The following written by our lovely partners at ELO!

Well-being at work isn’t improved by ping pong or occasional outings

Startups are admired for their agility, youthfulness and, in particular, their ability to challenge conventional operating models and create new ones. The image of the startup also involves young directors bursting with unconventional ideas, offices filled with fun stimuli and a bold innovative spirit. Does that mean that running a startup is all fun and games, or could it also involve challenges that are rarely discussed in the public arena?

Startup entrepreneurs share an enthusiastic attitude towards work. During the first years of a new business, the entrepreneur hardly keeps an eye on his or her working hours and the drive to work is unlimited. Ambition is high and overcoming challenges successfully results in feelings of accomplishment. At the initial phases of startup activities, self-leadership and managing one’s own time are key aspects of well-being at work. Although work motivation helps to protect an aspiring entrepreneur, even the most enthusiastic person can burn out.

From an entrepreneur to a leader

Elo’s Entrepreneur Indicator examines the connection between the various phases of a company and the well-being of the entrepreneur. The study indicated that entrepreneurs in growth enterprises view their own work ability and well-being as being at a higher level than entrepreneurs who had progressed beyond the startup phase. Furthermore, the study showed that those in growth enterprises had not yet spent a great deal of time thinking about issues related to well-being at work or work ability.

Does this mean that when work is running smoothly, well-being is self-evident?

I don’t believe that. Elo’s Entrepreneur Indicator also revealed that, at the stabilisation phase of a company, entrepreneurs showed interest in areas such as health, work ability and the balance between work and family.

One experienced entrepreneur stated that once the business becomes stable, the entrepreneur needs to transform into a leader. Entrepreneurs are required to possess leadership skills, but the company may not yet have the possibility to employ supervisors or managers. The more employees the company has, the stronger its HR management processes must be. Startups should also establish processes — not to make things more rigid, but to help them run smoother.

Well-being at work as part of everyday activities

Entrepreneurs can improve their own well-being at work and that of their personnel in several ways. It is up to each work community and, if necessary, each individual to decide which methods are optimal. Examples of such methods include remote work, clearly defined objectives and responsibilities, the introduction of mentors and coaches specialised in well-being at work, and a genuine possibility to affect the content of one’s own work. Well-being at work means that the everyday work experience is rewarding. It isn’t just created by the addition of ping pong tables at the office or an occasional recreational outing.

There is no such thing as perfect life and no guarantee that things will always go as planned. An entrepreneur may fall ill or encounter other difficulties. Startup entrepreneurs should ensure that they know how the Finnish social security scheme works. Even though retirement may seem a long way off, the significance of one’s YEL income should not be ignored. The YEL income affects all aspects of an entrepreneur’s social security, including sickness allowance, parental allowance and unemployment benefit.

By ensuring that all the basic pillars of well-being at work are in place right from the start, startup entrepreneurs can rest easy knowing that the first bump in the road will not knock their business off track.

-Anu Suutela-Vuorinen

Director, Well-being at Work Services