To help startup leaders create a healthy and sustainable work environment, we gathered advice from 14 experienced professionals, including CEOs, founders, and HR directors. From promoting a healthy work-life balance to infusing fun in the workplace, these experts share their top tips on preventing employee burnout in the fast-paced world of startups.
- Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance
- Implement Flexible PTO for Recharging
- Balance Workloads and Encourage Communication
- Foster Open Dialog and Trust
- Recognize and Celebrate Employee Efforts
- Set Clear Goals and Communicate Expectations
- Prioritize Daily Breaks for Employees
- Cultivate Empowerment and Autonomy
- Organize Offline Disconnect Days
- Maintain an Engaging Environment
- Plan Out-of-Office Activities
- Encourage Self-Care
- Create a Mentally Supportive Workplace
- Infuse Fun in the Workplace
Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Thanks to technology, our ability to work has become significantly more flexible, allowing employees to be productive from any location, at any time. While this convenience can be highly beneficial in some cases, it can also become problematic, causing staff to struggle to disconnect from work and find time to relax.
To address this issue, it is important to cultivate a culture that discourages working outside of designated working hours unless it is genuinely essential. Promoting this mindset among senior staff and encouraging its adoption throughout the business can significantly reduce the stress levels of employees.
Implement Flexible PTO for Recharging
As a startup leader, it’s important to ensure your employees have the proper balance of working hard and taking care of themselves. One way to prevent burnout is to allot each employee a certain amount of flexible paid time off specifically benchmarked for resting and recharging that can be used throughout the year. This will give them an opportunity to experience leisure activities that will reduce their stress levels, allowing them to work more effectively when they return to the office.
For example, we offer twice yearly “light months” where employees get to take an extra paid day off each week throughout July and January. This provides a tangible benefit on top of allotted PTO and helps create a productive work/life balance.
Balance Workloads and Encourage Communication
One of the best tips for startup leaders to prevent burnout among their employees is to establish clear boundaries.
By ensuring that workloads are balanced and manageable, employees are less likely to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Encourage open communication and provide a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their workload and seeking assistance when needed.
Foster Open Dialog and Trust
The best tip to prevent burnout among employees is to give them an opportunity to have an honest and open dialog with their colleagues and team leaders.
Quite often employees are afraid to talk about burnout because of the cult of toxic productivity: they think that if they show to their employer that they do not feel good, they are next to be dismissed, especially during the current time of crisis. And they have fair reasons to think this way.
It is important to establish humane relationships in your company so that the employees would know that they can talk to you as a leader and that they will be provided with more free time or with just the right amount of communication they need to stay in the lane.
This dialog should be established during the recruitment process by giving feedback and staying in touch and then encouraged every work day by providing help, praise, advice, and promoting non-work-related conversations and activities.
Recognize and Celebrate Employee Efforts
Regularly acknowledge and celebrate employee achievements and milestones. Recognize their efforts and contributions, reinforcing a positive and appreciative work environment. Such recognition boosts morale and helps shift the employees’ mindset.
A great way of doing that is by highlighting achievements in a group meeting, email, or in a less formal way—a Slack group channel. Another great tool for acknowledging team members is OfficeVibe. Cards with questions or statements pop up, and you can select a team member that fits that card and give a short compliment or description—in short, send them Good Vibes. It’s a go-to tool in many companies, including ours.
Set Clear Goals and Communicate Expectations
Do not be afraid to write down your dreams. Create an outline describing what you need to do to get your business moving.
I suggest my clients come up with their top five goals. Put them into the order of approach with timelines. Stick to what you decided on and do not deviate no matter how tempting it may be. Share the timeline with your team to validate that the timelines determined are reasonable for the team.
This approach will ensure the team is on the same page. Also, make sure you have work hours in place and that they are communicated to the team before hiring. Clearly share what types of tasks may require overtime. No one likes surprises. Good communication with your team will ensure your success and keep them engaged with your company as you grow.
Prioritize Daily Breaks for Employees
My #1 tip is to establish a routine where you actively take breaks throughout the day. It’s not enough to save breaks for a holiday or annual leave, no matter how long that break may be.
It’s crucial that you remove yourself from your workstation and do something else. Whether that’s going to the gym or learning a new hobby, a big part of burnout prevention lies in routinely taking a break from your work.
Cultivate Empowerment and Autonomy
The key to preventing employee burnout in startups lies in cultivating empowerment and balance. Encourage autonomy and ownership, allowing employees to make decisions and take risks. Research shows that empowered employees are 50% more likely to achieve high performance and innovation. Additionally, prioritize work-life balance by implementing flexible schedules and remote work options.
At ZephyrTech, a software startup, the CEO implemented “Innovation Fridays,” where employees can work on personal projects. This initiative not only boosted morale and creativity but also reduced burnout. By empowering your team and fostering work-life balance, you’ll create a resilient and engaged workforce that propels your startup toward success.
Organize Offline Disconnect Days
I get it, I really get it when startup founders and their employees burn out. It is incredibly difficult to separate yourself from the work, especially if you’re getting in early and really believe in the message.
That said, if you’re a startup leader you have to realize that even in the unlikely event of you not burning out, your team will. This is what makes organizing offline days—where everyone is forbidden from even checking their email—extremely important. The reason for this should be obvious; you’re not the only one checking your email at 8 PM on a Saturday.
Make it clear that taking some time to disconnect is not only allowed but encouraged.
Maintain an Engaging Environment
My best tip for startup leaders is to keep things lively and stimulating! Monotony can be a silent killer of motivation and productivity, leading to employee burnout in no time. Ensure your team members always have something new and exciting to sink their teeth into.
Switch up the types of projects they work on, rotate team roles, or introduce cross-training opportunities. Let them explore neighboring areas of expertise if they want to. This way, employees don’t get stuck in a rut doing the same tasks day in and day out. They’ll stay engaged, continually learning, and maintain a fresh perspective—and you get yourself a creative and motivated team!
Plan Out-of-Office Activities
An office party as a way to fight burnout is a fundamentally flawed idea as you’re still in the work context. If you really want to help people blow off steam, you’re going to need to get them out of that work context first.
This, to me, means casual clothes, and going somewhere at least half an hour from the office. Go hiking, go bowling, go snorkeling—doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is not in the office and people can let their hair down a bit.
A company I knew in DC used to rent out five beach houses in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, stock them full of alcohol and food, and then essentially let people do whatever they wanted for a weekend, a surprisingly effective tactic, I’d say.
Long hours are part of the job description at a startup. Burnout can, however, be prevented by scheduling self-care activities into the workday. Support personal well-being by encouraging open communication, flexibility, and flexibility.
After you devote a certain amount of time to self-care, it becomes an integral part of your daily routine. In order to foster long-term success for both individuals and startups, you need to foster a healthy work-life balance that empowers employees to perform at their best.
Create a Mentally Supportive Workplace
Prevent employee burnout in startups by creating a supportive work environment. Show appreciation, foster connections, and offer mental health support and flexible work options. Prioritizing employee well-being helps them perform their best and avoid burnout. A positive culture promotes satisfaction and productivity.
Infuse Fun in the Workplace
My secret weapon for startup leaders to prevent employee burnout is to unleash the power of fun! Encourage a vibrant and enjoyable workplace by organizing team-building activities, celebrating milestones, and fostering a lighthearted atmosphere. Embrace the spirit of play with creative breaks, game nights, or themed dress-up days. Let laughter and joy be the fuel that energizes your team.
By infusing fun into the work environment, you’ll create a positive culture that uplifts spirits, reduces stress, and helps prevent burnout.