Burnout a big problem for SMEs

02:47, Jan 17 2013
Burn out
BEAT THE STRESS: If you arrive back from holiday feeling as stressed as when you left, there are some simple techniques to try that will help.

What happens when you arrive back in the office of your small business after a January "holiday" nursing your smartphone and tablet, and find you are just as exhausted as you were in December?

Burnout is a major issue hitting New Zealand's small to medium enterprise (SME) owners, says Mark Robotham, head of business advisers Growth Management Consulting.

"The answer is to plan your holidays in tune with demand for your services or products. Very rarely is a business peaking in demand 365 days a year. For example, anyone in a business-to-business type operation in New Zealand will find December 20 to January 20 is completely dead - go on holiday then. 

"Just as Olympic athletes do not train 365 days a year, neither can business owners work 365 days a year.

"Athletes take rest days to let their body build muscle and recover. My take is for business owners who do not take one [break], and preferably two breaks, a year, they will be under-performing as business leaders. And give yourself five to eight days off to properly wind down."

Robotham says the biggest challenge for SME owners in fending off burnout is that running a business gets addictive. "We get deluded into thinking our business cannot survive without us."


He adds that if you think you'll use the quiet summer holiday period to catch up, "you're missing the chance to do some maintenance on your most important asset - you".

Small business owner Leanne Frisbie, who runs her own PR company Passion PR, says she is guilty of checking her emails and phone messages daily while she's supposed to be on holiday, but agrees it's good to time holidays with when clients are also away.

"I didn't have an out of office email on but I didn't get many messages because everyone else was away too."

She adds that the biggest benefit of taking time out of the office is that it gives you the mental space to think about your business strategically.

"Instead of being reactive all the time, going to meetings and answering emails, I can let ideas simmer away while I'm spending time with the family. If you remove yourself from the everyday demands of the business for a little while it gives you the opportunity to think about the big picture - and that has to be really good for your business."

The Mental Health Foundation also agrees the inability to switch off and relax is increasingly endemic in the world of smartphones and constant accessibility.

Foundation CEO Judi Clements said if you arrive back from holiday feeling as stressed or more so than when you left, there are some simple techniques to try that will help beat stress.

"The first is really to try and be in the present moment. Don't worry about what needs to be done, or hasn't been done, just try and focus on what you're doing at that moment."

She adds that it's important too, to speak to someone whose judgement you trust if you're having doubts or worries about your business.

"It will only get worse if you don't talk about it."