We’re creeping into Autumn, the time of year when we start and leave work in the dark. Then it’s worrying at night about the to-do list and pushing back any downtime to keep ploughing through. This is the cold, rainy reality for everyone in a start-up, but for those pursuing a passion, who notices the seasons? It’s just more days to work around the clock. Working 60 hours a week or more is often the norm in the start-up community.
There are now an abundance of wellness and mental health start-ups, making mental health the priority it should be and enabling people to better manage it. Some 650 million people struggle with mental health issues of some sort, so it’s not a niche market. However, mental health within start-ups remains a problem, especially founder burn out. Research over the past few years has shown that 30% of founders have dealt with depression – and that’s just the founders and not the individuals in the start-ups, whose working patterns are much the same and who emulate this drive to put the business before themselves.
We get it, because we are on a similar journey in growing and scaling up our own business at Ignition Law.
So how can you best manage your mental health whilst generating sales, innovating new services and products, retaining / attracting talent and trying to keep the soul of your start-up?
From our experience and from speaking with many of the start-up and scale-up clients we work with, a lot of it comes down to building a strong, cohesive team and a culture of trust and integrity. As Steve Jobs said:
Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.
A lot of advice about founder burnout says delegating is the key to productivity, efficiency and staying sane. When the pace and sheer volume of things to do threaten you to burn the candle at both ends, you need people to trust and to support you. Having a team around you who are capable and willing, is vital. So, keeping your employees motivated and fulfilled is paramount. Ensuring you offer choice, responsibility and flexibility in line with the future of modern day working, trusting employees to get their jobs done and treating them with respect and recognition should be a key focus to keep the team motivated so you can delegate confidently.
As a smaller business, it is also important to build a network of trusted partners who have your back and can deal with all those things outside your skillset. At Ignition Law, we take care of the legal jargon for our start-up clients to enable them to focus on their business strategy and success. We draft the fiddly bits of an investment agreement and keep everything in order in line with corporate governance. We push back on details and keep control so they can achieve business goals. We like to do “useful worrying” for our clients to anticipate any issues or problems down the line and free up headspace for them to focus on all the other things they need to think about.
It’s so important to put emphasis on time for yourself as a founder or an individual working within a start-up. That means taking time for life events, emergencies, for rest and exploring new things. This is what makes us human, it creates a stronger team and makes us all better at what we do. Agile working is a great enabler in this respect, allowing employees to work wherever they feel the most productive and creative and it is something that is embedded in our culture at Ignition Law.
This October 10th is Mental Health Awareness Day and a chance for the start-up community and founders to consider what they can do to ensure they are creating a culture of teamwork, trust and integrity that will benefit everyone’s mental wellbeing and prevent anyone from burning out.