Running a business, even a very successful one, can take its toll on founders. According to AXA PPP healthcare's Work & Wellbeing Survey of 500 business owners in Aug 2018: 39% said they rarely take days off, more than 1 in 3 suffered with the likes of stress and sleepless nights and feelings of wanting to give up as a result of running a business and 19% said their overall health has deteriorated since starting their business. But it doesn't have to be like this.
One of the most recommended pieces of advice, but often the hardest to act on, is keeping a strict work and home timetable. “As tempting as it is to keep working late at night, going over things you’re worried about, you end up with less focus and energy when you get to work,” says Alex Malcom, founder of Jacada Travel. “By relaxing fully when you’re not working, you recharge and get more done when you’re in.”
Imposing rules to prevent overworking are also important. “I discourage weekend work,” says Jonathan Hall, founder of Cranberry Panda. “This includes stopping the team sending emails to each other over the weekend when it can wait until Monday. Write the email if you need to but put a delay on the send.”
You and your team also need to relax and feel comfortable on holiday. “Good handover notes, planned cover and positive down time pays back massive dividends in the form of a more motivated, happier team,” says Lara Morgan, founder of Scentered.me.
It’s important to remember that your employees will notice if you don’t switch off, so you need to set the standard as leader. “Lead by example,” says Derek Moore, founder of Coffee and TV, “take time for yourself, and communicate that with your team. They’ll respect you more for it”. Derek also takes an active interest in the mental wellbeing of his team. “In addition to the usual health benefits, we provide a mindfulness coach once a month for everyone to access.”
Mindfulness is growing in popularity amongst members as a way of removing distraction and resolving issues. “Mindfulness to me is a quiet space in a busy day to practice my one-minute mantra of STOP. INHALE. REST”, says Lara Morgan. “Mindfulness meditation helps that practice of ‘letting go’ of issues once you’re outside the work space and helps with actually engaging with difficult issues when it’s time to,” adds Alex Malcolm.
Vikram Setia, founder of Infomentum, believes it can even change the way you approach problems at work. “Mindfulness for me is when you can consciously think differently. We all have expert, depth, click or link thinking capabilities. If you can come out of expert thinking and use other forms, you achieve mindfulness”.
New ways of looking at things with like-minded founders can also refresh the mind or help you unlock solutions. “I engage in networking or activities that are not related to my line of business,” adds Vikram. “This clears my head of unidirectional lines of thought.”
Talent retention is a perennial concern for most employers, particularly founder led businesses who are scaling rapidly. Anecdotally, members who claim the best retention rates and highest engagement levels take an active interest in their employees' well-being, what motivates them and how they want to work. “Factor work/life balance into your forecasts and business plan,” says Derek Moore. “If your margins rely on sweating your staff too hard, maybe your strategy isn’t right.”
Five tips from members for better health & wellbeing
- Turn off all notifications: Switch off your phone, silence it, and have set times to check it to prioritise tasks
- Manage emotional expectation: dont feel responsible for solving everyone elses problems
- Diarise time for exercise: if it’s not scheduled you will find an excuse not to do it
- Take an out of town break: a new environment will help you unwind and refresh your mind
- Sharing is caring: find people in your trusted network to get problems off your chest
*Online survey of 500 owners of businesses aged 0-8 with 1-19 employees. Carried out by One Poll on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare in August 2018