If you own a small business, you probably feel like you’re being pulled in many different directions. Keeping up with the daily demands of running a business can be thrilling, but it can also be stressful at times. Some stress can be motivating, but too much stress can harm your physical and emotional health. Poor health can contribute to low productivity and performance, which can harm the health of your business.
One entrepreneur who knows all about the impact of stress on your health and that of your business is the founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. “I can’t count the number of stressful situations I’ve found myself in since I launched my first business over 50 years ago. We faced the threat of being shut down a number of times in Virgin’s early years, and since then we’ve encountered what seems like a never-ending string of challenges,” he wrote in a blog for the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian in May 2015. “Stress and business go hand-in-hand, and that’s not a bad thing — high-pressure situations can certainly be motivating — but too much pressure can be emotionally and physically damaging.”
Common Sources of Work-related Stress
Research consistently reveals five main sources of stress for small business owners. These include:
- Getting/keeping customers: As a small business owner, you probably have limited resources to market your business. This can make it more difficult for you to attract and retain customers. If you run an e-commerce business, building customer trust can be particularly challenging because customers can’t visit your business in person.
- Workload/time management: High workloads with unrealistic deadlines can make you feel overburdened and overwhelmed. Insufficient workloads can also cause stress, as you may feel that your business is being unrecognized and underutilized.
- Resource management: Managing on limited resources requires you to identify your core business activities and focus your resources on those offering the best returns. With limited resources, you might need to turn down promising opportunities if pursuing them would be counterproductive to your long-term goals.
- Dealing with regulations/red tape, especially taxes: Compliance with rules and regulations can place additional operational and administrative burdens on your business and hinder its growth and development. Although compliance can be stressful, non-compliance can spell disaster for your business. Failure to meet your compliance obligations can put your business at risk for civil and criminal penalties, reputational damage and increased attention from oversight organizations.
- Low revenue: Almost one-third of small business owners lose sleep over money worries such as unexpected charges and late payments. Left unchecked, the stress of trying to control your revenue to keep your business running can result in anxiety and depression. This, in turn, can produce symptoms that make it more difficult for you to manage your business’ finances.
The Effect of Stress on Your Health
Stress can manifest in different ways, so it’s important to be alert to the signs and symptoms. These include:
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Overeating or undereating
- Social withdrawal
If you suspect you may be suffering from stress, consult your doctor right away. The symptoms of stress can prevent you from performing at your best, and this can affect your health and that of your business. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed about talking to your doctor about your symptoms, but stress is more common than you might think: Research reveals that three out of four doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments.
- Heart disease: Stress increases your heart disease risk by 40 percent.
- Stroke: Work-related stress causes 10 percent of all strokes.
- Weight gain: Stress causes 40 percent of adults to overeat or make unhealthy dietary choices.
Stress due to small business ownership can be particularly harmful, since running a business is typically a long-term challenge, and your responsibilities will only grow as your business grows. Research reveals that small business owners experience more stress and worry than salaried employees and often describe feeling lonely and socially isolated as they attempt to grow their businesses and gain a competitive edge in their industries. Social isolation itself can be harmful to your health; studies show that it can increase your risk of death by at least 50 percent. Fortunately, early detection and intervention can help mitigate the impact of stress on your health and that of your business.
Managing Work-related Stress
Reducing or eliminating work-related stress is an important step towards improving your health — and improving your health can help you run your small business more efficiently. If eliminating stress is difficult to do, try creating an environment where you have extremely high efficiency per increment of time expenditure. This is often achieved by hiring a small group of talented professionals who each focus exclusively on a task and whose responsibilities don’t overlap with others. Because this can be hard to achieve, a more feasible alternative is to outsource tasks to a few highly skilled companies. By outsourcing your work to other companies, you can reduce your stress levels and give both your health and your business a boost.