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Juggling work and life

We’re all searching for that perfect but elusive work/life balance but, as an entrepreneur, you’re more likely to be drive then most people and so may find it harder to switch off from work and recharge your batteries.

The strains of running a business

If you don’t give due attention to stress in your workplace, you could leave yourself vulnerable to legal action from an employee, not to mention falling prey yourself to all manner of other dangers.

Stress is an extremely helpful human response – it helps you meet that report deadline; the adrenaline gets you through an important presentation. But what happens when the stress becomes too much?

If you have your own business, the buck stops with you. You work the longest hours and you work the hardest. You need to keep on top form. Stress might be a necessary part of your working life but it is equally vital to your health and your business that you respond to it appropriately.

Too much stress is bad for you and your business

Too much stress can lead to anxiety and depression. It will affect your performance, your physical health, and it will depress the morale of your staff.

High staff turnover and absenteeism are strongly associated with stressful workplaces. Make sure the costs of stress don’t take their toll on your company – whether that’s financially, or in the emotional impact on you and your staff.

Don’t be vulnerable to legal action

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. If you don’t give due attention to stress in your workplace, you could leave yourself vulnerable to legal action from an employee.

Having too much to do, the pressure of deadlines, lack of control over the pace of work, repetitive tasks and no freedom to make decisions can all create unhealthy stress for an employee.

What you can do to alleviate stress

Keep track of what you find stressful at work and prepare for it in advance. Long days may be acceptable in the short term, when work has a specific purpose and a definite end in sight. However, you will get diminishing returns if you continually work twelve-hour stretches. Maintain a healthy diet, regular sleep and contact with loved ones. Develop a support network that allows you to relax outside of working hours.
When it comes to your staff, flexible working hours can help maintain work/life balance.

Offering your employees supervisory support, and collective involvement in decision-making, is key to a healthy company culture.

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Your Health and Work

It’s important that you keep in peak condition when the smooth running of a business rests on your shoulders, as if you become ill, who will take over? Follow these steps to stay healthy:

A healthy worker in a healthy office

Make sure the height of your chair, desk and computer all allow good posture. You may need a footrest beneath your feet. To avoid repetitive strain injury, keep your wrists straight when typing and consider using a support.

Alternate your activities so you are not straining your eyes with continual screen work. You should not work at your computer for more than twenty minutes continuously.

Check your office ventilation and drink fluids regularly, ideally, about eight glasses a day. Dehydration can shorten your attention span and cause headaches. Filtered water and herbal teas are more refreshing than coffee or caffeinated soft drinks and are better for your health. Stay away from the vending machine! If you get hungry snack on fruit or nuts to feel less sluggish.

Take your allotted breaks, and never skip lunch. Even if you don’t want to eat much, take the time to get some fresh air - go for a walk or a swim to boost your energy.

Stay calm. In a stressful situation, take a few minutes to breathe deeply and perhaps work on something else until you are more collected.

Be assertive and communicate your reasons for turning down work. Do not take on more than you can manage, or non-essential tasks, for fear of saying “no.” It will only create problems if deadlines are not met.

Prioritise your work, according to urgency and long-term importance. Delegate the tasks that can be done by others. If possible, schedule a mixture of mundane and interesting activities for yourself, so that you are motivated to finish the less engaging tasks.

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Eat well to work well

With all the stresses and strains of running a business, it’s easy to get run down but simple lifestyle and diet changes can help you stay physically capable of all your job can throw at you.

Here are some suggestions to keep your health in check:

Start a new activity

Riding a bike, a spot of gardening, or a salsa class might seem like luxuries when you’re short on time, but they are an ideal way to stay healthy and to relieve the stress of work.

Eat properly

Empty calories and a lack of vital nutrients will leave you ill-equipped for the pressures of work.

Make sure you eat some protein in every meal as this helps keep blood glucose levels in check. This might be lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, or shellfish.

Instead of refined carbohydrates, include plenty of whole grains in your diet, including brown rice, bread and pasta, all of which are beneficial for their fibre, B vitamins and slow energy release.

Pack mixed nuts, dried fruit or sunflower seeds, to snack on at work. Eat them when you feel the urge for crisps or chocolate from the vending machine.

Drink water instead of coffee to stay hydrated. You need approximately 1.5 litres of fluid to stay alert in your working day and more during hot weather. Although coffee can be included in your fluid intake, caffeine can cause palpitations and hyperactivity that may affect your attention span.

Eat in relaxed surroundings – not at your desk! - and keep meals light to aid digestion.

Reduce your alcohol consumption

Although it relaxes you initially, alcohol can act as a depressant, particularly with regular consumption. It will also affect the quality of your sleep. If a drink is part of your relaxation ritual, perhaps use a mixer to halve the strength.

Just try it

To begin with, make these adjustments for a limited period – perhaps for one or two months. You are likely to see improvements in your health, your stress levels, and, of course, your work.

(Please note: should you be experiencing severe symptoms of stress that do not respond to lifestyle changes, it is important that you contact your doctor to find the underlying cause.)

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Is your workforce feeling stressed?

What is your approach to stress in your workforce?

It’s not just you that can be under pressure and with stress one of the most common reasons for sick leave in the UK, you need to consider the potential costs to your business:

Staff disillusionment

Low morale, increased pressure and feeling unsupported can all develop into a reluctance to engage at work, a sense of stress and high levels of absenteeism.

Poor working relationships

Mood swings, withdrawal from colleagues and irritability with other team members can all be associated with stress.  Meanwhile, tensions within departments – including harassment and bullying – may exacerbate stress further.

Underperformance

Previously reliable and conscientious workers may, under prolonged stress, vastly diminish the quality and quantity of their work.

Overwork

Conversely, an employee may spend longer and longer at work due to excess pressure, an unmanageable workload, and the resultant stress.

What’s the cause?

A rigid management style can engender negativity and unhappiness at work. Workers who feel powerless and unsupported are more likely to suffer stress.

Take stress seriously

Listen to the issues raised by your employees and involve them in the decision-making process.

If an employee approaches you complaining of feeling stressed, encourage him or her to visit the doctor. Determine whether their issue is work-related. If it is, it may be necessary to develop a strategy for the organisation as a whole. For instance, a representative should be in place to act on behalf of staff members who feel they have been bullied or harassed.

The insecurities of the modern workplace can take their toll. Be alert to the signs of stress, to keep your staff motivated and productive.

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 Keeping Yourself Motivated

How do you recharge your entrepreneurial batteries when they get low?

Feeling overwhelmed by a major task or project? Here are some techniques to rejuvenate your motivation:

Go back to basics

Write down the benefits of working the way you do on a large sheet of paper and pin it to the wall to remind you why you make the effort.

Keep your goals in sight

Create two more charts:

  • one briefly listing your, short, medium and long-term goals (What am I doing it for?)
  • the other with your tasks or objectives for this month (What are the next few steps to get there? What have I achieved recently?)

Trust in your abilities, as lack of confidence is a huge energy drainer.

Talk positively: 'I can, I'll learn'.

Remind yourself that there are no failures, only results. Learn from your bad results.

Success often goes to the person with the greatest conviction.

Remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Don't wait until tomorrow!

If you feel overwhelmed by a major task or project, divide it up into manageable chunks, then just get started on the first one, you'll soon be half way through the project without even realising it.

Look to the future. Having a vision of the future helps to 'fix' your goals. visualise the result you want – your brain can’t tell the difference between ‘fantasy’ and reality.

Savour the emotions you will feel when (not if) you land that order. Collect pictures that summarise these emotions - your dream house, boat, car or holiday - and pin these over your desk to remind yourself why you are doing it all.

Write down why you want to do something, even if the reasons hardly seem valid.Something as simple as 'I want a clear desk so I don't have to start the day in a mess' is valid. Clean it up tonight and start tomorrow afresh.

Have a plan

Assess -> Plan -> Act

Write a plan for yourself, both in business and personal terms. Set tough but realistic objectives with timescales. 

Compile a record of past successes and keep revisiting them to remind yourself that you are a success!.

Buy a notebook and fill it with tasks that you wish to complete. For each, promise yourself a reward. As you complete a task, take your reward and tear out the page.

Home alone?

A mentor can help here. Identify an understanding person with whom you can talk through business issues and who will encourage you.

Be kind to yourself and your health. Worry and stress can start a vicious cycle of demotivation and even illness. Make sure you allow yourself sufficient time for breaks.

Finally, recognise your achievements. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it for having the strength of character to go out and make things happen.

For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore, neither the authors nor the firm can accept responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material.

© Copyright JE Consulting 2014. All rights reserved.

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