Ignite: The Chicago Startup That Believes Volunteering Is The Answer To Employee Burnout

By November 20, 2017

Employee burnout is something we can all relate to at some point throughout our careers. Too much stress, too much work and not enough time.

These are all factors that might make you want to quit in an overly dramatic fashion like a flight attendant grabbing a beer, pulling the emergency exit shoot while on the ground, and sliding to freedom (and unemployment).

This is a particularly serious problem in other parts of the world, which have strong works ethic deeply entrenched in their culture. For example, in Japan, the deaths of numerous employees have been attributed to “karoshi” which literally translates as “Death by overwork.”

According to The Harvard Bussiness School, the psychological and physical issues associated with employee burnout cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the US. What’s more, the signs of burnout are often not isolated incidents, but instead a symptom of a much greater problem within the workplace environment.

According to another source from The Harvard Bussiness School, when employees lack productivity, the fault is often with the organization, not its employees. This is the same for employee burnout.

One Chicago-based startup, Ignite, hopes to break this toxic lifestyle by encouraging businesses to send their employees around the world to volunteer for important causes. The company organizes volunteering trips designed to reward long-time employees with a refreshing change of pace, ultimately providing a relief from potential burnout. The company also combines personal and professional development with different types of trips tailored toward objectives like team building and leadership development.

Ryan Jeffery

Ryan Jeffery

The company was founded by Ryan Jeffery and Rich Johnson after both experiencing high levels of stress and fatigue from their jobs. According to the company website, after a trip to Africa, Johnson decided to co-found Spark Ventures in 2006, a nonprofit focused on international community development. Years later, Jeffery ventured to Nicaragua with Spark Ventures along with Johnson, and the two united over a common interest — to assist those suffering from burnout while helping good causes around the world. This is when Ignite was born.

Rich Johnson

Rich Johnson

“Companies are facing talent wars and issues with retention and productivity along with the demands of the millennial workforce,” said Johnson, reports Built In Chicago. “They need to find a way to build a thriving and diverse culture if they’re going to succeed, and these experiences provide a really unique way to do that.”

He also added, “We want to make sure that we’re doing activities and exchanges that local community members are asking for and that they need and which lead to long-term support and empowerment.”

The company currently has upcoming projects in Mexico, Zambia, and Nicaragua with more details on their website if you want to take part.