The past 18 months have been hard on small business owners. Many small businesses have been presented with new, unexpected challenges - often with difficult solutions - which have had an impact on their well-being and mental health.
Stress is extremely common among small business owners. It can sometimes feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and when you throw more emotional issues into the mix, like having to make redundancies or choosing where to cut costs, it’s easy to neglect your own personal needs.
However, part of running a successful business is looking after yourself and your employees so that you are able to fulfil your responsibilities confidently, capably and happily. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) agrees and is running a campaign to try to encourage a conversation about well-being in small businesses. It claims that the issue is high on the agenda in big business, but small businesses tend to overlook the importance of well-being and mental health.
Here’s our guide to maintaining your own mental health and well-being during difficult times. We’ll also look at how to ensure the mental health of your remote-working staff is being taken into consideration.
Are you stressed out?
Smallbusiness.co.uk, along with UK Domain, spoke to small business owners across the country to try to establish how the pandemic had impacted them and their businesses. Only 2% of the people they spoke to said the pandemic had had a minimal impact on their business, with 48% saying it had had a ‘severe impact, and 35% saying it had had a ‘major impact.’
Stress, in particular, has become a common issue with business owners. Let’s face it, it always was, but the pandemic has added issues that no one has had to deal with before and for those businesses that have survived, doing so has pushed stress levels to breaking point.
Among the small business owners, the researchers spoke to, 27% said that adapting their business was their main worry while supporting employees was stressful for 18%. Some 17% said they were confused about the help that was available, which actually added to their stress levels instead of reducing them.
Looking after your own mental health and well-being is vital to your business’s success for a number of reasons. If you’re struggling to make decisions, mistreating staff, working too many hours, or are distracted or stressed out, your business will suffer. But you already know that, and it’s probably stressing you out!
We’re here to help with some practical tips on reducing stress and boosting well-being:
Make time for physical activities
One of the most effective and well-established ways to boost your well-being and your mental health is to do some exercise. It may seem counterintuitive to focus on your physical self as opposed to your mental health initially, but one follows the other.
What’s great about this one is that it’s so easy to do. Boosting your levels of physical activity can be anything from five-a-side football or swimming, to walking during your lunch break or cycling to work.
Give credit where credit’s due
Business owners are really bad at doing this, especially when it comes to giving themselves credit. An important part of dealing with stress is recognising the things that are going well. It’s easy to be relentlessly hard on yourself, worrying about all the things that require attention and aren’t working as they should.
However, it seems much harder to sit back and identify the good things, the things that don't need your attention to work well and that are positive about your business. Doing this can help you feel more in control of your working life and your business propositions.
Learn to be a better delegator
Human resources consultancy, H2H found that 35% of the managers they surveyed said they find it difficult to delegate and give up control of tasks at work. Incredibly, 29% said they didn’t think it was ‘fair’ to ask someone else to do a task. If you are managing a team of your own employees, feeling comfortable about delegating tasks is a key part of running your business and removing unnecessary burdens from you, the business owner.
You can improve your delegation skills in the following ways:
Making sure your employees understand the talk and why it’s important
Train your staff to take on more responsibility
Assign the right tasks to the right people - think about pay grades and job titles
Try not to take a task back, instead support a staff member until they complete the task
Pay your employees appropriately
Be realistic with your time and resources
When you’re running a small business, you will be doing all you can to grow. Taking on more and more work seems like it’s the obvious and fastest way to achieve growth, but unless you have the personal time or resources, through taking on staff, to meet these demands, sometimes you’ll have to say ‘no’. Overburdening yourself with work that you simply don't have time to do, or do to a high standard, will backfire.
Take a step back and invest in some time and task-management tools. These can help you to prioritise tasks, jobs and your time; to make sure you don't promise what you simply can't deliver.
Look after your team
When you’re running a business, it’s not just your own well-being you need to manage. Your team’s mental health should also be high on your priority list. Here are a few simple tips to improve the overall well-being of your employees:
More of us are working remotely, with limited contact with our colleagues. Others are busy working in different locations, on jobs or in different offices. If you’re not seeing your employees regularly, make sure you have regular calls or in-person meetings so that you can take stock of their concerns. Ask them directly if there are aspects of their job and working life they need support with and take their concerns seriously.
If your staff are loyal and deliver results for your business through difficult times, make sure you always acknowledge their dedication. Yes, you pay them a salary, but they can get a job elsewhere if they are not feeling appreciated. Gestures don't have to break the bank. Team lunches are a great way to reward staff, along with bonuses, gifts and treats. Some larger corporations are offering remote workers recharge days where they are instructed to take time away from their desks, with no calls, meetings or emailing allowed.
Staff may not want to come to you directly if they are struggling with their well-being or mental health. Making sure they have access to support and advice externally if they need it can be useful. Mentalhealth.org.uk is a great resource for anyone struggling. The charity Mind has specific support materials for those struggling at work with their mental health.
Small business owners need to take care of themselves if they want their businesses to reach their full potential. It’s likely that you already have the support you need or the solutions that will work, available to you, you just need to identify the areas that need attention. It’s about time that mental health and workplace well-being became a priority for all business owners, so you and your team will be ready and able to make the most of opportunities for growth when they arise.