Groove’s a unique proposal in the help desk software space. The market is full of expensive solutions crafted for huge companies. Groove founder and CEO Alex Turnbull decided to take a different path.
He decided that his company would be about serving small companies. Companies that had no use for enterprise-level software but had outgrown email support.
Alex knew from previous work experience that having an office was wasteful. He recalled rows of co-workers arriving at work and sitting at their desk with headphones on. Interaction was rare and unneeded for the work. He wouldn't force his employees to come into an expensive office just for the sake of it; the work didn’t require it. He would staff his company with remote employees.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Groove had a problem: it was growing too fast! The team couldn’t keep up. 12-hour days had once punctuated final sprints toward important milestones. Now, they were the norm.
Alex knew this couldn’t go on. His remote developers were slipping. Coding productivity as measured using Pivotal Tracker was down over 20%. Everyone was tired, slower, making more mistakes. Alex himself felt the burn. But work kept piling up.
Alex faced the same problem that Chargify once had: remote employees are less likely to take time off. Groove let employees take as much time off as they wanted… But they wanted none!
People were fearful to go on vacation only to come back and find an huge pile of work waiting for them. And they felt guilty taking time off when the rest of the team was sweating bullets.
Alex saw that granting vacation time did nothing to help with stress and fatigue. Only actually using it can do that. Offering time off was not enough.
Let’s take a look at the measures he took to solve Groove’s remote team’s burnout problem.
Adding a remote developer to the team
Of course, the most obvious solution to too much work is getting a new pair of hands. Right? Well, it’s not so simple. Hiring is hard, and hiring a remote employee can be even harder.
You need people that are not only experts on their field, but also great communicators. The ability to self-motivate is also essential. And even for a successful startup, hiring a new remote developer has a budget impact.
Alex had been dreading doing it, and delaying it. But he knew it was the right call. So he bit the bullet. And soon after, he realised it had been a wise investment.
The good news is that, when you’re in Alex’s shoes, you can rely on us to find you the best remote developer. We’ll do all the grunt work and you reap the benefits – and you’ll even save some money in the process.
Be honest about what is a priority, and what isn’t
As your company grows and his successful, it’s tempting to see everything as urgent and important. Everything matters!
That’s laziness in disguise, and a fear of making the tough decision of how to divide your manpower and focus. As Alex puts it in the company blog:
The truth is, we weren’t getting that many more mission-critical tasks. We were just flagging them as mission-critical because they were critical to keeping our productivity in line with the previous exhausting, overworked weeks.
Are you willing to sacrifice your team's performance to clear a checklist? Be honest with yourself. That's not a great trade-off. Find the big wins, the 20% of tasks that are urgent and important, the ones that make a big difference. The rest will be handled in due time.
Show it’s ok to take time off
In the end, Alex had to recognize that he was part of the problem. He was as burnt out as everyone else – and he kept working. He told himself that he would be setting a bad example if he left while they were struggling.
It turns out he had to be forceful. On the week after Christmas, he took his time off. And he made sure everyone else did, too. He froze all non-critical tasks on their management software. This had the effect of closing Groove’s virtual office for the entire week. Nobody was allowed to work.
As Alex wrote:
“Being a founder or CEO is no excuse to work yourself into the ground. On the contrary, if you want your team to be less stressed and more productive, lead by counter-intuitive example and take a vacation.”
Reaping the rewards
The results spoke for themselves. After that one week of not working, the Groove team’s productivity shot up. Their remote developer team went from a 20% decrease in productivity to a 38% increase.
These results solidified Groove’s commitment to look out for the health of their team. Even when the people in the team would rather sacrifice it for the good of the company. It’s a cautionary tale about how we are often our own worst enemies. And shows how a little rest can go a long way towards maximising employee effectiveness.
The main lesson that Alex took from this episode? Don’t wait until burnout sets in. Have a plan in place to make sure your employees get all the rest they need.
You can also have a killer global team. We at DistantJob will help you find expert developers to fill key positions. We’ll give you the peace of mind that comes with having highly motivated employees. You’ll be working with developers that are among the best in the world.
Get in touch with us and start building your company’s future.