Tag Archives: startup fever

Productivity Paradox: Maybe Less is More

What do you think works best: the peaceful you-have-a-life company whose employees arrive at 8:30 or 9 am or so, and leave between 5 and 5:30 pm? Or the stereotypical startup sweatshop where there’s pressure to arrive earlier and stay until 7:30 or 8 pm?

I have mixed feelings. I was on the board of directors while Philippe Kahn took Borland International from zero to about $60 million annually in four years. Philippe led by example, up all night, answering emails at all times, and setting and meeting impossible deadlines for himself. It worked, and it was exciting to watch.

I’ve also seen the startup-frenzy work life turn sour. In at least two real cases I know well, people began competing with each other for body time, just being there, for as long as possible. It wasn’t productivity it was posturing, warming seats, but not really working.

I was a consultant for Apple Computer from the early 1980s, when it seemed like everybody I worked with was there from 9 or 10 in the morning until 8 or so at night, through early 90s. I watched it go gradually from the stay-late strategy to the have-a-life strategy, over 12 years. The company was riding high at the beginning of that period, and not so much at the end.

I’ve had times in my own company where we were all pulling extra hours for crunch times, and times when things were downright peaceful.

So I was intrigued when I read this:

There is little evidence to link by cause and effect that working harder and longer improves productivity, but there is considerable evidence to show the reverse, and that it’s not the management of time that may be the key to employee productivity, but the management of energy.

That’s from  The productivity paradox: When less is more | Psychology Today.

Which makes a lot more sense to me than this quote, from Jason Calcanis, successful entrepreneur and founder of Mahalo:

Fire people who are not workaholics. Come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. Don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it. Go work at the post office or Starbucks if you want balance in your life.

That’s from Mahalo founder Jason Calcanis, a couple of years ago, on his blog. He titled his post How to save money running a startup (17 really good tips). So he was the one calling that tip “really good.” I posted my disagreement to Jason’s post back then.

What do you think?