How these tech companies help their employees manage stress and fight burnout

April 26, 2018

Everyone experiences stress. And while everyone copes with it differently, stress can turn the workplace into a toxic environment. Because the likelihood of eliminating work-related stress is near impossible, many tech companies are taking steps to help their employees manage their levels — and avoid burn out.

science 37 team
science 37

Leaders at Playa Vista-based healthtech startup Science 37 — which actually has a psychologist on staff — take a pragmatic approach to keeping employees at the top of their game. Knowing that each person handles stress differently requires multiple ways of helping them do so, according to clinical research coordinator Sandra Contreras, who has a master’s in public health.


Has there ever been a time in your career in which you found yourself close to burning out?  

There were a couple times when I found myself close to burning out. The circumstances causing the stress were usually different, but the solution seemed to point to effective methods of communication. It was invaluable to have effective communication with my coworkers, my supervisor and with myself. Stress can create a cycle of worrying thoughts or anxiety that oftentimes can be relieved through proper avenues of communication.


How does employee stress affect their team, the company and the product?

Stress not only affects us on a chemical hormonal level, it also affects us on an emotional and physiological level that varies from person to person. Add to that being part of a highly functional team with quick deadlines and employee stress can lead to miscommunication, tension and fatigue.

Oftentimes, one person’s stress is experienced throughout the company because we see and interact with each other on a daily basis. You always know when someone's in a good or bad mood and that can affect the rest of your day as well. On a human level, we care about each other's well being, and stress can be contagious. In the end, the quality of the finished product is affected because stress can hinder creativity and self-expression.


What’s one misconception about work-related stress that needs to be debunked?  

That stress should be eliminated in order to function better. It would be impossible to eliminate work-related stress, especially in the tech startup world. It's more important to identify the stressors and have the techniques to help manage stress.


How does Science 37 help its employees manage their stress?  

Communication is big at Science 37, and that commitment to openness has fostered collaboration among employees to create internal avenues of support and stress relief. We support employee sports teams, comedy improv sessions, a philanthropy squad, book club, and a qigong/meditation group, which meets during lunch and practices breathing and movement techniques to alleviate stress and increase mental stamina.


How do leaders get the most out of their teams while still promoting a work-life balance?

There has to be a sense of trust that each individual has the best interest of the team. It’s also important for the leaders to allow individual team members to prove their trust.


ayzenberg group ad group pasadena


Working in a fast-paced, full-service advertising agency can be quite stressful for employees, and this is something the leadership at Pasadena-based Ayzenberg Group is keenly aware of.

According to Principal, Director of Strategy Chris Younger, the company offers plenty of opportunities for employees to recharge their batteries, inside and outside of the company’s palatial headquarters.  


Has there ever been a time in your career in which you found yourself close to burning out?

Burnout often results in a change of career path, so after 14 years at Ayzenberg, I’m glad to say I have never found myself too close. A big step for me was realizing how important it is to listen, reflect, step away and re-evaluate from time to time. Doing so keeps everything in perspective.


How does employee stress affect the team, the company, and the product?

A stressed team member directly affects productivity, creativity, revenue and most importantly, the retention of talent. Accepting that some level of stress is unavoidable, we’re committed to pairing positive company culture with the best resources available in hopes of limiting the impact of a demanding work environment.


How does Ayzenberg help its employees manage stress?

Our business is personal and our ability to relate to one another directly influences our performance. Beyond in-house yoga, ask-me-anything town halls and an open-door policy, we made an investment to understand the personality of our employees. Ayzenberg’s myCOLOR platform is an assessment tool that analyzes the traits and preferences of team members then assigns a color that identifies their personality. myCOLOR office decorations, jackets and company swag are then displayed so colleagues can recognize — and, therefore interact — more effectively; ultimately reducing stress, developing tighter relationships and improving overall performance.


How do leaders get the most out of their teams while still promoting a work-life balance?

The communication arts business often puts clients first and creates a ‘whatever it takes’ environment. While challenging assignments can require demanding work cycles, we ensure balance by rewarding that effort with a similar, ‘whatever you need’ approach when the job is done.



Pasadena-based digital media company Brainjolt offers employees perks like flexible hours and an unlimited vacation policy to create the work-life balance that works best for them, but Founder and CCO Abraham Piper was honest when he told Built In LA that helping employees avoid burnout is something he’s actively working on.


How does Brainjolt help its employees manage their stress?

The simplest way we’re trying to help the Brainjolt team deal with work-related stress isn’t sexy at all: we’re placing an increased focus on setting clear expectations.

People need to know how to succeed. As obvious as that is, it’s surprisingly difficult to actually make happen. We’ve seen the impact of people being unclear about their jobs: it makes every day stressful, and that’s on management. Because of this, we want to set clear goals so that everyone knows what they should be doing, how we recognize success and what it feels like to be part of a well-oiled machine.


How do leaders get the most out of their teams while still promoting a work-life balance?

We value the good kind of stress at Brainjolt, the kind that drives and motivation. Good stress still puts you under pressure, but you can see what you’re aiming for, how you’re going to get there when it’s going to end, and what you’re going to accomplish. Aimlessness, on the other hand, creates pressure that you see no way out from under.

We are far from perfect, but improving the clarity of goals and expectations is one way we’re trying to make our team’s work-life balance more fulfilling. Once we nail this down, maybe we’ll turn that vacant, windowless office into a nap room.

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