Owning and running a small business is no easy undertaking. As a small business owner, you’re constantly worrying over things such as maintaining inventory, making payments like rent on time, paying your employees, and maintaining positive cash flow. All of this worrying will ultimately have negative effects not just on your own mental health and well-being but your business as well. According to the bank Aldermore, one in three small and medium-sized business owners suffered from anxiety or depression in the last five years, in a survey out of 1,000 business owners. Overworking yourself to the point of anxiety, stress, and depression does nothing but making running your business even more difficult and makes your personal life miserable.
Having a successful business doesn’t just come from making large profits and attracting lots of customers, but making sure that your employees are healthy, and what’s often overlooked - your own mental health. Things like taking time off, delegating tasks to other people, and paying attention to how you handle situations and how those situations affect you mentally, can make the tough undertaking of running a small business, a little less stressful. In the end, listening to your own feelings and emotions as well as those of your employees will point your business in a positive direction for the future. You are not alone in the struggle to manage your mental health and stress with running a successful business, but these following tips will hopefully lead you towards figuring out a healthy balance of work and life.
Recognize that you are stressed
Accounting software firm FreeAgent found that almost three-quarters of all small and medium-sized business owners they surveyed cited that their health was affected negatively as a cause of running their own business. About a quarter those that felt their health come under strain since opening their business said that their mental health was what specifically was affected. If you feel you are under extreme pressure as a small business owner because of all the stress you feel at work from worrying about lack of money, focusing on feeding your family and providing a home, it is perfectly normal that personal worries would combine with those you feel from your business. You’re concerned about the well being of your family and employees, but what about you? Be aware of how certain challenges and situations at your business affect your wellbeing and you can begin to learn how to deal with it in a productive way. You can become so consumed with work that you fail to see how it’s actually affecting you personally. Stop only focusing on things such as marketing, finances, etc, rather, take some time to focus on you. Pay more attention to your own feelings and mental health and it’ll improve your experience as a business owner and yourself, immensely.
Suggested article: Revealed: The Toll Running A Small Business Takes On Your Health
Take More Vacation
A surprising number of small business owners and employees take very little vacation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 67 percent of companies with 49 or fewer employees provide paid vacation. However, about a quarter of Americans haven't taken a vacation in more than a year. In 2017, about 50 percent of American workers opted to not take their paid vacation, according to a study by Project: Time Off, a group that aims to change how Americans use and think about vacation time. According to a study by Glassdoor, the main reason workers aren't using their vacation days is that they are afraid of falling behind, which is very true for small business owners. Taking time off is key to maintaining your mental health and well being. Sometimes, you can get so anxious and focused on staying ahead in your business that you don’t even want to take off. But then you keep working and working and your anxiety gets worse. If you’re feeling this way, there are ways to take some rest and feel good about getting away from your office or workplace for at least a day.
• Find the person you trust the most at your business that can contact you if there's an emergency. Make sure you leave that person a list of emergency numbers and different procedures they may need to know such as turning an alarm off.
• Try not to worry about falling behind. Put in a little bit of extra time per day before you go on vacation to finish up work
• Train other people to do other employee’s tasks, including yourself, so that people are able to do multiple jobs in case someone, including yourself, takes some time off.
• Plan time off very early in advance, for you and your employees, so everyone is prepared for the absence. Consider taking off when your business is in its off-season or when the workload is a little lighter.
• If you’re going to close your business completely, make customers aware of this closure, especially key ones. If you have a Gmail or Outlook email account, you are able to set up automatic replies that you are out of the office or that your business is closed.
• More tips on preparing to go on vacation: https://smallbiztrends.com/2015/07/getting-ready-for-vacation.html
You’ll find by encouraging vacation for you and your workers, the environment of your business is less stressful, people are more productive in general when they have time to relax, and employees will be more loyal as time off is highly valued as part of a job’s perks.
Encourage mental health awareness in the workplace
As part of the FreeAgent study, they found that 38% of the small business owners surveyed, 38% work more than 48 hours per week. Overworking doesn’t necessarily mean a higher output or performance. Constantly overworking yourself can mean that simple tasks are even harder such as making judgment calls or working effectively with other people. Encouraging your employees to positively manage their mental health will not only help them in the long run, as on average a person spends 13 years and two months of their life at work but also help put you more at ease as ultimately your business will be a more stress-free environment. Make sure you talk about issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
Offer free screening tools to help your workers determine if there is an underlying problem that maybe they haven’t recognized. Helping them recognize the signs of mental illness will more quickly put them on the path to recovery. Many people push off saying they are ill by blaming it on stress, but often times, it can be more. Mental Health America offers free online tools that can help you determine if you have a mental illness. The sooner you and your employees are open to talking about any struggles, the sooner you can all learn how to get better. Host training on self-care and how to manage different work-related stressors. Maybe consider hiring a therapist to host workshops as an expert can teach you all ways to lead a more mentally healthy life. In the long-term, when you and your employees put more attention on your own well-being, the more your business will succeed not just in terms of profits but you will all thrive in a happy and healthy place of work.
The more you talk about mental health at your workplace, the less stigma will arise as people realize they are not alone. Talk about self-care and the importance of well-being in meetings, emails, and integrate the discussion into the culture of your business. Now, your workers might be more likely to seek treatment, as should you as the business owner as perhaps you have the most stress and mental strain of all. Make sure you and your employees know it's completely acceptable to not be 100 percent okay all of the time.
For more ways on how to keep your workplace a positive one, check out our article on how to boost morale in the workplace.
Don’t take your work home
As a small business owner, no one can completely blame you if your work starts to become your life. You opened up your business because you had a vision and you want to carry that out. However, becoming so consumed with work and becoming so emotionally exhausted can not only have a devastating impact on your own mental health but your life at home. As a small business owner, it can be hard to separate work and life, especially if you run your small business primarily out of your house. Try not to let your work affect your life at home, as having a healthy life outside of work is key to managing your stress and anxiety at work.
If you come home after a long day of managing your business, and are still worrying about work matters at home, you won’t have much of a life outside of work because you’re constantly thinking about so much work outside of work. As a small business owner, it can be hard to separate the two because you’re likely to be in charge of most things at your business.
Work on a path towards balance
There are strategies to help you avoid stress, depression, and anxiety. They are key for you and your employees are to find a healthy balance.
As a business owner, learn to change and develop as your business grows. You have a profound effect on how the business itself looks, and the business, in turn, can start to affect you. If you don’t learn to adapt, both you and your business will begin to suffer.
• Consider seeking out a therapist to talk to, or even a family member or friend. If you have a mentor that’s even better as they can help you deal with the mental and personal side of owning a business
• Switch things up in your business. Again, take more time off. Just having one day off can make you feel fresher, more rested and ready to go back to work the next day. If your employees are only working late and coming early as well as working from home, your company suffers in the long run. Productivity will be down when you don’t have a healthy work/life balance and your employees start feeling the same exhaustion you do.
The most important thing is to just encourage a fulfilled and healthy life outside of the office. Encourage your employees to take a vacation each year so they can unwind and spend time not thinking about work. And it’s not even just about vacation. You as well as your workers should stress the importance of a life outside of work full of hobbies, time spent with friends and family, and just relaxing. In the end, your whole team will be better positioned to run a successful business, while taking care of yourselves personally.
You are not alone
The most important thing to remember is that the stress and anxiousness you feel isn’t uncommon. Other small business owners feel the dread of little finances, the fear of failing, exhaustion from working long hours. They too feel overwhelmed from having a small team and as an owner, doing most everything yourself. Let yourself be more at peace knowing that you are not alone. You might find you feel a little less consumed by anxiety and stress.
If you’re so overwhelmed with work try delegating more tasks. If you have a senior employee that you trust, delegate give more work to them if their plate isn’t full. It’ll take some of the stress and pressure off of yourself to balance a million things at once. Set reasonable deadlines for yourself so you don’t disappoint and stress yourself out when you don’t meet them. The reality is that every business has its slow times, shortage of cash, lack of employees, etc. However, realize that what you’re feeling is also what many other small business owners are feeling.
Feeling stressed is completely normal, but when stress turns into an excessive amount of anxiety and feelings of depression, you need to learn to manage it so you and your employees can live a happy and healthy at home and at work.