Most small business owners know that staying competitive means working longer hours. If you own or have an equity stake in the business, longer work days may not be such a burden because you hope to reap the rewards of your extra effort. But how do you keep employees motivated and happy during crunch times when longer working hours are needed to meet business goals?
Here are a few pointers to boost productivity without burn-out:
1. Be realistic. Don’t expect workers who are not part owners to push themselves as much as you push yourself. And, worse of all, don’t equate the hours you spend at networking events and industry gatherings with the hours employees put in at the back office. It might be a vital part of your business strategy, but it can look a lot like fun to employees whose jobs keep them tied to their desk.
2. Show appreciation – frequently. Bonuses and other rewards are important, but don’t underestimate the importance of saying thank you to the people who go above and beyond. Stop by and tell people you’re appreciative and don’t forget that a written note – especially in this day of email and texts –is usually very well received.
3. Vary the pace. Few people are able to work long hours for extended time periods with no reprieve without suffering from burn-out. No matter how relentless the workload, you must find ways to give yourself and your workers a little R&R. Factor some down time into the weekly schedule. When you can, let employees leave early to compensate for late hours. Bring in a catered lunch or breakfast or hand out gift certificates for lunch treats at local restaurants.
4. Evaluate and reorganize as needed. Burn-out manifests itself in many ways –more frequent mistakes, missed opportunities, personal conflicts, increased turnover. You can easily add to the list. If you seem to be permanently working long hours (and requiring extra hours from workers), it might be time to determine if you need more employees or if your current workers don’t have the right skills to do their work efficiently.
5. Don’t show favoritism. You might believe your success is contingent on your sales people, but don’t forget those who work tirelessly behind the scenes. Most companies laud teamwork but reward individual high flyers. Make sure you reward your staff with a sense of fair play, and try (as much as possible) to keep workloads as even as you can. It is tempting to give more time-consuming tasks to the most conscientious workers, but make sure compensation and rewards reflect this. Don’t reward slackers with the same pay for less work.
Above all, don’t forget that recognition doesn’t have to cost a lot to make employees feel appreciated, and never underestimate the importance of making employees feel good about themselves.