The nature of owning a small business is a challenging combination of highs and lows. However, when financial, managerial and personal pressures increase, mental health considerations can often be overlooked.
A survey of close to 500 small business owners by Everymind found that respondents faced many of the factors contributing to poor mental health and often shared stresses unique to the sector. This included a blurring of boundaries between home and work, financial stress due to unpredictable income, risk of business failure and working in isolation.
As a business owner, mental health needs to become a regular part of your personal performance evaluation. A physically and mentally strong leader is just as important as the skills, networks, personality and other attributes you bring to the business.
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10thOctober, here are some tips on how small business owners can prioritise mental health without sacrificing the performance of your business.
- Take care of yourself
It’s no secret that the state of your health will have a direct impact on your productivity and ability to manage stress. Developing good sleeping habits, eating a balanced, nutritious diet and regularly exercising are often the foundations for a healthy lifestyle. By the same token, little activities or moments outside of work can also bring about enhanced relaxation, happiness and satisfaction. For instance, seeing family or friends and engaging in a hobby can often help to change your mindset and force you to change your routine.
There are a range of resources online that can help to build your awareness, or start the conversation with, such as Beyond Blue’s Anxiety and Depression Checklist, Black Dog Institute’s myCompass,Heads Up, Headspaceand Smiling Mind.
- Learn to remove yourself from your business
As a small business owner, the boundaries between home and work are often blurred. Every part of the business can be a potential stress point, keeping you up at night and often forcing you to work round the clock. Research has consistently documented that small business owners are jeopardising their physical and mental health by regularly putting in long hours.
Learning to set boundaries and limits can help to maintain your energy and passion for your business. Challenge yourself daily to identify what tasks could realistically be outsourced, delegated, delayed or declined, to help you to change your attitude towards your to-do list.
- Join a network or support group of likeminded small business owners
Unfortunately, mental health related conditions are not uncommon amongst small business owners. Reaching out to a network of likeminded folks may help to shed light on the issues you are facing and build alternative support. It can be a great way to bring your challenges into perspective or provide a new solution or direction. Websites such as Small Business Association of Australia, Eventbrite or coworking spaces such as WeWork are good places to start looking for relevant events.
- Automate as much business admin as possible
Automation can significantly reduce the stress that comes with running your own business, by relieving you of time-consuming, repetitive tasks. This allows small business owners to focus your hours on higher value activities, such as sales prospecting and growth plans.
There are lots of simple automation tools available to small businesses, from accounting and financial management software, to apps for CRM, eCommerce and inventory. A tool like Zapier for instance provides integrations with over 1,000 commonly used cloud apps, such as Gmail, Shopify and Stripe. This way, social media posts can be scheduled for distribution in advance, automatic responses for email campaigns can be created, and financial processes can be streamlined.
A collective effort is required to shift attitudes associated with mental health conditions. The more open, informed and accepting the conversation becomes, the easier it is for individuals to speak up and seek help. If you can see someone in your network struggling, reach out to check how they are going.
Jessica Morris, Head of Human Resources at Reckon`