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Put simply, burnout is a state of complete mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. It tends to come about as a result of extended or repeated periods of stress, which commonly occurs in the workplace — particularly if you’re in a high-pressure position.
With higher responsibility comes higher professional pressures, which is why business owners are often more susceptible to ongoing and repeated stress. Whether it’s from intense schedules, tight deadlines, financial pressures or uncontrollable market forces. And that’s without a global pandemic thrown into the mix.
Burnout directly affects performance, relationships, health, and professional growth.
While burnout, along with mental health in general, struggled to be seen as a legitimate ailment for many years, it is now recognised by the majority of mainstream medicine as a genuine medical disorder. In 2019, burnout was finally classified as an ‘occupational syndrome’ for the first time by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This may be due in part to the fact that the symptoms of burnout largely reflect those of depression, including extreme fatigue, loss of passion, and intense cynicism and negativity. However, thanks to its newfound legitimacy, burnout is now more easily identified.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the business world under enormous pressure, causing business closures, supply chain bottlenecks, unavoidable costs, and difficulties forecasting with any degree of certainty.
In fact, four in five Australians experienced burnout during the period, according to a global report released by work management app Asana. The study, which surveyed 13,000 white-collar workers, concluded that our country experienced one of the highest rates of burnout in the world. Workers feared redundancies, meanwhile business owners feared failure and the financial and emotional implications it would have on their employees and loved ones.
Aside from unprecedented pandemics, another event that commonly comes paired with high stress is scaling up. There’s pressure to increase your capital, expand your team, enter new markets, and develop new products. It’s no wonder it causes many business owners to burn out.
Fortunately, there are ways to better manage your business and your mental health. Keep reading to learn what business owner burnout looks like, and how to deal with it.
Broadly speaking, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the condition tends to bring on feelings of emotional exhaustion, a lack of empathy, and reduced performance. That being said, the Black Dog Institute encourages you to look out for the following specific symptoms, as they could be a sign that you’re either experiencing or on the verge of burnout:
Business owners don’t typically have the luxury of stepping away from work for days at a time when they need a break. That being said, there are ways and means to prioritise your mental health while still getting the job done.
Workplace conflict, ineffectual delegating, and unclear directions can all contribute to heightened stress. For this reason, it’s important that you make an effort to keep channels of communication open.
This includes airing all grievances as soon as they arise, communicating plans clearly from the get-go, and checking in on your employees regularly. This will make it easier to share the load, streamline productivity, and keep team-wide morale at a healthy level.
Over time you may begin to notice a trend in high-stress situations. Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed by having to manage your business’s digital presence or being slowed down by your EFTPOS terminal's poor internet connection, small issues can become stress triggers over time.
In these cases, it’s important to remember there are solutions. You can adopt a social scheduling platform like Hootsuite or hire a part-time social media manager. You can consider upgrading your tools. The most important thing to do is identify the cause of your stress, and either delegate or mitigate it.
Being forced to access credit in order to pay bills because of poor cash flow can leave you footing an even bigger bill further down the track, impeding on your ability to scale up sooner and putting you under enormous pressure. Nip that source of stress in the bud by taking a conscious step to improve your cash flow.
This could involve moving to a low-fee payment terminal that accepts multiple payment methods, ensuring you aren’t relying on a single source of cash every month.
At the end of the day, owning a business is an incredible accomplishment. While it may be stressful at times, it can also be extremely rewarding. Make sure you take the time to reflect on your achievements and celebrate all of your wins, big or small. This sense of accomplishment will help remind you of your passions, and why you started your business in the first place.
Overcoming burnout is critical to productivity. For more resources on managing and scaling up your business successfully, sign up to our Business Blog.