Startup work no fun for staff

From low wages to working for weeks without a break, employees suffer a lot in silence.
Last Updated 22 March 2019, 13:00 IST

Behind the pomp and glamour associated with being a part of the startup culture in Bengaluru lies an ugly truth — working in some of these places is far from fun.

Long working hours, unrealistic work expectations, job insecurity, leave cancellations and emotional blackmail are just some of the many hurdles people working in startups have to navigate in their careers.

“I have been continuously working for more than two weeks now, without a single off,” says an engineer, who does not wish to be named, working in a startup in the city. “It is a small team and all hands need to be on board to complete the project on time. Our breaks are regulated and we can’t check WhatsApp while in office.”

She adds that while the pressure has been unbearable as the deadline is nearing, the work culture has been pretty much the same since the time she joined. “Taking leaves is always a stressful activity. They make it a point to complain how much the team will suffer without you and how since we are a small team, we have to help each other out. I feel guilty even if I am taking off to attend important family functions.”

Another female employee of a startup, who has worked in three startups in the last five years, says that the problem starts when the vision and mission are missing in a startup. “There are founders who are unclear about their own views. It is usually then, the passion/ motivation disappears and work becomes tiring. I have been in a startup like that, and its professionally, mentally and emotionally draining.”

Mentioning that acquisition by other companies, job uncertainty and funding issues are some of the common problems faced by employees in this sector, she adds that there is no point in sticking on in a company if the situation gets too bad to handle. “Don’t try to stick to the company just for the sake of your CV. People care more about the work then the timeline of your work.”

But she adds that every startup is unique and the career growth in smaller companies is generally greater than in traditional multinational companies (MNCs). “Working in a startup is like living on the edge and that’s what I enjoy most about my job. It’s exciting and when the entire team works together to achieve a goal, it acts like a catalyst.”

Anushree Mishra, Business manager: No one doubts that startups are intense environments; unpredictable market developments and technical crises are just a part of the game and often that seems to suggest that long workweeks. But that’s not the whole truth.
Startups require work execution at a much faster pace. That’s not the same as pulling all-nighters constantly. Sometimes it’s a short burst of activity to deal with a problem that just popped up. Sometimes it’s just an intense phase of a few days of working on nothing else but the problem at hand.

Long hours doesn’t matter when you love your job. The passion drives you to work for longer durations and achieve the strenuous deadlines. The great perks that you get after successful completion of work are also worth it, such as flexible hours, better hikes/pay scale, team outings, annual trips to exotic location and so on.

Personally, I learnt a lot more working by in a startup than in any established organisation. Growth was much faster and I had the liberty to experiment in my work, thus boosting my confidence.

Some of the problems that Indian startups suffer up

- Roles and responsibilities are not well-defined. In small teams, most employees are expected to do jobs beyond what is specified on paper. This implies working extra hours and effort for the same salary.

- There are no set rules and regulations or even yardsticks on how performance is measured.

- Work culture, in the name of being ‘fun’, might actually be messy and disorganised. There is no order like in traditional MNCs.

- Bosses might be unprofessional and inexperienced. Since they might be owners or co-founders, no one would question them.

- The startup boom means that there are several companies competing for limited funds. Investors would want to see quicker results and higher profitability, resulting in intense pressure on the company and the employees.

What can you do?

Ms Sumalatha Vasudeva, clinical psychologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital says, “Due to long working hours, startup employees tend to neglect their health. It is important for employees to develop ways to deal with a tough situation. Most of the time employees try to stay in denial; they should identify which situation creates more stress and how to tackle them. Certain ways such as walk to work, using the staircase instead of taking the elevator, regular intervals, exercise at the workstation, consuming healthy food can help to maintain the health of the employees.”

(Published 22 March 2019, 12:43 IST)

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