Stress kills, and that’s no exaggeration. It results in high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes – and small business owners are among the most stressed people on the planet.
Unfortunately, advice like “just relax” doesn’t work. Stress reduction and management are skills that must be learnt, and one of the most intriguing side effects of stress reduction is the ability to attract more profit to your business.
The effects of stress in small business
Stress reduction is a team effort, which is fitting when you consider that too much stress affects the entire small business team. The effects of stress—often a result of increased workload, poor management, widespread feelings of being underappreciated or a lack of fulfilment—compound over time.
It’s common to see one team accomplish an unbelievable amount of work, with relatively no stress; and yet another accomplishes very little whilst being crushed beneath the massive weight of daily stress, which might be characterised by:
- decreased productivity
- poor choices
- high employee turnover
- conflict within the workplace
- diminished profits
That’s just a taste of what unnecessary workplace stress can do—and it’s only the tip of the management iceberg. As the owner of a small business, you’re at high risk of experiencing all of this, and more; which will be intensified when you witness stress claiming the productivity and spirit of even your most motivated team members.
Often, business owners feel compelled to tackle the problem with more of the same: To remedy reduced profits by ramping up production without enhancing the labour force, for example, which only creates more stress.
So what’s a business owner to do when veering straight toward, or stuck in, this stress rut?
I have some advice.
9 for reducing stress (and increasing profits) in business
Not all stress is negative stress; in fact, positive stress can help keep small business owners on their toes and maintain motivation for achievement. Positive stress results when you and your team are doing what you love, working at peak energy, and feeling committed to reaching goals.
The type of stress that your business feels starts with you – and the culture you choose to build.
Lead by example, create an environment that you would want to work in, and foster only the positive variety of stress by…
It’s human nature to put off the most difficult tasks until later. I would suggest, instead, that you take on the things you dislike the most first. Remove them from your to-do list and feel the stress melt away. Or, let them pile up and feel the stress mount and negatively affect other areas of your business.
The things that cause us the most stress are usually those things we dread doing. Ensure that every task within your business is being completed by someone who’s not only capable but who would choose that assignment if given the opportunity. When you’re first starting out, you may not have the capital to delegate all the tasks that you eventually will, but at least have a plan in place to hand over responsibilities as part of your business strategy.
Look on the bright side
This is an old one, I know, but it deserves repeating. Business is filled with disappointments—if you view them in that light. Practice seeing the opportunity within failures instead. For instance, if you lose a big contract, use that time to pursue another, putting what you’ve learnt to work. Or, if profits are down, examine insights from all areas of your business to determine what contributed to the loss, learn from it, and move ahead with useful data and a fresh outlook.
When there’s a lot to accomplish, human beings tend to spend time staring at their to-do lists, thinking I’m never going to get all of this done, instead of getting started. Rather than contemplating that list, begin with one significant task. Simply starting will not only relieve stress, but it will also give you the drive you need to get the ball rolling.
Physical activity reduces cortisol (the “stress hormone”) to relieve feelings of anxiety, worry and dread. You don’t have to run marathons. A walk over your lunch break or a trip to the gym after work can do wonders. You might even consider offering a wellness programme through your business, so employees can relieve work stress on their own time for better health and better overall performance.
When your body is unhealthy, it is stressed. Add this to the mental stress that can come with running a business, and you’ll fall into the classification of Ticking Timebomb. Start a movement in the office. Try to eat healthfully, as a group, a few days a week. Everyone will feel the difference.
Make quiet time
Commit to taking 15 minutes for yourself every day where there’s no noise, no distractions, no thoughts about the stresses of the business. Or, take time in nature, with a pet, or with children to remember how it feels to be connected to the earth.
Make time off a priority
An alarming number of employees around the world leave vacation days unused at the end of every year. Make it a point to take holidays; in fact, schedule them in. And encourage your team members to take full advantage of the time off they’ve earned.
Bottled up frustrations are big contributors to stress, and taking the time to listen to your employees’ concerns can relieve that stress (and stop bigger problems from developing). Make sure that your team members know that your door is always open (or that you’re happy to make an appointment) to talk to them about what might be bothering them, or what they think can be improved in the workplace.
Subjecting yourself to consistent stress isn’t only bad for your health, it’s bad for business. As an entrepreneur, stress is inevitable. However, the ways in which you limit that stress play a large part in how much profit you earn – and how successful you will become.
Sara Lou-Ann Jones is the founder and CEO of the Centre of Excellence, a leading e-learning platform which offers thousands of different courses in a huge range of subject areas, from business to wellbeing.
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