Every so often I get drawn into the debate about startup employees and how much they should work. Should you hire workaholics? Is it expected that startup employees work 100+ hours per week? Should they be online all the time, constantly available and ready to go?
It depends. And it’s up to you. If you expect employees to work 20 hours / day that’s your choice. If you find people willing to accept those jobs that’s great. I don’t have any issues with that, because when you recruit someone it’s a relationship between two people. If two people mutually agree on something that’s good enough for me. There’s rarely any arm twisting during an employee offer. If they don’t agree, the employee quits or they’re fired. Such is life.
But it got me thinking…
One of the big problems I’m seeing with a startup’s expectations for “hours worked” is that they use it as a metric of employee quality and success. Likely because it’s one of the easiest metrics to track. If someone works 80+ hours in a week they must be kicking ass! Whoever works the most is the best! But clearly that’s not always going to be the case. “Hours worked” is a poor measurement of almost everything, except for “hours worked.” I’m not even sure it’s a great measurement of passion (which is an essential quality you need to look for in startup employees.) It could just be that the guy is slow, so he works more hours.
We need to think about other measurable indicators of an employee’s quality and value. Just like “years of experience” on a resume is a shoddy measure of expertise and quality, the same holds true for “hours worked”.
I’m not arguing against a startup’s need to move insanely fast. Startup jobs aren’t (and never will be) “9 to 5 gigs.” And I agree that oftentimes startups do feel out of control and insane, and that’s part of the appeal. Startups are roller coasters. Don’t think of them any other way. But at the same time if you look at how you evaluate the quality and value of an employee and you’re saying, “Well, he’s not putting in 20 hours per day…”, just stop and ask yourself whether that’s a true measure of value or not.
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