How to reduce stress at work when running a small business
Stress in business is not only unpleasant to deal with, but it can also hit your bottom line. The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has helped us with some advice for small business owners on how to recognise the symptoms of work related stress and how to handle it.
Running a small business can be incredibly exciting. But it's often a very stressful enterprise as well. Stress can sometimes feel like the inevitable outcome of running a business, but it can also be detrimental to its performance if it isn't addressed. That's why it's important to identify symptoms of stress and to tackle them early on.
Here, we explore how to deal with feeling stressed at work when that work is your own business.
The impact of stress on a business
If you're the owner of a small business, it can feel like the responsibility for the success and smooth running of your enterprise falls squarely on your shoulders.
When this pressure is added to the daily tasks that are central to running a small business, stress can build up.
If you don't address the signs of stress at work early on, then things can escalate and impact on your longer term health and well being, which in turn could result in time off work and be detrimental to your business.
Symptoms of work stress
One of the earliest and most obvious signs of work-related stress is losing sleep and changes in appetite. These tendencies are often accompanied by feeling low, increased emotional reactions, feelings of loneliness, being withdrawn, loss of motivation and other changes in behaviour.
It's important to engage a medical professional and get any necessary support systems in place as early as possible if you feel like you're struggling. There's a great deal of information about identifying the symptoms of stress, tackling it and managing stress in the workplace online. So a quick Google search can be a great way to find out more.
When it comes to establishing whether your workplace is being affected by stress, start by looking at the knock-on effects of the strain on members of staff, such as disputes or dissatisfaction, and consider the effect on their employee rights. If there are problems affecting staff or signs of customer dissatisfaction, then it's important to review the root causes of stress in the workplace and take action before the business becomes seriously undermined.
For these reasons alone, working towards attaining a relatively stress-free business should be a priority for every business owner.
Is the stress of running a small business unavoidable?
It's almost taken as a given that small business stress is part and parcel of running your own business, especially when you're working too much. But it's important to be aware that there are ways to alleviate the stress of running a small business.
Whether it's managing increased orders, or having the opposite problem of having too few, there are distinctive kinds of stress that can be associated with running your own business. The good news is there are ways that you can deal with that stress.
How to handle business stress
Managing stress at work can be tackled in various ways, but the practical steps you take to manage it will depend upon the nature of the issue.
For example, short-term issues like bottlenecks, instances where you have too much work to do within time constraints, can be dealt with by taking a strategic approach to your workload. This can be done by hiring additional support where necessary, managing client or customer expectations, and being realistic about your targets.
If your problems are longer term droughts in income, then it's important to be realistic about the problems that you're facing and engage with them head on. Get some business advice if necessary, and keep communication lines with your suppliers and customers open.
Adopt a strategic approach
How you deal with feeling overwhelmed at work will depend upon the nature of the challenges that you're experiencing. But examining the issues affecting you one by one is a good place to start, as this will help you begin to take a strategic approach to tackling them. This technique can also help to mitigate the impact of stress on the business, giving you back control.
Take regular breaks
If you've put in place support systems and strategies but are still too anxious to work and struggling with low-level stress on a day to day basis, there are things you can do to help you cope with stress at work.
Taking regular breaks is a sensible step to take towards helping you work out how to cope with workplace stress as they will help you to rebuild your energy levels.
Make use of technology
Technology can also be a useful tool to help you handle work-related stress.
Specifically, project management tools can help you to streamline your work processes and keep track of the work you've got to do.
Take a look at our article on boosting efficiency with technology for some tips on ways of working that can reduce the time you spend on a task or activity, and your stress levels.
Don't underestimate the impact of stress
Burn-out can be far more harmful to your business than taking time off work with stress – even if it worries you that you will have to catch up on the work missed.
Delegate tasks where possible, or manage the expectations of your customer or client. Stakeholders would doubtless rather wait a little longer and enjoy the best product or service your business can offer than not have it at all because you've collapsed under the strain.
Small business owner stress is very common, so there's no need to feel alone. Get support by talking to your peers, as others will have almost certainly shared a similar experience and sought practical solutions that you might benefit from.
Towards a stress-free business
Stress management in business can be improved a great deal by taking a longer term view to your workload.
Try to avoid over-committing to work, even if you're concerned about keeping the wolves from the door.
Consider hiring help to take tasks like bookkeeping and marketing off of your hands. The chances are a specialised professional will be able to do a more efficient and effective job of it so make sure to explore this possibility fully before making a decision. By doing so, you are less likely to be torn between roles and as such will be able to focus on keeping the money coming in and making sure your customers are happy.
Remember, a little downtime can go a long way: a lunch break, a walk, a few deep breaths and a good night's sleep can help you feel equipped to take on the challenges of the next working day.
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