture. You don’t have to look far to find plenty of research on the subject- and quite frankly, there is simply no debate here. There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that open office layouts foster a more collaborative environment. Of course, office managers, CEO’s and founders selectively ignore the mountain of evidence which disproves this hypothesis. This is one of the real tragedies of the startup world. It’s hard to estimate how many startups are being held back by the obsession and group think around the open office environment. There is also the cost to the mental health of the employees who are subjected to these mad houses every day. As the startup scene continues to ingest, chew up, and spit out/burn out young talent, there is very little by way of wisdom in the scene to help push back on issues like this. In the words of DHH: “The open office plan is a tyrant of interruption, a deep loss of privacy, and the death of productivity”