Recently, I watched an interesting documentary which touched on the stress faced by game developers, called Indie Game: The Movie. This documentary followed several game developers as they created their games, and offered some insight as to the psychological costs of their entrepreneurship. One developer went so far as to say that if the game that he spent years making did not sell well, that he would kill himself.
Much has already been made of the psychological price of being an entrepreneur (see here). However, the psychological costs of working for an entrepreneur can also be harrowing. This past Thursday I met with two gentlemen in the tech industry and discussed the concept of "burning out" within the industry. As they described it to me, its wholly expected for tech employees of entrepreneurs to burn out. This unfortunately makes sense, as the employees of startups and small businesses must oftentimes shoulder an increasing workload while the business is still growing.
Burning out is extremely dangerous to a business and a career, as productivity, efficiency, and happiness plummet. Here are some ways you can avoid burning out:
- Do have an outlet that relieves stress- This will differ based on the person, but an outlet that relieves stress will help calm and relax you.
- Don't stop taking care of yourself- Its easy to lose sleep, skip the gym and eat unhealthy foods when you are stressed. Although this may happen occasionally, making a habit of sleeping well, eating right and exercising will help keep your body and mind going.
- Do find support- Discussing how you are feeling with someone (be it a friend, family member, support group or therapist) can be helpful to those starting to feel burnt out. Additionally, pulling away from a preexisting support group is one of the symptoms of burning out.
- Don't stop doing what you enjoy- Although it may be difficult to find time to do the activities you enjoyed before high-stress levels set in, engaging in activities that make you happy will keep your spirits up and help fight off that burnt out feeling.
- Do mix and match these suggestions- Time isn't easy to come by when you're extremely stressed and busy. Change up the things you are doing in your down time to keep them all, and yourself, fresh. The saying "variety is the spice of life" applies to your happiness as well.
Additionally, when running a business, you should also be paying attention to whether or not your employees are burning out. This can easily be accomplished through meetings, or creating an open door policy where employees can voice any concerns they have. Once its established that an employee is beginning to feel burnt out, appropriate action can be taken. Burnt out employees will eventually harm the business in one manner or another, so it pays (quite literally) to have a feel for the pulse of the employees.
Neither the business nor the employee benefit from a burnout. Hopefully, you never find yourself in a position like the aforementioned game developer did in Indie Game. Take care of yourself, and take care of each other.