RSS

The Bulletin

3 tips for building a successful business that doesn't burn out workers

Posting in Uncategorized
In France, legislation was passed to help employees keep work at work. Sweden is testing the six-hour workday. But in the United States, employees are working more hours than most other industrialized nations. Well, most of them.

At Treehouse, a Florida-based online education company, employees work four days, 32 hours per week.

Ryan Carson, the co-founder and CEO of Treehouse, has a fascinating article on Quartz describing three ways his company has increased efficiency so that time isn't wasted on the job, employees have more time outside of work, and the company still thrives.

Here are Treehouse's secrets:

1. Do away with internal email, completely 

Does that mean Treehouse's 70-plus employees never communicate? Of course not. Internal communication is just given its own platform. Carson suggests a Reddit-clone -- his company uses a tool called Convoy, there are others too -- for less pressing communication. 

The benefit? Employees can engage Convoy when they have time. Email, on the other hand, treats a discussion of post-work happy hour options the same as a thread discussing an on-deadline project.

But for more important projects, Treehouse doesn't use email. Instead, the company uses a tool developed internally called Flow.

"I get probably 10 to 20 emails a day and they’re almost all from external people. It’s amazing," Carson said.

2. Keep (almost) all communication in written form

That means drastically reducing the number of internal meetings and phone calls. Carson estimates that 95 percent of communication within the company is written. 

The benefit? Instead of being interrupted by a meeting when you're on a productivity high, you can respond when you need a break from a project or whenever it's convenient. 

Recommended tools: Carson says Treehouse uses Hipchat. And, when face-to-face meetings are absolutely necessary, Google Hangout (those too are optional, of course).  

3. Eliminate the managerial structure

While it may seem like a dramatic shift in the traditional business structure, the no-manager structure -- or Holacracy -- is being adopted by some major companies, like Zappos. At Treehouse, the thinking is this: "We treat our employees like the responsible adults they are. We let people set their own priorities and communicate when it’s most convenient for them," Carson says.

By increasing efficiency and giving time back to employees, Carson says he has an advantage in attracting talent, the company experiences less turnover, and has a happier group of employees. This is especially important with IT workers who are especially prone to burnout

And the company itself doesn't seem to be suffering despite its employees working fewer hours.  Treehouse has $10 million in annual sales and 120 percent yearly revenue growth. But the company has only been running since 2011. It will be interesting to see if it can continue to be successful without falling into the trap of overworking its employees.

Read more: Quartz

Photo: Flickr/khawkins04

— By on April 16, 2014, 3:22 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure