Entrepreneurs with a hands-on approach don’t have it easy. If you’re one, you’re probably out there in the trenches, working long days to develop momentum for your new business. And then all of a sudden, things can start moving really fast. You need to think about bringing on more employees, scaling it up, keeping up with commitments. There’s a reason why small business owners often suffer from burnout. It’s not easy to start and run your business, no matter how rewarding it gets.
In an environment that can be so chaotic and full of high-strung people, the very last thing you need is disruption. Especially when you’re trying to focus on a critical issue. And even though many startups look for ways to disrupt established industries, that doesn’t mean they’re a place where workplace disruption is welcome. And if it keeps coming up, there are a couple of ways you can deal with it.
The most counterintuitive approach to handling workplace disruption would be to embrace it. Charles Phillips, CEO of “world’s largest startup” — Infor — has done such a thing. At work, he shares an open desk with the executives, and he welcomes disruption from coworkers. He sees it as a unique opportunity to learn something new, and he practices the art of five-minute meetings.
Of course, this is only possible with certain kinds of disruptors. Phillips is well known for hiring people who are team players and who others want to be around. The people you work with will play an important role in your ability tolerate and eventually embrace workplace disruptions.
Ditch the open office layout
Open office layouts might be trendy, but they’re not ideal. In fact, a growing body of research is supporting the idea that open layouts are actually bad. They lead to more sick days. They don’t provide enough privacy. And they are a major detriment to workplace productivity because — they breed disruption and distraction.
Every complex task, whether it’s coding or having a complicated discussion, is much harder to perform if you can’t concentrate. And you can’t concentrate if there are people having conversations all around you, or coming up to ask you questions every couple of minutes. Yes, open office layouts were supposed to foster an egalitarian and cooperative environment. However, they often turn into an open playground where little work gets done.
Opting for a hybrid layout, with plenty of common spaces but also well-separated work areas might be a better choice. You get to have a barrier between you and everyone else, but you also have someplace to go if you need to collaborate closely with someone.
Set the proper company culture
A company culture is a tool you can use to accomplish many great things. The right company culture will help you attract the exact talent you want. It will also help you retain the valuable talent who works for you, reducing expensive employee turnover. It can manage employees’ expectations and give them an insight into what they can expect from you. Most importantly, it can let people know how they can behave while at work.
If your company culture makes your company look like a frat house, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Company culture is always set up from the top. You have the power to figure out how your employees should act while at work. You need to keep it within reason, though, but there’s nothing wrong with setting some rules about disruption. You can cut yourself off completely from the people you work with. You can tell them to take their ideas to someone else in a managerial position. And, and this is the best idea, you can allow everyone to set their own no-disruption zones and give everyone a chance to maximize their productivity.
Handle the source of disruption
If your offices are next to a construction site, you will not be able to remove the source of disruption. But if the source of disruption is one of the people you hired, then that’s something you can handle.
Depending on the value of the employee and the type of contract they signed, firing them might be your last resort. If you really need them, or if you need to have a stronger cause for termination, you should first try talking to them. But if it doesn’t work, and the disruption they cause is really hurting your business, termination might be your only choice.
The very last thing you need when trying to launch a business is something constantly disrupting you. You can look for a way to integrate the disruption into the regular flow of things and get something valuable from it. But if that fails, you should do what you can to minimize it. If that means changing the office layout, the company culture, or firing one of your employees, so be it. Your business is too important to suffer from issues caused by needless disruption.