How Much Should You Work When You Start a Company - First Time's Awkward For Everyone

Welcome to The First Time’s Awkward for Everyone, a blog series where we’ll go through the steps we’ve taken to build our very first business and the awkward conversations we’ve had to help get us here. This week, we’re going over how much you should work when you start a company. 

One of the most common questions we get when someone is asking about how the company is going is “So are you working all of the time?” The answer is simply no. Although we are what some would call a “startup” we aren’t working 15 hour days, we aren’t losing our minds stressing out, and we don’t usually work weekends. When we started Dive In Digital, one of our main motivations was to create a work environment that supported our lives and made us (and in the future, others) feel fulfilled. Feeling drained and the need to work constantly doesn’t fit the bill to make that possible. Read on to learn more about why we don’t believe in an 8+ hour work day and the conversations we had in order to establish Dive In Digital’s hours of operations.

How to set hours for your company

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The answer and process is different for everyone, but these are the questions we asked ourselves during our first day of working together full time. 

When are we the most productive? 

For us, Shelby and Rachel, this answer was easily in the AM. We can get more done during the hours of 7-10 am than an entire day starting at 10 am. And once the clock strikes 2 pm, the wheels start moving a lot slower. There’s something about having a fresh mind and even an empty stomach that makes us feel razor sharp and focused. We try to use this time for really demanding tasks like running audits for clients or writing a lot of copy. 

When you have your own company you get to decide when the day begins, if you want to sleep in or not, but because we're the most productive in the morning, we knew that sleeping in and a 10 am start time wasn’t for us unless we really needed.

When do we need to be on for our clients?

Now that we’re both on the West Coast and our clients are all over the country, hoping on a call at 8:30 am isn’t crazy and expecting the East Coast to be offline at 4 pm our time is also fair. That being said morning to early afternoon is prime calling time. For us, we try to encourage calls noon on, because again, we like our heads down work to be in the morning when we’re the most productive. 

What does our time-off policy look like?

“It’s not a problem until it becomes a problem,” this was our answer when we decided that we don’t care if we take as much time off as we want. This topic brought up a lot for us because we’ve been in work environments where “unlimited PTO” was said, but not really enforced, so instead of prioritizing time off, we never felt like we could do it.

The reality of starting a company is that vacation time isn’t a guaranteed right now, because we’re growing quickly and want to keep the momentum up. It’s honestly a great problem to have (to not be able to take vacation because we’re growing), but we also still need flexible time off to take a random day off to have more balance in our lives. Whether this means sleeping in a day or two, or working on Sunday so we feel confident not working the following Friday, our company won’t survive unless we do, and we won’t survive if we don’t take time to sleep, make our own food, love on our family and friends, or go work out.

Do we work weekends? 

For us, having to work weekends blow, but recently, we’ve actually discovered that sometimes putting in 2-4 hours on Sunday makes us feel really good about the rest of the week. As we continue to build our work culture, create our own routines, we aim to be increasingly fluid and resilient. Meaning no matter what happens we’ll be fine. One of the main ways we’ve supported this is by not using absolutes, such as “we never work weekends,” or “we always work 8-5.” Life isn’t this defined like this and we don’t believe our hours should be either.

Our “8 hour” work day and our beef with the 8 hour work day

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After answering these questions we decided our “set” hours are 9 - 5 pm, but it varies day to day depending on our workload we have, the errands that need to be run, and sometimes we take random days off. The main reason we don’t believe in the 8 hour work day is because to be productive for 8 hours straight is very difficult, if not impossible. But we also have some 12 hour work days we feel really good about, so overall, it’s really about being selective about the hours you’re the most productive during and taking the time you need to be a real human.