How to deal with work-overload in a startup

working business man

writer icon Tormod Birch     Lise Tuxen   |   Startups     🕐 03. Jul. 2018

Working in a startup can be an extremely rewarding, both in terms of money and genuine job satisfaction. 

People who work in a startup see the result of their hard work in a more straightforward way. Additionally, they are often more aware of the negative outcomes when things do not quite go to plan.

Long hours

While a company is in survival mode, employees might find themselves taking on long working hours. The physical strain of long days at work can be one of the primary reasons that employees in a startup may struggle.

Long working hours are one thing, but when combined with having too many things to do, the field is ripe for work-overload.


When working in a startup it is not unusual for employees to have a role that stretches over several areas of responsibility. As a company becomes more established, this role is then often divided up, with responsibility delegated to several people.

Until that point can be reached, the person taking on several roles may spend much of their time feeling as though they are spread too thinly, not able to do any part of their job to the best of their ability.

This can lead to a lower level of job satisfaction, even though the actual achievement of an individual in this setting is high.

Tight deadlines

The startup setting often involves working to tight deadlines. The consequences for deadlines not being met are much more serious, and often there is no-one else to pick up the slack if someone were to fall behind.

Due to the nature of being a startup, employees can sometimes be limited to only a few resources, and may not even have a physical office space. Meeting targets can prove to be a daunting task, one which pushes stress levels to the limit.

Deal with it immediately

It is very important to look out for signs of work-overload and to deal with them immediately. When a person is stressed it can have a negative effect on productivity. This, in turn, can affect the overall income for the startup. 

Clinical research coordinator Sandra Contreras said to that “it would be impossible to eliminate work-related stress, especially in the tech startup world”

Contreras believes that it is more important to identify the causes of stress and deal with them by developing techniques to handle high levels of stress. 

A lid on creativity
Too much stress can also stifle creativity. If someone feels like they are unable to be creative in their job, as their focus is merely on surviving, then there is a high chance that that person will soon look for a new job.

Losing employees can be a risk for startups, especially as, in the early stages, they may not have many perks they can offer their workers.

Work vs holiday

It can be a challenge for a startup and its employees to achieve the balance between time at work and time off. Some choose not to take any holiday, while others see the importance of balancing work with rest.

“It is really important to spend some time away to get a new perspective and to become bored. Because when you become bored, then you come up with new ideas,”
 said Sara Casen, CEO of gaming startup Midnight Hub. 

Stress can be healthy

It is important to accept that some level of stress is unavoidable. In fact, a little stress is healthy for the work environment. It provides an impetus for people to keep working, and keeps them on track to meet a target or achieve a goal. 

People respond to stress differently, both in terms of what causes it and how to deal with it. For some, simply taking frequent breaks goes a long way towards handling work-overload.

Organise, prioritise

Putting in the effort early on to be organised and have a stable routine is essential. This can look different for different people, but most important is for individuals to understand where they most need structure and making sure that they apply it.

There is a need to understand what is most important, and the ability to prioritise that above everything else on the to-do list. Learning to trust one’s own instincts can enable someone to make decisions quickly and work in a more effective manner.

Above all, communication is the most important element of avoiding a work-overload and the stress that accompanies it. If a startup has a commitment to openness, from all directions and in all roles, then people are more likely to speak up before the work-overload becomes too much to manage.

We believe that information should be free and will therefore never put up a paywall.

If you like reading our reports about the Scandinavian business scene and would like to donate towards the upkeep of the site, we would be very grateful. Click here to donate.

Most Popular Articles of October

Most Popular Articles of this Year