11 tips to keep your startup employees motivated and prevent burnout

Keeping your employees happy, motivated and engaged should be your number one priority. At the end of the day, the motivation and happiness of your employees will directly impact the success of your business, so it’s important to get it right.

According to the University of Oxford, happy employees are 13% more productive than employees who were unhappy in the workplace. We’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to help you motivate your team and take the necessary steps to prevent burnout.

What is motivation and why is it so important in the workplace?

Firstly, we need to understand what motivation is and why it’s important. Employee motivation is the drive or inspiration that an individual has to perform at work. It’s a crucial contributor to creating happy employees; it’s what will give your team the drive to get up and be excited about the work they do.

When your employees are motivated, it’s more than likely that they’ll be more productive, creative and generally more engaged with their work. A study by Gallup found that 20% of employees work better when they’re motivated.

Here are some of the other benefits of a motivated workforce:

  • Higher employee retention 
  • Lower employee absence 
  • Higher productivity levels
  • Positive company reputation

What is burnout and how do I prevent it? 

Job burnout is a type of stress caused by an unmanageable workload. Employee burnout is directly linked to mental, physical or emotional exhaustion – and the three often occur simultaneously.

It’s challenging bouncing back from burnout, so it’s important to try to spot the warning signs early and help prevent burnout from happening.

How do I spot signs of employee burnout early?

To prevent burnout from forming in your workplace, you should consider familiarising yourself with some of the first signs of employee burnout. Here are a few to help you get started:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Persistent or frequent absence
  • Higher sensitivity to feedback
  • Disengagement 
  • Negative attitudes toward the work 

You should aim to conduct regular check-ins with your employees, so that you’re aware of their workload and they have the opportunity to raise any issues or concerns. Setting up monthly one-to-one meetings is a great way to do this as you can schedule these in advance, and it gives your team the chance to speak to you about how they’re doing on an individual and confidential basis.

Top tips to motivate your team and prevent burnout 

So what’s the link between motivation and burnout? Well, they go hand in hand. As you begin to feel the effects of burnout, it’s likely your motivation levels will plummet. It’s important to promote a healthy work environment to maintain a good work-life balance.

Now that we’ve explored the meaning of workplace wellbeing and burnout, let’s look at how you can motivate your employees and prevent burnout. 

1. Build a positive work culture 

Promoting a positive work culture is key to a healthy and productive workforce. According to TeamStage, motivated employees are 87% less likely to resign. So if you’re unsure whether you should put the time in to build a positive work environment, you definitely should. 

What steps can you take to build a positive work culture? 

Determine your core values as a business: You should set out your core values and try to incorporate these into everything your startup does. Clear core values will add meaning and purpose to employees’ work and help improve performance and motivation.

Have fun and create a fun atmosphere: You’ll want to make sure your employees feel comfortable at work. You can do this by creating a relaxed atmosphere and allowing your employees to have some fun at work. This will lower stress levels and give them something to look forward to.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect to see from creating a positive work culture:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Employee retention
  • Higher level of motivation and productivity 
  • Reduced workplace stress and anxiety

2. Encourage creativity and innovation 

Give your employees the opportunity to experiment with new ideas. Whether it’s an idea for a new product or general feedback, by giving your employees the freedom to experiment, you’ll ensure they are more engaged and thus a lot happier doing their job. 

Plus, if you do decide to implement any of your employees’ suggestions, they’ll earn recognition and the satisfaction of making a difference – and feel valued within the company as a result.

3. Recognise a job well done

Recognition and appreciation is essential for workplace wellbeing. The more you recognise a job well done, the more valued it’ll make your employees feel. This will motivate your employees to continue to produce great work. Here are a few ways to recognise your employees: 

  • Verbal praise
  • Bonuses
  • Employee of the month 
  • Awards
  • Additional time off or early finishes

Bear in mind that everyone likes to be recognised differently, so take the time to work out what motivates each of your employees and how they prefer to be praised.

4. Provide a healthy work-life balance

A poor work-life balance can lead to a variety of symptoms. Decreased productivity, increase in frequency of mistakes, poor quality of work, and increased levels of employee stress are just a few of the effects that your business and team might experience. 

According to McKinsey, 87% of survey respondents indicated that they would be more productive if they worked their desired number of days at home than if they had to work at the office five days per week.

Providing your employees with the option, freedom and flexibility creates a more positive and healthy work environment that’s guaranteed to help your employees thrive.

5. Promote teamwork and collaboration 

Nurture your employees’ needs by encouraging collaboration and teamwork. You should try to help your employees get to know each other a little better and form friendships through collaborative work, or events like team lunches. A company culture that promotes positive work relationships may also benefit from a higher team morale and better teamwork. 

6. Set clear goals that are measurable 

Setting clear goals gives your employees a clearer idea of what they need to achieve and how much time they have to do this. This will generally help your employees stay organised and hopefully feel a lot less stressed. 

SMART goal setting will help your employees grow and develop professionally. These elements will help create structure and clarity so your employees can achieve their targets. 

Here’s what it stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

If you’re feeling the stress of running a business, check out our video guide to help you stay healthy and productive while running your startup. 


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7. Give your employees a sense of purpose 

Everyone needs a sense of purpose, especially in their work environment. You should try to give your employees a sense of purpose at work. Maybe there’s a new project they could run or maybe there’s a challenge that’s perfect for them? 

Have faith in your employees and their capabilities as this will boost their morale and help make them more determined and motivated. 

8. Provide room for growth

Once you’ve secured great employees, you’ll want to keep them by your side. If you provide your employees with opportunities for growth and development, they’ll have something to work towards which will motivate them and make sure they stick around. Make time to understand their goals, and work with them to build a plan that helps them achieve these alongside the wider business objectives.

9. Build positive relationships with your employees 

Take some time to get to know your employees and understand them and their needs. The better you know your team, the better you’ll be at making the workplace better suited to them.

You can do this through:

  • One-to-ones
  • Company socials
  • Being authentic and vulnerable with them 
  • Having lunch with your employees
  • Asking them questions

10. Monitor workloads

Running a business has its challenges and there’s no doubt you’ll never run out of things to do! This is why you should check in with your employees and make sure they don’t have too much on their plate. 

If you or your employees are struggling with their workload, consider hiring some freelancers to help. Not sure where to find one? Check out our article Hiring freelancers: A fast way for startups to bring in expertise

11. Be transparent and communicate with your employees

If you’re ever unsure about what your employees would expect to see from you or your company, ask them. No employee is the same, so chances are the things that make them tick will be different too. There’s no harm in having a conversation with them and exploring what they expect from you as a leader and what they expect from the company. 

Remember: burnout can happen to anyone, so as well as looking out for your team, you should keep your own wellbeing in check too. Look out for the warning signs in your own behaviour, and be sure to set a good example to your employees. 

As a leader, it can be easy to focus on others and forget about yourself, but managing your own workload and avoiding overwhelm is just as important!
We hope you’ve found this guide useful but if you’re looking for more information on staying productive, check out our article How to stay productive when you’ve got a tiny startup team.

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Karina Kundzina
Karina is the Content and Marketing Assistant at Inkwell, the company behind The Pitch.

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