5 Tips to Make Your Startup Team Happier

This is an influencer post by Evgeny Lazarenko, Product Manager at TradeGecko

Working at startups is sometimes stressful, and stress always takes a toll on the team’s morale. But there are always ways for founders to change this and build an organization that attracts talent and helps employees to stay happy.


Here’s a list of five tricks you can use to boost employee morale.

1. Make a budget for books, then see your team spend it. Repeat every 1-2 months.

Your team likes learning. (If they don’t, why the hell did you hire them?) Reading is arguably the cheapest way for people to expand their knowledge; and buying books will not affect your startup’s runway that much. Besides, books can be shared after reading.

Note: As a rule, books offer much hire quality content than free online publications. Do not cut your costs here. A little goes a long way.

2. Create a reading list for new team members.

Promote knowledge and learning as much as you can. Make a list of books and articles you think might help new hires to become better team players at your startup. Besides, it’s always good to make sure that new members are on the same page with the rest of the group.

Pro tip: You should also ask existing employees to make their own reading lists and share them with each other!

3. Stock up on beer & hard liquor.

This may sound like a joke, but I am dead serious. Drinking during the work hours is not common and, in my experience, even people who enjoy drinking would rather skip — after all, too much alcohol decreases productivity.

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The trick here is that knowing you’re allowed to have a drink whenever you want, automatically makes the company’s culture feel more open and democratic.

Note: If you have high school interns, make sure that they don’t have an access to booze.

4. Invest in workshops, webinars, and certifications.

This one is arguably more expensive, but group workshops not only expose your team to fresh insights, they also act as teambuilding exercises.

As for certifications, if you are using any development framework (e.g., Scrum), you may consider offering your team some formal training in the field.

Pro tip: If you invest in this level of training for your employees, you must make sure that they use newly acquired knowledge to propel the company further (and faster). Work with your HR on this.

5. Consider a workplace makeover. Start a “Pimp My Desk” movement.

Okay, this one is probably the most costly, but it is not a recurring expense. Investing in a well-designed office space promotes collaboration and creativity, increasing productivity by as much as 17%, University of Exeter researchers found.

Same research, by the way, showed that workers “sitting at empowered desks were even more efficient — being 32% more productive than their lean counterparts without any increase in errors.”

This is great news if your startup is cash-strapped, as you can massively boost morale and performance simply by starting a Pimp My Desk campaign and seeing your team decorate their workplaces, DIY style.

Note: Read more about the quoted and similar research here. Then check out some office design ideas here and here.


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As a founder, you’ve got a massive power to shape the culture. Don’t be a despot, make an effort to build a flat organization, and keep yourself accountable to the team for your decisions, just as much as the team is accountable to you. Sometimes it is a good idea to directly ask your employees to challenge your ideas.

Startup is not a place for consensus, disruption thrives on heated arguments and polar viewpoints. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”

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