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Managing Burnout as a Business Owner


23.06.2021 Wellness and Productivity

Managing Burnout as a Business Owner

Four in five Australians faced burnout in 2020.  

Running a business is an incredible accomplishment that can be both fulfilling and empowering, yet it also comes with pressure. As a business owner, you shoulder many responsibilities. There are bills to meet, quotas to hit, employees to pay, competitors to beat, and orders to fill. 

For all of these reasons and more, business owners are at risk of overworking themselves. If left unchecked in its initial phases, being overworked can develop into burnout. 

Keep reading to discover why burnout is more prevalent than ever, how to spot the signs, and how to manage burnout if it happens to you.

What is burnout?

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.

Is burnout a real health condition?

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.

Business owners and burnout in a pandemic 

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. 

How to spot the signs

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:

  • Anxiety/stress
  • Depression and low mood
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of motivation or passion
  • Lack of concentration, memory loss or brain fog
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, and nausea
  • Emotional fragility

Tips for managing 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.

Maintain open channels of communication

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.

Identify stress triggers

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.

Overcome cash constraints

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.

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Celebrate your achievements

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.