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startups (4)

Bronze Level Contributor

How to prevent and cure burnout in your team

Image: Unsplash - Priscilla Du Preez

Almost half of all sick days in the UK are down to burnout.  Calvin Benton, founder of Spill, explains how employers can help.

Startup life is a lot. We expect big things from small teams. We wear many hats. And we tackle new, difficult problems every day. 

For founders, protecting the mental health of your team in all of this is a very real responsibility. And with almost a fifth of the UK population expected to need mental health support as a result of Covid-19, it’s now more important than ever. 

More than half (53%) of those doing therapy on Spill — our mental health support Slack app — at the moment are accessing mental health services for the first time: the pandemic has brought mental health issues to the fore for a lot of us. Fortunately, more and more tech founders and people managers are turning towards this responsibility.

Burnout is rife in UK workplaces. 43% of all sick days in the UK are down to burnout. That’s a productivity loss of £5bn per year — not to mention the human cost.

As founders and managers, it can be hard to spot burnout affecting our own teams, especially whilst we’re out of the office. When we do identify it, how do we help people who are struggling? And how can we build a workplace where it’s less likely to happen? 

Identifying burnout

Burnout is the combination of three emotions: exhaustion, negativity and ineffectiveness. The feelings of negativity and ineffectiveness are what differentiate it from regular tiredness or exhaustion. And it’s different from depression in that it’s purely work-related — you don’t burn out from relationship issues or life stressors, for example.

Identifying burnout as early as possible is important, not least because prolonged burnout can easily turn into depression. The order in which burnout symptoms — exhaustion, negativity, and ineffectiveness — manifest will differ from person to person. However, negativity can often be the easiest to identify at an early stage. 

The following exercise will help you identify warning signs in members of your team. Think of an employee you’re worried about, and ask yourself:

  • Do they seem more irritable, or regularly exhausted?
  • Do they tend to point out the worst in everything that happens or is suggested? 
  • Are they quicker to shoot down other people’s ideas?
  • Do they give off the idea that any work you’re giving them just feels like a burden?
  • Are they dropping the ball at work when they usually wouldn’t?
  • Are they producing less ideas, or being slower to respond?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, it’s worth doing a more thorough stock-take of the other symptoms of burnout. 

Burnout first aid: time off

If you’ve established that someone feels burned out, the first step is to give them time off work, straight away. Think of this as first aid for burnout — we’ll talk about the longer term recovery next. 

Sadly, taking time off is often easier said than done. As a manager, try to do what you can to dispel worries around taking time off. That probably includes setting a good example and taking your own allotted leave. 

Also, to ease potential FOMO, make sure that work progress is shared on Slack in their absence (so they can catch up on their return), and offer to check in on them on WhatsApp during their time off. 

Often, employees also fear the knock-on effects for their colleagues for their absence. Here, it’s important to review work sprints wherever possible, and to communicate a clear plan for how the work will get done without causing unnecessary stress for others. This could mean bringing in help from other teams or departments, or postponing non-critical work.

Identify the root causes

Once your team member is back at their desk (remote or not), it’s time to work out what caused them to burn out in the first place.

Below are some common psychological reasons:

  • Their goals and targets feel genuinely unachievable
  • Their goalposts for success keep moving
  • They don’t have enough autonomy
  • They don’t feel like they’re mastering new skills
  • Rewards, recognition and workload feel unevenly distributed
  • The work culture feels competitive or unsupportive
  • Their job requirements don’t fit with their personality and strengths
  • Their job requirements don’t fit with their values and dreams

Encourage your team member to go through each of these issues and mark whether they would disagree, agree or strongly agree. The good news is, you can make a number of small changes as a manager to help make these issues manageable. 

For example, if they don’t feel they have enough autonomy, why not explore cooperative goal setting? If they feel there’s a mismatch between the job requirements and their strengths, it might be time to find a new role that is better suited for them. Why not get them to chat to their coworkers in different roles to get an idea of what it is they are looking for and what role would be a good fit?

Burnout-proof your workplace

To prevent burnout, it’s important for employees to feel like they’re making meaningful progress towards valued goals. That’s no small task, and probably won’t be achieved with the odd training session or away day.

But it needn’t mean big budget interventions either. The key here is to adopt small, fixed habits. When consistently applied throughout the company, these habits will generate happier, more productive workplaces. 

Let’s say one or more of your team members have identified the problem of  ‘unachievable targets’ as a factor in their burnout. There are a number of small changes you can make to tackle this problem, both in policy and day-to-day interactions. For example:

  • Make it okay to flag when people feel overstretched
  • Praise under-promising and over-delivering
  • Encourage people to be clearer about their boundaries
  • Build holiday time into execution plans
  • Protect your team’s time — for example, let them periodically turn off Slack notifications or try ‘Deep Work Wednesdays’

These are small but meaningful changes your company can make today to prevent each and every cause of burnout, and create a highly engaged working culture. 

Originally written by
Calvin Benton | February 10, 2021
for sifted

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Gold Level Contributor

Image: Jordhan Madec - Unsplash

Around a quarter of the money will go towards a public-private fund called the Future Fund

The UK government has promised £1bn worth of support for startups struggling to cope amid the coronavirus pandemic, bowing to the pressure of the local tech community.

On Monday, the government said that it was committing £250m towards a new £500m fund that would invest in high-growth private companies that needed money. The government also promised £750m worth of grants and loans to small and medium-sized businesses focusing on research and development.

It comes in the wake of similar packages by the French and German governments earlier this month and follows a sustained campaign by influential figures in the UK tech community, with the Save our Startups lobby group calling for exactly these kinds of measures announced today.

But the pledge from the UK government will likely prove controversial, with fears that the money will help to prop up zombie startups and that taxpayers money could be better spent elsewhere.

Robin Klein, a partner at London-based VC firm LocalGlobe and influential tech figure, summed up those fears writing in a piece for Sifted: “Please use scarce taxpayers money in the sectors that really need it — hospitality, transport, recreation, arts and charities. Offering startups debt packages or handouts is not the way to go.”

The UK government was conscious of the debate and has attempted to structure the funds to limit the risk of the government spending taxpayer’s money on poor businesses.

Read more here

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Silver Level Contributor

Jurica Kuletic - Unsplash

Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor, has rightly won praise from across the political spectrum for his bold interventions to protect incomes, jobs and businesses through the lockdown. But history will be the real judge. Sunak will need to prevent a recession becoming a depression. As the measures are lifted and life returns to normal, victory will be a V-shaped recovery with economic activity rebounding to its pre-coronavirus peak in a matter of months. Preserving businesses and jobs will put us in the best possible position to bounce back quickly. Each lost job and failed business will mean a longer recovery, as entrepreneurs are forced to start again from scratch.

Any recovery will depend on high-growth, equity-backed startups and scaleups. There are around 1,300 venture-backed businesses in the UK, a tiny proportion (0.35%) of the 381,000 new businesses founded every year; yet, they are disproportionately likely to be successful. According to Beauhurst, 32 of the 1,545 British companies that raised equity in 2011 went on to have an initial public offering (IPO). For context, that’s more than the total number of listings on the main London Stock Exchange in 2019. These businesses are the job creators of tomorrow. It should be concerning then that, so far, they appear to be missing from the Chancellor’s plans.

Read more here

By Sam Dumitriu
Thursday 2 April 2020

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Gold Level Contributor

The U.K. tech lobby is reasserting the need to help EU startups with funding as venture capital money dries up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A coalition of startup groups sent a joint letter to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, on Friday (April 3) asking that startups get a “central role in your solutions to the COVID-19 outbreak.” 

Led by the Brussels-based Allied for Startups, the letter warns that the continued economic fallout triggered by the pandemic will put the brakes on the fast-growing tech sector. As sales evaporate many startup founders have said that they are already seeing financing rounds pulled or vastly reduced.

“As with preceding disasters, this crisis is also an opportunity for innovation,” the letter said. “When looking for solutions to combat and resolve the COVID-19 outbreak, but also when looking at where growth opportunities are coming from after the economic downturn, startups are the key actors in both equations.”

Read more here

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