By now, you’ve probably heard that startup culture is different from the tone of more traditional, established workplaces. Whether it’s described in terms of “vibes” or with more concrete amenities like free snacks and in-office yoga, startup culture is famously laidback and popular among the younger crowd. Not everything about startups is perfect, but their positivity and focus on employee satisfaction is hugely beneficial. Even if you work at a traditional office, you can incorporate the best aspects of a startup mentality into your team’s daily routine. It’s not startup culture vs. corporate culture anymore — work can still be made to be fun and engaging, even in the most unlikely of settings. Start thinking more like a startup with these three tips.
Focus on Goals and Positivity
Corporate culture is often characterized as dull and aimless, treating employees more like a cog in the machine than living, breathing people. While that might not be entirely fair, startups have discovered ways to encourage work while still remaining positive. Startup mentalities also often inspire more of a sense of responsibility in their employees, making them dedicated to pushing past goal after goal. They are also more likely to be members of multiple teams, allowing them to explore different interests without feeling boxed in. However, they may gain these benefits through intense underlying pressure to succeed or endless hours at the office.
Startup culture, especially tech startup culture, also often focuses on underlying motivations and habits. Consider what brings your employees to work every day—if it’s just a paycheck, try to shift that by making them feel more personally valued. If certain teams seem to operate on an earlier or later schedule than everyone else, you can shift their hours so that they still get a full day of work, but on a timeline that makes more sense for them.
To make your office feel more like a startup without the drawbacks, set small and concrete goals as part of larger objectives and express your gratitude when those goals are met. Listen to their personal dreams and goals. Allow your workers to move beyond their fields of expertise and contribute, even in small ways, to other projects that interest them. Let your employees feel passionate about their work.
Rethink Benefits and Amenities
New companies with seemingly bottomless pockets can afford to provide their employees with cushy perks that other offices might not be able to match. You probably won’t be handing out lavish bonuses and in-office catering. But not everything needs to be expensive to be special — just take a look at what some startups offer.
It’s no secret that pretty much everyone loves dogs. Amazon knows this well — the online retailer is a dog-friendly company every day of the year and allows its headquarters employees to bring in their furry friends. Note-taking service Evernote offers its workers the opportunity to take group classes with fellow office residents through their Evernote Academy, including barista training. Modified versions of these policies can work in your office. Make Fridays dog-friendly and bring in a yoga instructor or chef once a month to teach your employees something new and promote wellness.
Civic-minded benefits can also make your employees feel more fulfilled with life. Home renting platform Airbnb offers its employees four paid hours per month that can be spent volunteering in their communities. Adapting this policy for your office, even if it’s only a few hours every few months or per year, can help your employees feel like they’re making a difference. It’s like offering a little more vacation time, but used toward the benefit of your community. Twitter, too, participates in an annual day of service called Twitter for Good Day, when they promote social initiatives worldwide. On a smaller scale, you can close the office for a day or even for a few hours to volunteer as a group. Startup company culture is easy to mimic even on a smaller budget.
Unlearn Corporate Structure
The last major aspect of startup culture is perhaps the most difficult to replicate. Instead of relying on strict hierarchy like corporate organizations often do, startups are more likely to treat everyone, from interns to executives, as an integral part of the team. It makes sense — they’re working to get a new idea off of the ground, which requires complete dedication to the company mission. If workers feel important, they’re more likely to buy into the vision and contribute to its success.
But even in your office, you can start to rethink the ways that your structure works. Think about where your ideas come from. If you’re only listening to the people at the top, like managers and executives, make an effort to hear the voices of lower-level workers. Their insights are just as valuable and offer a different perspective than you might expect. As an added bonus, valuing their opinions and ideas also makes them feel more fulfilled and motivated.
You can also make an effort to cross-train your employees, ignoring the traditional siloing that many offices practice. Instead of keeping each team separate, make sure that they collaborate and share ideas, which can only lead to a more unified vision and a stronger sense of culture within the office. Give employees experience in management, HR, coding or anything else that could help them get ahead in their careers. And, above all else, remember that someone’s job title does not determine their value. Even the newest employees bring something important to the table.
It may take a bit of work, but adding a startup mentality to your traditional office can make a huge difference, especially removed from some of the drawbacks of startups. In the end, employees that feel valued are much more likely to add value back into the workplace.