How small-business owners can avoid burnout

The weight of the world rests on the small-business owners’ shoulders. Or, at least, that is how it seems. Many small-business owners endure sleepless nights, and harbour the burden of financial foresight and risk, when it comes to operating their business.

Entrepreneurs are said to be more achievement-oriented, and therefore, due to the need to succeed, entrepreneurial types are prone to stress and burnout. Overachievers are those that work hard, compete, and are driven to achieve their ultimate potential. This is all very well, but the stress that comes with this can leave business owners frenetic and worn out. Coupled with the needs of the business resting solely on the owner’s shoulders, it is imperative that owners take time to watch, not only their personal well-being, but their staff’s too.

Causes of burnout

The causes of burnout have been linked to office politics, and menial tasks that get in the way of performing duties. A computer crashing mid report can send a normally calm, serene individual into a tailspin, knowing that time lost is money lost too.

Psychologists have argued that some personality types are more prone to burnout, and these are, arguably, the people that are precisely more likely to achieve in life anyway. Type As, for instance, are known for their risk of stress-related illness, but they are also the go-getters that get the job done.

Another additional risk factor is a lack of control. While small-business owners may arguably have a large degree of autonomy since they are their own boss, lack of control can come  from external events and outside situations that hinder progress. It is also something that small-business owners should watch out for when hiring staff- they should give their employees a degree of autonomy, avoiding micromanaging that could over stress their team, and in turn, cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit of their staff members.

Exhausted, burnt out and frenetic: what to look out for

The Maslach Burnout Inventory is one of the most common scales used to measure burnout. Maslach and Leiter (2005) posit that those with burnout lose energy, enthusiasm, and confidence. They essentially become cynical of their work. In entrepreneurs, that previous passionate drive is overridden with pessimism and a lost sense of purpose and vision. It is therefore imperative that business owners remind themselves of their “why.” The “why” refers to the reasons for setting up business in the first place.

Another scale used to measure burnout was derived from clinical work with patients suffering from burnout. The Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire divides burnout into three classifications, arguing that those suffering from burnout experience freneticism, are under-challenged, and worn out.  Individuals working long hours sacrifice their health and wellbeing in pursuit of their ultimate goals.

For entrepreneurial types, watching the signs is important. If sleepless nights lead to a loss of vision and a reduced sense of purpose, ask a trusted friend to monitor your wellbeing. If you are becoming increasingly cynical, step back and take note.

Your mental health and well-being are of paramount importance to the success of your business and therefore need protecting. Taking breaks, time out, spending time with your family, and resting will safeguard and moderate against the risk of burnout and bruising your prized possession: your business.

Sarah Tottle, business psychologist and founder, Sarah Tottle Consulting

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