Work & Wellbeing

Time out, not time off: Avoiding burn-out as a business owner

6 min read

20 November 2018

Juliet Barratt, co-founder of Grenade, unveils her tips for managing stress when you’re running a business that never sleeps.

Over the past few years, there has been an increasingly public and honest conversation taking place around people’s mental health in the workplace. With schemes being offered to employees, from wellness weeks to flexible working hours and “mental health days”, there is clearly an understanding that businesses have a role to play in supporting their employees’ mental wellbeing.

It is incredibly positive to see many business decision-makers taking a keen interest in this ever-growing issue. But how often are these opportunities and schemes used by the senior people in businesses, and how often do founders think about their own mental health?

Life at the head of a business can be incredibly fast-paced and relentless. When your priority is a happy and productive workforce (and rightly so), it is easy to overlook the obstacles to your own peak performance.

Managing a large amount of people and having the success of the business on your shoulders can be a tremendous stress. The idea that you can sit back, relax and take some time out may seem like a distant dream. However, those at the head of the business need to lead by example and take a keen interest in their own mental health.

Entrepreneurs and founders should truly acknowledge the mental health pressures that come with running a business and take steps to address them.

The positive effects of this will help foster an atmosphere within the business that is centred on consideration and conscientiousness. In turn, the willingness of leaders to take a step back from the day-to-day running of a business can lead to new ideas and operational innovation.

Turn off your connections

You may feel that the only time you are uncontactable should be when you are flying, but opting for a few hours each evening to completely switch off devices when you are relaxing can be the key to better mental health.

Having a phone constantly on means you never truly remove yourself from the running of the business and give your brain processing time.

Allowing yourself just a few hours each evening to gather your thoughts without creating more emails for yourself can bring a refreshing clarity to decision making, and also start destroying the myth among others that you are – and always should be – contactable.

Positive working culture leads to positive mental health

There are schemes that businesses and business leaders can get involved in to improve mental health. However, there are other more subtle ways the working environment can boost positivity and resilience – two key traits of being able to cope with pressure.

Introducing a positive and playful culture that simply encourages different teams to talk and socialise with each other can, in turn, lead to more professional collaboration and boost productivity.

These social connections are also vital for people to feel supported in their role, and comfortable to ask for help if needed.

In our business, we surround ourselves with an ambitious group of people who we can truly call our friends. This, coupled with a colourful, open-plan working environment, means that working on our business rarely feels like “work”. This environment helps in keeping an optimistic outlook whenever there is a stressful day.

There’s always someone laughing on the other side of the room, which gives you a boost if personal energy is low.

Trust your team

A hesitancy to share your workload is a common trait for many entrepreneurs. That fear that if you don’t do the work yourself then things may go wrong can be all-consuming, especially in those first few high-stakes years.

We found delegating one of the hardest challenges we faced when setting up our business. As a company grows, so does the daily to-do list. With the weight of the business and people’s livelihoods on your shoulders, it’s no surprise that many CEOs find it difficult to delegate.

Learning to trust your team and pass projects to them will give you time to focus on pressures and decisions that sit more directly in your remit. In turn, this will give members of the team a confidence boost, which can lead to improved delivery of work.

Thought it may be difficult, the opportunity to free up your work schedule can provide a clearer view when it comes to the larger projects that you should be focussing on and relieve some of the stress of running a business.

You may be at the helm of the brand or businesses, but that doesn’t mean that you can – or should – do everything.

Juliet Barratt is the co-founder of Grenade.