BALANCE

Burnout in the business: How to cope

In Summary

Less well known and discussed are the stresses that come with entrepreneurship: long hours, anxiety, uncertainty about the future and financial strain.

 

While burnout is more often associated with employees, business proprietors may suffer from “founder burnout”, a feeling that the passion and energy they had at the beginning has fizzled out.
While burnout is more often associated with employees, business proprietors may suffer from “founder burnout”, a feeling that the passion and energy they had at the beginning has fizzled out.

The physical and psychological demands of running a business can take such a huge toll that it can result in emotional burnout, a state of exhaustion that’s partially to blame for the high rate of closures within the first two years of business.

It is well known that poor sales, lack of experience, high costs and unexpected shocks (such as Covid-19) can bring down a new business. Less well known and discussed are the stresses that come with entrepreneurship: long hours, anxiety, uncertainty about the future and financial strain.

A 2015 study of entrepreneurs found that they are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression, three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Prolonged stress can result in burnout, which the global research organisation Mayo Clinic describes as a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about one's competence and work value.

What’s burning out?

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of burnout include trouble getting started at work, being irritated, an attitude of impatience and being overly critical, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and a sense of disillusionment with one’s duties.

Other signs of trouble include using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better about oneself, a change in sleeping habits and unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches and digestive problems.

While burnout is more often associated with employees, business proprietors may suffer from “founder burnout”, a feeling that the passion and energy they had at the beginning has fizzled out. With that sense of fatigue, the temptation to leave the business can be very strong.

The Harvard Business Review indicates that, compared to employees, entrepreneurs have a higher risk of burnout because they tend to be extremely passionate about work and more socially isolated and operate in high uncertainty.

"Every important mistake I've made in my life, I've made because I was too tired," said former US President Bill Clinton.

Fatigue is a significant contributor to entrepreneur burnout. In today's business environment where electronic devices such as smartphones have eliminated the separation between working and personal time, entrepreneurs are responding to business-related calls, emails and text messages throughout the day and night.

Managing expectations

Entrepreneurial success stories are filled with case studies of people who worked long and hard to build multimillion-shilling businesses. There’s no doubt that hard work pays, but getting enough rest and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key to preventing entrepreneur burnout.

Whenever possible, delegate your work to other people so that you can have more time doing the things that will build your business, such as marketing and networking.

Balance your expectations and pace yourself. The journey of entrepreneurship is long and filled with many obstacles. Reach out to experienced business people for advice and support because they have tackled many of the challenges that are new to you. Most importantly, try to have fun with your work.

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