In Silicon Valley, there’s a ceremony called a ‘startup funeral‘ where CEOs speak about the failure of their companies. They ruminate on the mistakes they’ve made and share their insights with others. While this is an enlightened way to look at things, no one wants their company to fail, right?

If you look through the learning from several such stories of failures, it’s hard to escape one conclusion. That is, to stop your start-up from sinking you need to know how to keep your most precious resource in constant flow – the people who work there.

The Indian start-up culture is becoming infamous for its ‘do or die’ mentality. In this pressure-cooker environment, it’s not easy for companies to keep their employee engagement rates high, maintain their performance, and stop their employees from burning out.

How can you go about balancing all these things?

Workplace Stress and Work-Life Balance

As much as 60% of Indian working professionals reported that their current work-life balance was between average to terrible. Many employees have stated that they were experiencing poor health as a result. That includes lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, and irritability. All of these symptoms cause burnout.

The World Health Organization describes burnout as an occupational disease caused by chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Some characteristics of burnout include exhaustion, feelings of negativity or cynicism towards one’s job, and a drop-in professional efficacy.

Indian start-up employees have a lot to be stressed about. The environment around start-up culture is fraught with uncertainty as companies must strive to keep their funding steady and income flow high.

Plus, in “young” companies, there are issues around micromanagement, tough to meet targets, and irregular work schedules. While start-ups are filled with passionate people, that level of dedication often means long or odd hours. A lack of structure disrupts the work-life balance. Weekdays and weekends start blurring into each other. Many employees may feel like they no longer have time to sleep, forget about tending to their other interests. Some may find themselves working for far longer than their counterparts at established organizations.

In recent years, the line between professional and personal hours has been obscured further. Remote work has increased the effective working hours for many employees as an “always-on” culture has taken root. Burnout has become so rampant that companies such as Razorpay and Freshworks have started offering burnout leaves. And for good reason, as burnout affects employee productivity. Thus, creating a good work-life balance is important to avoid burnout, and stay healthy enough to be valuable at work.

How Can Start-ups Fix This?

1. Give Your Employees Due Reward and Recognition

Whenever a worker reaches a milestone or does exceptional work, make it a point to praise their efforts. It can be verbally in front of a group, or through a letter of appreciation. If possible, reward them to keep them motivated. Creating a rewards and recognition program for the office can help show employees that their efforts matter. You can also incentivize their efforts with low-cost corporate employee benefits. That will keep them motivated and ready to keep challenging themselves to improve their work.

2. Celebrate Birthdays and Other Milestones

Start-up employees tend to bond very quickly due to the intimacy these kinds of organizational structures have. Plus, the intensity of the work and the hours force people to spend a lot of time with each other. To further this bond and engage your employees, do small gestures to mark special days. You can have a video call or get together to celebrate occasions like birthdays, work anniversaries, and other milestones. That makes employees feel individually “seen” and cared for. It also makes them feel like they belong. It’s important to make them feel like family because startup structures are more like familial units than monolithic professional structures.

3. Consider Their Opinions

Nothing boosts employee engagement more than listening intently to your workers. Their insights and opinions can be valuable beyond measure. Ensure you consider their opinions when contemplating any important decision. That will help you come to viable conclusions and add to your efforts towards empowering your employees. That will also give you a clearer look into how things are running in your company. Feedback loops are an essential part of employee engagement programs.

4. Be A Mentor

Focus on mentorship programs that add value to your employees. Each employee is unique and has a way of doing things. There may be certain employees interested in learning new soft skills as well. Mentorship can help understand each employee’s work style, strengths, and weaknesses, and give training in leadership, organizational, and other related skills to drive up work performance and engender a sense of achievement and confidence. In turn, these employees can mentor others.

5. Focus on Financial Health

Financial stress is a major contributor to insecurity and burnout. These can usually be avoided by educating your employees on making smarter financial decisions. That would help take their focus away from their money issues and onto their work – thus creating a more stress-free and creative environment. It would also help avoid employee absenteeism. You could hold sessions on financial literacy or circulate educational videos, pamphlets, and more.

6. Drive-Up Employee Ownership

A great way to boost engagement and participation would be through ESOPs. These create employee ownership and are a rewarding way to increase the relevance of the organizational goals to the employee. That drives home the feeling that the company cares for their financial security and future wellbeing. It also makes employees more invested in the company, as its success will directly benefit them in the long run. No wonder #employeeownership is such a trendy topic today.

Try these tips and boost your employee engagement to have a happier, healthier, and more motivated team than ever before. And if you’re looking to launch a powerful ESOP strategy, then get in touch with us!