Self-care is a term we hear a lot of these days, but what does it mean when we’re in business.
As the world returns to pre-pandemic levels of busy-ness and social distancing becomes a thing of the past in the vast majority of circumstances, it’s inevitable that our immune systems are going to be put under a bit of pressure as winter bugs start to do the rounds (plus all the classroom and playground bugs). But it’s not just physical ailments that can leave us feeling run down – the stress associated with running your own business can, at times, leave you feeling deflated or frustrated, even anxious at times.
In an employed role, with the security net of sick pay, it’s sometimes a little easier to listen to your body and seek rest and recuperation when it’s needed – obviously, that’s not possible in every role, but the benefit of sick pay is definitely one of the perks of employment. When you are running your own business, sick pay isn’t quite so easy to navigate (if it’s even possible for you to claim it).
As a result, it’s too easy to simply ‘keep calm and carry on’ thinking ‘I’ve got to work’, ‘we’re too busy’ or worrying about what might happen while you’re off, even when that is to the detriment of your health and overall wellbeing – and yes we’ve all done it. Your health and wellbeing though are things that have a higher value than a few days of work, ok they don’t directly pay the bills but without them where would we be? Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity.
Owning your own business can be hard, and at times I have worked myself into a state of physical and mental exhaustion, particularly in the days when I didn’t have a support team around me who could keep things going in my absence. When I was unwell, I was constantly worried about what my customers would think/do whilst I was away, a factor that clearly didn’t help in the recovery process!
The reality is, in the vast majority of cases, the work that you are doing isn’t likely to result in a major catastrophe if you are out of the office for a few hours or days. If a business is relying on you to function, and mayhem erupts whilst you are away, then it’s time to sit down with the business owner and work out a contingency plan – for them and you – to ensure that they aren’t relying solely on you in the future. One of my friends calls this ‘hit by a bus’ planning; it’s not necessarily fun to do, but is one of those adult conversations that you need to have with customers and/or team members to ensure that things can function in your absence.
At the end of the day, most of your customers won’t begrudge you time off for illness, we’re all human (plus if they do, are they really the ideal customers for you?). Most businesses can survive through your temporary absence, and though you may feel guilty about doing it, investing time and energy into self-care and recovery is essential; return to work too early and a simple illness may linger, causing problems for longer. Sleep, relaxation and following your GP’s advice are all required if you want to get back to your desk and functioning as your usual productive and efficient self.
YOU are your business. Without you, customers will go unsupported. Work will remain uncompleted. You are the biggest asset that your business has, and need to treat yourself as such! You spend time updating software, running anti-virus programmes and freeing up valuable space on your computer, so why don’t you treat yourself to the same care and attention? Without self-care, you, like your computer, could end up on a go-slow and hampered by viruses, limiting your productivity.
Take care of yourself this Autumn – and beyond. It’s not selfish, it’s a business necessity and if you need or want more support to keep your business running when you’re not there then get in touch, before you burn out preferably!
For more mental health support, information or resources, check out MIND this Mental Health Month