How to stay fighting fit when running a business

Workplace and wellbeing

13 May 2019

As the old saying goes, the greatest wealth is health. But when you’re one of Britain’s 5.7 million busy small business owners, clocking up long hours to keep things ticking over nicely is commonplace.

When you’re a business owner, staying on top of the responsibilities that come hand in hand with balancing your home life with a busy working life can leave you feeling fatigued. And according to mental health charity Mind, conditions like anxiety, depression and unmanageable stress are experienced by one in six British workers each year.

So what steps can you take to make sure you stay bright eyed and bushy tailed when you’re constantly on the go? Here, Dr. Wendy Li, Psychological Health Lead Clinician at AXA PPP, shares her top tips on how to stay in rude health when you’re busy taking care of business.


Why is it so important that business owners look after their mental and physical wellbeing?

Business owners establish the working environment

As leaders, business owners need to demonstrate to their employees the benefits of looking after their physical and mental wellbeing effectively and how striking a healthy work-home life balance can help achieve this.

If you constantly answer emails outside of working hours and generally overexert yourself, then you set an example to those around you that this is an acceptable working pattern. When stress is brought into a working environment, people tend to pick up on it. This can result in employees feeling like they can’t voice when they’re feeling overworked and cause sickness levels to rise.

Avoid the long-term implications of burnout

Working to the point of burning yourself out is no good for anyone. Not only will you have to spend a longer time away from your business to recuperate – which could have a serious impact on your business’ efficiency – going from the perception of yourself as a high-powered, high-functioning individual to a complete standstill can be detrimental to your mental health and sense of identity.

If all you’re doing is working all day, every day, then you’re not really living. Don’t get me wrong, you might love running your business, but constantly taking on heavy workloads will hold you back from other enjoyable parts of your life.

Prevention is better than cure, so it’s important to focus on scheduling small but regular steps to self-care. An easy way to do this is by maintaining a balanced home-work lifestyle to help look after your wellbeing in the long run. You want to be able to maintain and sustain rather than forge ahead and inevitably crash.

What signs of burnout should people should look out for?

Fatigue, slowing down, being unable to focus on one task at a time, regularly skipping lunch, working long hours and constantly taking work home are all common symptoms of burnout to keep an eye out for.

People tend to think that they should take on more work because they’re scared of being judged by others if they say no. But just because you can take on more work doesn’t always mean you should.

How can business owners manage their workload productively?

If the pressure of your workload is making you anxious and you don’t let those around you know, then you’re absorbing those negative feelings, which will only leave you feeling isolated and add to the stress you’re experiencing. It’s important that share how you’re feeling with your colleagues, friends and family top enable you to feel more emotional support and have better resilience.

Humans can’t and shouldn’t work like high-functioning robots, it isn’t natural. This is an important realisation that all business owners need to have – no matter how busy they are. If we fail to recognise it within ourselves it’s harder to provide support to colleagues when they’re struggling.


How can business owners look after their physical health?

Stay hydrated

Staying properly hydrated is something we’re all guilty of forgetting the importance of. Forgetting to do so can reduce your concentration levels, clarity of mind and the general efficiency of your brain. Therefore, try to drink as much water as you can throughout the day and minimise caffeine intake (if it’s not too difficult!) to help balance hydration levels.

Get away from your desk regularly

Fixing yourself in a seating position from 9 to 5 isn’t good for your physical or mental health and can really drain your brain power. If you have a job that’s mainly desk-based, make sure you take a 5-10-minute break away regularly from your desk to stretch your muscles and give your head some space.

Eat well

Eating healthily and in a timely manner can be beneficial to your physical health – and can help you avoid the mid-afternoon energy slump. Routine is essential for your body’s wellbeing, so avoiding skipping meals and keeping an eye on not only what you eat, but when you eat, can work wonders.

Set alarms

Setting alarms on your phones or Fitbits can help remind you to do the above three points throughout your working day. The longer you stick to these wellbeing notifications, the more aware you’ll be of your energy levels throughout the day and what you can do to address the peaks and troughs.


How can business owners look after their mental health?

Mindfulness and meditation apps

Mindfulness and meditation apps can be effective in helping to de-stress after a busy working day. However, one of the most common critiques I get from clients when using these apps is that they don’t work for them. I always find this an interesting critique because meditation and mindfulness aren’t about eradicating feelings of stress and challenging emotions from your life but recognising that they’re part of your journey of finding positive ways to react to and process them. Always keep this in mind whenever you’re using these apps to help better your mental health.

Be sociable

Make sure you balance your work-life demands with positive home-life experiences to help you wind down. Having a hobby and being sociable with friends and family is a great way to blow off some steam and the chance to share your thoughts, feelings and worries with those that matter.

Accept that you can’t control everything

As a business owner, it’s likely that you’re used to being in control. But realistically, you can’t be in control of everything at once; the only thing you can control is how you manage and engage with external factors in your working environment. Coming to terms with this can be difficult for business owners but learning to be flexible when things don’t run exactly as you’d planned out will help reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing in the long run.


What services can business owners contact if they’re struggling with their mental health?

AXA has various forms of mental health platforms, including webchat, telephone and face-to-face counselling services, and can help you find the service that best meets your needs. There’s plenty of NHS resources out there too, which you’ll be able to access through your GP. Never feel like there’s no support out there, and if you’re feeling low, ensure you carve time out of your working week to get the support you need. We all lead very busy lives but it’s vital that you devote time as your mental wellbeing is priority.


How can you help reduce stress in the workplace?

Focus on one task at a time

Multi-tasking is challenging. And while you might be a multi-tasking marvel, you need to be aware of just how much mental energy it burns up. Sticking to one task at a time will help you achieve better results and be less mentally taxing, leaving your more energy to tick off the next tasks from your to-do list. 

Organise your time

Organising your time effectively is key. Whenever you get an empty space in your Outlook calendar, put some time in to do those projects that you’ve been putting off or set aside some ‘me’ time to help de-stress. Even keeping gaps before and after meetings gives you a bit of breathing space, so try to avoid back-to-back meetings if you can.

Get out the office

I make a point of getting outside with my colleagues, even if it’s only to grab a quick coffee and have a chat. This definitely gives my brain the brief switch off period it needs and leaves me feeling a bit more refreshed when I come back to my desk.


How can business owners look after the wellbeing of their staff?

Invest in a weekly fruit delivery

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. If you can help your employees reach their five-a-day more easily with a weekly delivery of fresh fruit to your business, all the better.

Be sociable

It’s important that you and your team get along with each other professionally. Having team get-togethers, whether it’s a team night out or lunches, will help create bonds and inject a bit of fun into your team setting.

Get to know your staff

It’s a good idea to have one-to-ones with your employees to check in on how they’re doing and what’s going on for them both at work and at home. Understanding the pressures and commitments that affect your employees outside of your business can help you be more effective in looking after their wellbeing and providing support when they need it most.


Work hard, insure easy

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit easier. From helping you tailor your policy to your unique business needs, to taking the guesswork out of finding business insurance, find out what we’re doing to help small businesses.