How to Recognize and Prevent Burnout in a Startup

— January 11, 2017

A startup is an interesting place to work, and as such, it attracts a different type of employee, most of which are energetic, driven, self-starters.

However, startups also tend to put more stress on employees than an established business, with employees often taking on the job or two or three people, in addition to dealing with regular concerns about funding and the life of the company.

When this becomes too much, employees burn out.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can lead to detachment and unhappiness that affects job performance, personal relationships, and health. It can happen to professionals in any field and industry, and it affects employees and managers alike.

In order to prevent burnout, it’s essential to understand the underlying causes, and what you can do to correct these issues. Here are four areas where you can make an immediate impact, and some easy ways to get started.

Team Activities


Burnout cause: All work, no play.

In a startup with minimal resources and a lot to prove, it’s easy to focus so much on work that employees burn out. Because of this, it’s important for managers to plan activities outside the workplace.

Organize a team lunch, spend the day at the beach or park, or plan a Friday happy hour. These activities break up the workday and allow your employees to socialize.

Plan a team event each month and poll employees about what they want to do before deciding what the activity will be. Your employees will look forward to planned events that they have a say in, versus seeing them as an after-work obligation.



Burnout cause: Not invested

According to a study on workplace burnout from The Office Club,

“The data shows that as employees gain more control and autonomy in their positions, job satisfaction rises in tandem. There is a strong statistically significant relationship between job satisfaction and levels of control and autonomy at work.”

Luckily, you don’t have to spend any money to combat this cause of burnout.

Ask for input on big decisions when applicable, empower employees to have a say in new ideas and endeavors, and let them have ownership of their own individual responsibilities as much as possible. That sense of ownership encourages a higher level of personal investment.

Remember: many startup employees are self-starters; they don’t need micro-management to be effective.

Work-Life Balancelack-of-motivation.jpg

Burnout cause: No respect for employees’ personal lives

Work-life balance is one of the most highly sought after aspects of any job, and it’s especially important to prevent employee burnout.

40 percent of employees will leave a job for lack of work-life balance, according to Jobvite’s 2015 Job Seeker Nation Study.

Why is this a deal breaker? When employees have a chance to step aside, pursue their passions, and recharge, they come back to work with more energy and enthusiasm.

With no time to themselves, they’re overworked and start to feel under-appreciated, which is often a direct path to burnout.

A few ways to improve work-life balance include:

  • Half-day Fridays once a month
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Flexible working options (work from home or co-working space)
  • Respect for their space outside of the office, i.e. not requesting information from an employee at 9p.m.

Opportunity to Advance


Burnout cause: No opportunity for growth

No one wants to feel like they’re in a dead-end job. While you can’t promote every employee, you can seek out ways to help them grow in their career and their position.

For example: send employees to a nearby conference, where they can network and learn, helping both them and the company.

You can also look for ways to take advantage of pre-existing interests and aptitudes. If Jane from accounting is interested in marketing, let her shadow the marketing team and see if there’s a way for her to help.

You never know what your staff is capable of if you don’t give them the opportunity to explore their talents and interests. Luckily, in a small, startup environment, this is easy to facilitate.

In conclusion

Workplace burnout is a problem in every industry and trade, especially in startups. Actively work to combat this issue with group activities, opportunities for growth and work-life balance.

Happy employees make growth possible, so keep your creative, self-starters satisfied.


Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community