Crunch does not always mean Quality of Life or Quality of Work has to suffer, it’s just that in most circumstances it does, because of the way it’s implemented. I have gone through two sets of crunch, both mandatory, one long, one mitigated, and both sucked. But there are a few things that I found helped me, and I think would help others, get through any period of crunch:
- Provide All the Information: Inform everyone how much more you expect them to work, what needs to be done, and where the deadline is. If ANY of this information changes, make sure the team knows. I have been in and heard about crunch situations where information about deadlines or cut features was withheld, and this only makes people angry
- Allow people to choose their extra hours: People are different and have different home lives. Some people work better in the morning, others at night, others over the weekend. Do not blanket ask everyone to stay late. Instead, let them choose when to work and they will choose times that will not only make them most productive, but will interfere with their lives the least.
- Allow people to work from home: Set up your infrastructure to let people work from home. Some people can be just as productive at home as they can be in the office, and this removes the stress of a long commute and improves QoL since they can be around for their loved ones.
- Allow people during longer periods of crunch to take some time off: This is huge for me, and I’ve never been anywhere that does this. If your crunch is going to last a long time, or looks like it will need to be lengthened, give people a day off. Say “Okay, everyone can take a day off free sometime in the next two weeks.” Giving them a time frame allows them to plan for things like short trips, or time with their family. They’ll come back rested, happier and more productive.
- Make sure they have and know the reward: In a start-up, the reward is in the stock, but in larger companies, make sure people know they will be compensated of extra hours, and then compensate them.
Hopefully this makes sense. I don’t like crunch either, and it is avoidable for companies that have really experienced teams and a certain amount of give, but some companies do not and will not have the luxury to avoid crunch entirely. Obviously, great companies will always avoid crunch, usually because they’ve learned from their mistakes. But realize that a good company may crunch, but will always find a way to mitigate it when and if it happens, and will learn from their mistakes on their way to becoming a great company.