How to Deal with Stress while working in a Startup

stress in a start up

Earlier this week, I had shared with you Volume I that spoke about entrepreneurial stresses and challenges faced by founders of startups. The credits of the inception of a company may be given to it’s founder; however, running a business is never a single man’s show. It requires a team of people willing to do what it takes to generate revenue, meet break-even, and surpass it in the long run to make profits. These individuals are none but the very workforce of an organisation, which is why investing in human capital is one of the most important aspects of a venture.

Employees working with startups have their own share of stressors, nevertheless! Most have reported feeling anxious due to long working hours, work-life imbalance, and job insecurities among others. Psychological research says that people who work more than 11 hours a day are more prone to work-related depression, which in turn is more chronic than certain physical ailments such as heart disease.

With over 3/4 of employees claiming that they have more of on-the-job stress in comparison to stress in other areas of their lives, it has been proven that stress not only has emotional implications, but also casts a negative impact upon the physical and behavioural aspects of a person.

Working In A Startup – Let us understand the different stressors, and how they impact the average startup employee.

Personal life no more

Most startups demand work time that exceeds that of the otherwise followed eight working hours. In this process, employees have their family life taken over by their professional life. Parents of children who are younger than 18 years of age have reported that it was stressful to manage their work and personal life that also involved looking after their children owing to long working hours.

Economic fears

As per a survey, 72% of employees have stated that they were stressed about money in the previous month. This is yet another primary concern of most employees working in startups, kudos to salary delays.

Physical & behavioural impact

Working long hours to meet demands is known to cause work-related stress, which in turn has certain physical and behavioural results which may include: hypertension, diabetes, aggression, and even an increase in one’s interpersonal conflicts at home. 76% employees were reported to be ‘struggling’ or ‘suffering’ in regard to their physical well-being. These things further contribute towards increasing the already existing stress levels of employees.

Job insecurity

Every startup witnesses their fair share of good days and bad days. One of the repercussions of a bad phase has founders turning to micromanage their business by cutting down on workforce, thereby causing an employee layoff. Due to this, many employees report experiencing stress owing to job insecurities while working for a startup.

Role clarity and Multi-tasking

Startups often experience resource constraints, and do not have a structured hierarchy system. As a result, its employees end up donning quite a few hats and sometimes even take on assignments they do not excel at or enjoy. This becomes yet another cause of work stress among them.

Personal v/s Company values

We are individuals first, and professionals later. As people, we all have certain values and belief systems of our own, which make us unique and different from those around us. If and when these values fail to coincide with the beliefs of the organisation a person is working for, it will result in the employee experiencing work stress.

Adapting is never-ending

In a startup, changes take place at a much faster pace in comparison to other companies, which can be stressful and taxing as the employees are then expected to keep shifting gears continuously as the startup grows or struggles.

Organisation culture

Volume I of this article stated how the founder lays the foundation of the culture that their organisation will follow. At times, the same seems unfavourable to the kind of environment that an employee may desire. These differences over time convert into stressors, thereby creating a negative situation for the employee.

Once we’ve identified the causes of employee stress in startups, it is important to learn how to cope with them as well. By adopting some of these strategies, will may not eliminate our concerns completely, but will definitely learn to deal better with them.

Create boundaries

Our careers are a part of our lives; not our entire life, right? Then why do we fail to compartmentalise these aspects of our existence? We must remember to separate work from home, and our self-worth from our professional successes. Personal and Personnel feelings should be given their respective spaces, and not be confused with one another.


Meditation helps to clear one’s mind off all the stress by removing it’s cobwebs, thereby enabling a person to discover relief.

Have at least 1 employee grievance person in the team

Many-a-times, one of the major causes of stress is lack of communication. Employees continue to function under distressful situations until they reach burnout. Having at least employee act as am employee grievance conveyer for the entire team may reduce stress arising from this source, and also facilitate better communication between the founder and the workforce.

Looking forward to something

As psychologists, we often encourage people to pursue their hobbies and interests. Why, you may ask? Because that way, a person will have something beyond work to look forward to. When there is something in the day that we enjoy doing, we are able to maintain a better mood while getting past the day.

Focus on the good side of things

It is not always an all work and no play scenario in a startup. Apart from being one of the biggest learning source, a start-up generally boasts a young and fun culture, and often promotes indulging in recreational activities to facilitate strong employee relations. By shifting focus to the good aspects of being a part of a startup, you will feel less burdened and relatively more at peace.

Physical exercise

Going to the gym, playing a sport, or undertaking any kind of physical exercise is known to release ‘Serotonin’, also called the happy hormone. This hormone is known to regulate the mood, prevent depression issues, and make you feel joyful.

Impact & rewards

Employees in startups are always at a higher chance of bagging opportunities to lead teams, mature and grow faster, as well as receive more freedom to undertake decisions. Doesn’t sound all that bad now, does it?

Family & Peers

A distressed employee can also turn to their family and friends to share their concerns. Many-a-times we may find it better when words of encouragement come from those around us. It would instil a sense of belongingness and care, which would help lessen the stress.

Network & Support groups

Another option could be support groups or one’s network where one could gain insight into more perspectives by speaking to other individuals working with startups, and what they do to cope with their demanding job roles.

Remembering your ‘Why’

While experiencing a low, a person can sit back and remind themselves ‘why’ they chose to be a part of that startup. By reminding yourself the reasons behind the choices that you make, you will feel better by remembering your driving forces, and thus keep moving forward.

Connect to a Therapist

If you feel you have exhausted your options, and are looking for professional assistance to overcome your stresses, then it would be wise for you to get in touch with a Therapist or a Counsellor who will help you understand yourself better, and empower you to become a more efficient decision-maker.

In the end, it all boils down to our determination to combat and deal with things that are not promoting our emotional well-being. The key is to never compromise with your happiness quotient, because – Happy People make Happy Employees.

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