How to Prevent Employee Burnout in a Startup

Stressed out woman in office.

These days, burnout seems to be an all too familiar topic. Workplace stress, unfair treatment, and mental health are all factors that contribute to workplace burnout. Read on to pinpoint burnout symptoms and learn how startups in any industry can take care of their staff and boost employee engagement.

Top Tips to Avoid Employee Burnout

No manager wants to hear that their employees’ mental health is suffering because of their job. Understanding exactly what burnout is, how to identify employee burnout signs, and how to effectively equip teams with the best tools of defense against stress are key components to combating burnout.

What Is Burnout?

Put simply, burnout is mental and physical exhaustion from continual exposure to stressful situations. Burnout is not necessarily related to one’s job; however, worker burnout has reached new heights since the pandemic. Whether burnout symptoms are caused by external or internal forces, mental exhaustion can take its toll in the workplace, so understanding the signs of job burnout is imperative for managers and their teams. 

Once identified, managers can assist with any task delegation, employee conflicts, or just general life advice. Not only can helping employees avoid burnout lower workplace stress, but it also signals that employees are cared for and can boost workplace culture and morale.

Signs of Workplace Burnout 

While stressful work environments can be a part of the startup culture, there is a clear difference between a company that operates at high speeds and one that has “workplace burnout” written all over it. 

Workplace burnout at a company can look like: 

  • Decreased productivity
  • Low levels of employee morale 
  • Chronic workplace stress
  • Low employee retention rates

Company Culture, Management, and Employee Burnout

Stressful situations in the workplace are unavoidable; everyone will have moments where tensions run high. However, burnout happens when employees are continually in stress-inducing situations with no end in sight. That’s why it’s important for managers to uphold their company cultures and understand their communication styles in order to ensure their teams have the tools they need to succeed. 

What Is Your Management Style?

Being a good manager isn’t just about knowing what each team member brings to the table. It’s also about knowing what each employee can and can’t handle. That starts with understanding your own management style. 

The top leadership styles include: 

  • Autocratic style: A more strict, hands-on approach. 
  • Authoritative style: Typically a very visionary leader; this approach knows how to lead the way and explains their rationale to convince others to follow along. 
  • Coaching style: A motivational leader who taps into their team’s potential and helps bring it to light. 
  • Democratic style: Seeing the entire team as equals. Managers will often ask, “What do you think?” 
  • Pace-setting style: Sets the team standard and then motivates members to reach new heights. (Many startup teams have this management style!) 
  • Affiliative style: This “people first” mentality means managers meet their team where they’re at to help encourage collaboration. 
  • Laissez-faire style: This is also known as the “hands-off” approach. 

Once you understand how you lead others, you’ll have a better idea of their needs. For example, if your style is more hands-off, it’ll be important to check in every once in a while to make sure workplace stress isn’t mutating into workplace burnout. This might look like setting up individual meetings with team members to ask about their workload. 

Conversely, if you have a more autocratic or authoritative style, sitting down and creating a strategy with your team may be the most helpful way to combat burnout. Giving actionable steps and then motivating others to follow through is a great way to increase employee engagement. 

Do You Know Your Company Values?

Additionally, understanding and abiding by your company’s values will help immensely in reducing employee burnout. It’s important that employees feel supported and uplifted when struggling with burnout. A manager who upholds strong company values of teamwork and dedication will likely have more success in reducing burnout than a manager who tells their team to just put their heads down and work through it.

How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Now that you’re able to recognize the signs of workplace burnout, can you actually prevent it? The short answer is yes — but it may not go away overnight. You want to keep employees engaged enough that they feel comfortable voicing their concerns, but be careful not to put so much pressure on employees that it induces more burnout. 

When it comes down to it, preventing burnout is all about striking the right balance. The following tips are perfect for all employees, whether they work in the office or from their couch. 

1. Avoid an Unmanageable Workload

Those weekly team check-ins will really come in handy here, especially for any remote employees who may feel distant from the rest of the team. Be sure to ask questions like, “is there anything giving you trouble or that feels unmanageable?” Some employees may not be forthcoming at first, but that doesn’t mean burnout isn’t happening. Keep asking and checking in — the answers may surprise you when they start coming in. 

2. Create a Healthy Workplace Culture

Creating a healthy work culture goes beyond great benefits and team lunches. If employees don’t feel their best, they won’t put their best foot forward. A great workplace culture starts with gratitude and connection. How can you incorporate more of these ideas into your current culture? Whether it’s offering more mental health services or a blended schedule of remote and in-office work, the possibilities are endless. 

Recommended: Learn more about how to promote wellness in the workplace by reading our comprehensive guide.

3. Encourage Work-Life Balance 

Healthy workplace culture can also come from encouraging more work-life balance. Allowing employees to spend time away from their inbox can exponentially boost their engagement and overall feelings about their job, as it reduces their exposure to workplace stress. 

4. Hire HR Leaders

Managers can’t be everywhere at once. As your startup grows, you may find it’s necessary to hire HR leaders to assess employee burnout signs. Even if you have the bandwidth to check in on your employees, having HR leaders take charge of managing the culture and stress of the company is a great way to prevent burnout. 

5. Get Feedback 

At the end of the day, being receptive to feedback is critical to preventing burnout. Striking the right balance also means pivoting if employee feedback says that a certain strategy or approach isn’t working, whether it’s related to burnout prevention or not. Feedback can only help you improve!