- Stress can have negative effects emotionally, mentally, and physically, and failure to manage it as a business owner can even have detrimental consequences to your company.
- You can manage stress by maintaining a stable work-life balance and implementing best business practices.
- With stress management tools in place, your business will benefit from fewer sick days, higher productivity and lower turnover.
- This article is for small business owners looking to better manage the stress of entrepreneurship.
The challenges of owning a business aren't always about hiring employees or satisfying customers. Sometimes, the struggles are a little more personal – and the end result is usually stress.
Learning how to deal with stress may be as important to your long-term business success as learning how to make a profit. In fact, failure to manage stress can kill you, as past studies have demonstrated.
Yet stress and business ownership go hand in hand. In a 2021 survey of small business owners, 52% said they felt stressed over the course of the year, which is an increase of 7% from 2020. Operating a business in the midst of a pandemic adds pressure to a job that already takes so much time, effort and dedication. Some business owners say they struggle to find time to spend with friends and family.
Discovering the ideal work-life balance
Creating work-life balance can be a real challenge, said Rosalie Moscoe, owner of Health in Harmony, a Toronto-based wellness consulting firm that helps workers deal with stress. The personal struggles faced by small business owners are emotional, physical, mental and financial.
"When you're in your own business, there are many things to think about that you didn't have to worry about before – making loan payments, spending your savings, no money coming in and all your money going out," Moscoe told Business News Daily.
There is little one can do to eliminate the issues that cause stress. You'll most likely be working more hours as a business owner, and you'll be overwhelmed and overworked. If you're just beginning, you may also find starting your own business is lonely, which can also cause stress, Moscoe said.
Dangers of on-the-job stress
Stress affects more than just your mental and emotional state. Job pressure facilitates weight gain and can cause other health issues. In addition to physical effects, stress can impact mental health, especially in women. In a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, the research suggested that women are more sensitive to depression and other mental disorders than men.
That's only a glimpse at what tension can do to a person. The following are some other known dangers of job stress.
- Anxiety: Owning and managing a business comes with a lot of uncertainty. The fear of the unknown in business, whether about finances or management issues, can increase anxiety and pile on the stress.
- Isolation: Business owners tend to work alone as they build their brand and deal with paperwork, clientele and other organizational tasks. When you're immersed in your to-do list, it's easy to isolate yourself from others, which can make you feel like you aren't seen – even when surrounded by employees.
- Fear: Every business owner has their strengths and weaknesses. A lack of confidence in certain areas may drive them to overwork themselves in order to learn or master skills or information, avoid failure, and justify their lack of trust in others. Fear like this can disrupt a team's whole dynamic and workflow.
- Burnout: It's great to be dedicated to something and work hard at it. However, when you work at an unhealthy level, it can lead to burnout. This can be due to taking on too many tasks by yourself, working excessive hours or trying to do everything at once.
What is stress management?
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress management involves the following:
- Learning skills such as problem-solving and time management
- Enhancing your ability to cope with adversity
- Improving your personal relationships
- Practicing relaxation techniques
These skills allow you to turn a stressful situation into a positive opportunity for growth and betterment. By learning how to handle stressors, you gain more control over your life and reactions.
The key to managing stress is keeping a good balance between work and home, even if you work long hours. Moscoe made these suggestions:
- Set a schedule as if you were going to a regular job.
- Plan out your day in the morning.
- Be clear with yourself about your top priorities, and focus on the ones that will bring in business.
- Focus initially on marketing your business; don't spend all of your time on administration.
- Keep reassessing your goals, and don't let things get away from you.
- Get help. Don't do it all yourself.
- Develop a social support network of friends and family.
- Don't sacrifice relationships for your business.
- Get up early and go for a walk.
- Eat properly, and not at your desk.
- Drink lots of water.
Key takeaway: Work can be a great source of stress, but it's important to fight negative feelings when they become overwhelming, using the methods that work best for you.
Better business management for fewer incidences of work stress
Just as important as carving out time for yourself is finding ways to manage your business that result in less stress.
"Without organization and good management, the compressed time schedules associated with modern business can cause stress and make extraordinary demands on people," according to research by the Small Business Administration. "An effective management structure can reduce stress and channel the productive capacity of employees into business growth and profits."
Finding employees who can share your responsibilities will go a long way in reducing your stress too.
"The heroic single leader is no longer congruent with the burdening demands of today's leadership," said J. Richard Hackman, a former professor of social and organizational psychology at Harvard University, in a study on shared leadership. Though the study was published in 2009, the point about "today's leadership" is more relevant than ever in the always-on business age.
"The most important conditions for effective shared team leadership include a team that is a mature and reasonably bounded group," said Hackman in the statement. "They must know each other's strengths and weaknesses in order to identify who to go to for specific tasks. The second condition is being interdependent on one another for some specific shared purpose or goal."
Tip: Provide training and wellness programs to help you and your employees learn strategies to manage stress levels.
Benefits of better stress management
Moscoe believes it's important to focus on why you started your business in the first place.
"It's the hardest job in the world," she said. "But if you're in your own business, you'll feel you have control over how you're going to do it, and that's the biggest factor in reducing stress."
Stress management is good for you and your business. Without leadership modeling proper stress management and work-life balance, your staff may take more sick days and be less productive. According to the Wellness Council of America, effective stress management produces higher employee morale, fewer sick days, less employee turnover and a positive company culture.
Jeanette Mulvey and Sammi Caramela contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.