Stress and the small business

Stress awareness 

Its not so long ago that stress and mental health was a total taboo subject in the workplace, however with awareness campaigns and so much in the media it is now talked about in businesses. Thankfully many employers see the benefits of making sure a culture of openness and understanding prevails, but there is still some way to go.

October the 6th is Stress Awareness Day in the UK. So we looked at the impact stress and other mental health issues can have on businesses. We see the figures for large scale businesses used but what about the 5.7 million small businesses in the UK?

Stress and mental health have a huge impact on productivity on businesses with the HSE showing 28.2 million days lost because of illness much of them stress related. This relates to an estimated cost of 9.7 Billion to business.
These figures only account for those employed however we need to also look at the growing number of people self-employed, freelancers and running small businesses. A recent survey showed by cloud hosting company free agent surveyed hundreds of freelancers and self-employed people and found 53% were suffering with stress or mental health issues.

So, as a small business owner what can help you stay calm and help yourself and your staff?

Simplify wellness

The complex nature and wide range of mental illnesses make it difficult to provide specific help to small businesses, but there are basics to ensure wellbeing, simply by looking after yourself. As a business owner its often hard to close down and relax as there are just so many things to do. Remembering it’s not a sprint is often helpful. Setting some rules and switching off can be a lifesaver. Keeping healthy should be a combination of physical and mental activity. Psychologies magazine suggest going back to basics, from introducing walking into the daily work commute, to switching off screens an hour before bedtime and practising regular breathing techniques such as square and box breathing.

Create the right environment

In a small business any lost time because of illness has a greater impact on the business as there are simply too few people so losing one is difficult. In many businesses a member of staff off sick means more work for the others and generally it’s the owner that takes the brunt of the extra work.
Businesses can look at how their work environment influences the wellbeing of employees and, if space allows, bring in quiet areas or ‘recharge’ spaces that allow for downtime. Creating a culture that makes staff stay late, not switch off, or not take holidays is more likely going to create a long-term problem. Comparing UK companies to those in Europe we are less likely to take a full lunch break and more likely to stay in work later than we need.

Gain understanding

Of course, for big corporate companies with HR departments there is support and there are processes. But for small businesses owners and freelancers who are susceptible to various work pressures yet struggle to find the time to take a day off there is less support. This was recognised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), who launched a campaign aimed at promoting good mental health among small businesses and the self-employed. The campaign, ‘It’s okay to talk about mental health’, to give the UK’s 5.7 million small business community with information and advice to “help them gain a better understanding of mental health and how it can affect their employees.”
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Keep looking at the positives

Many business owners and freelancers understand the positive aspects of running their own business, achieving a better work/life balance, being an entrepreneur, reaching their ambitions and enjoying the flexibility of being their own boss.
There is so much documented evidence that sleep pays such an important role in our overall wellbeing. However, when stress effects your day to day life it is one of the first things to suffer. If you have identified that you are just too stressed to sleep take control. It may be that by changing the way you look at things will help but there is some great advice here from the sleep council. Things like clear your bedroom of tech, don’t work till you go to bed and make sure your bed is as comfortable as it can be are all helpful tips read more 

Get help

Talking to people is one of the key solutions to not let problems grow, talk to friends or find a business mentor you can talk to. If you feel you need it – talk to a professional, but don’t leave it. When the business depends on you it is vital you stay calm and manage your stress. Consider when you are a plane and the oxygen mask drops the advice is always put your own on first before trying to help others.

Business help and support

There are lots of opportunities to get help particularly here in Lancashire new businesses looking to expand or start-up businesses can benefit from help and support. This can be just someone to chat things through with to learning new skills to help you understand things better.
In summary
If business owners don’t safeguard their mental health it could be counter-intuitive for the company, so investing time in wellbeing has to be up there on the to do list.
Every company, whatever size, has a greater chance of success if it prioritises wellbeing. Making simple changes in the way we approach work won’t solve the global mental health challenge, but it will make for happier, more productive employees.

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