By Nathalie Lussier, the award-winning founder of AccessAlly, the #1 WordPress course and membership solution for industry leaders.
Dealing with burnout as a company founder can be debilitating. Often, leaders are expected to have everything figured out and never show any weaknesses.
In this article, we’ll look at ways that founders and small business owners can navigate burnout during uncertain times like the ones we’re living in right now.
Why Burned-Out Founders Need To Act Fast
If you’re feeling burned out, it’s time to take action. Burnout does not go away on its own, and you need to reverse course before it’s too late. You need to actively create a plan that will allow you and your business to recover from burnout while minimizing the impact on current employees or customers.
If you don’t take care of your burnout at the first signs, you could inadvertently drive great employees to resign, or even tank your company’s revenues and be forced to lay people off. That’s because as the founder, you’re the leader of your company, and your energy matters to keep everyone on your team moving forward together.
Of course, preventing burnout is the best approach. One of the biggest factors in helping any company leader avoid burnout is having a good support system around them — whether that be friends and family outside of work or an advisory board made up of other professionals who know what they’re going through. Having someone else recognize when things aren’t going well can help prevent further exhaustion and burnout.
How Uncertainty Affects Morale
If you are burned out as the founder, chances are that everyone in your company already knows or is feeling the same way. When there’s burnout in a company, one of the first things to be lost is morale — especially during a long-lasting pandemic, ongoing natural disasters and all of the other types of upheaval that we’ve been dealing with collectively these past few years.
Seeing what’s happening in the world around them every day can take a toll on employees, especially at companies that don’t have the resources to support their employees or customers during uncertain times, like therapists or other health professionals.
How Employees React During Uncertainty
It may seem obvious but when leaders show signs of burnout it makes sense for employees to follow suit since they look to company leaders as role models. The best way out isn’t forcing people to work through it.
Instead, it’s important to give employees time off for self-care or offer mental health days. Offering regular breaks during stressful times is one way of helping people avoid burnout. Give them a chance to spend more quality time with their families doing activities they enjoy.
Employees also need an outlet where they can share concerns about what’s happening around them and how the company plans on handling things if needed. This could be through internal chats or meetings — whatever works best! Organizations are also smart to have some type of crisis management plan in place ahead of time including who will do what within each department if people need to be absent for large amounts of time.
How Founders Can Give Themselves Grace
As a founder, you need to “put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.” That might feel counter to your nature because you’re often the one taking care of everyone on your team while also making sure that customers are a priority. But if you’re not able to rest and take care of yourself before the burnout gets out of hand, there won’t be anyone to keep the company going.
Here are some of the most common ways founders have been able to get back on their feet after burnout:
• Eat well, get some exercise and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Take a break from work even if it’s just for an hour or two every day. Use that time to do something relaxing that you enjoy.
• Don’t doom scroll the news or social media, and give your mind a break by not worrying about your business for a few hours every day. Even better if you’re able to step away for entire days at a time, to really give yourself a break from work.
• If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, talk to someone about it, whether that’s your spouse, a friend or a therapist. It can be really helpful to have someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through and can offer some support.
It’s also important to remember that things will eventually calm down and that you can take things one day at a time. You don’t need to make any big decisions that will affect the future of your company right now while you’re burned out. Instead, get some rest and you’ll gain a fresh perspective that might help you make better long-term decisions.