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Will I Thrive More in a Startup or Big Company Environment?

Sep 30, 2021
4 min read

It is no secret that different people thrive in different environments. Some people are struggling with the new WFH reality, whereas others are enjoying the reduced commutes and increased flexibility. Given that we spend a large part of our waking time working, choosing the right work environment is essential for us to thrive. 

One way in which you can divide workplaces is by segmenting them into startups and corporates. Of course, this is just a major generalisation: some startups (wrongly so) behave like corporates and some corporations can innovate like startups. Not all startups are the same, and neither are corporate entities. There is huge variation within each ‘category’. That being said, dividing these two categories can be a useful distinction when thinking about what sort of organization you want to work in.

By definition, startups are new companies (e.g., less than 5 years old) which are growing quickly, are looking for product market fit, or are very risky owing to technology/R&D, product innovation, and/or business model innovation. Because they are relatively new, risky and ideally experiencing growth, processes are rarely well developed, workflows feel messy and disorganised and wearing multiple hats might be needed. Moreover, these are often high pressure environments, as growth and cash mean the difference between life and death for a startup. 

On the other hand, corporate jobs are much more organised. There is less pressure to “get shit done” and more of an emphasis on following appropriate procedures and guidelines, consensus building, balancing stakeholders through meetings and so forth. Because these are established companies, the downside cost of “making a mistake” is a lot higher than the upside benefit of “innovating”. Instead of “move fast and break things”, it’s “move slow and break nothing”. For this reason corporates are more hierarchical than startups. 

For where you would fit in best, consider this:

  • Do you prefer structured work or do you like finding creative solutions to problems? 
  • Do you deal well with hierarchy or do you prefer a flat organisation?
  • Are you detail oriented or do you prefer to think about the bigger picture?
  •  Do you prefer working as a member of a team or individually?

To find out what your working preferences are, take our Workplace Mindset assessment and make sure to keep it in mind when looking for a new job. 

What we’re hearing about remote work from tech company founders/execs, small and large:

“We’re clearly seeing productivity with people working remotely”

“We can cut out the waste we had in the office”

“Office politics is way down, the level of noise is down” 

“This is going to change the world, people can’t fathom how far the first-, second- and third-order effects will reach into other markets and our way of living, working, educating, travel and holidays – literally everything” 

“We’re becoming place-free – geographic boundaries are being broken right now, this is a new era”

“Law and compliance catching up will be hard, but this can’t be stopped” 

This is music to our ears — work’s changing. 

Of course, there are harder things that people are talking about; burn-out (largely due to Covid), the impact on creatives and truly creative work, when people can’t even occasionally work-in-person, and the dreaded zoom fatigue! There is also a detrimental effect on interpersonal relationships, team spirit and a general sense of fun, which is naturally better in-person. As the world gets more used to working from home, we may see increased research into which size, type and culture of organizations best fit the remote work model.