Everybody faces stress in their lives, but workplace worry can be amplified for small business owners who need to wear several ‘hats’ to keep the company running.
Stress can lead to severe anxiety and depression, but at the very least it makes us unhappy and will affect those around us – and there’s nothing more ‘unproductive’ than a bad mood.
Unhappiness is also bad for business, says clinical psychologist and mindfulness consultant Dr Richard Chambers.
“We are expected to do more with less, we have added pressures, time pressures, technology, distraction – there are so many things creating extra stress for us,” he says. “But it also has a massive impact on the bottom line. Unwell workers who are stressed make a lot more errors, they take a lot more days off work, there is absenteeism but also presenteeism where they are turning up but really just operating at half-speed.”
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Here, Dr Chambers offers some simple tips to be more upbeat about your work day, take care of your mental health and take a positive approach to challenging daily situations.
Focus and be happy
The more we can concentrate on tasks, complete them well and feel good about our work, the happier we will be, says Dr Chambers. And the key is being focused. This is where the practice of mindfulness, a great low-cost option for small business owners, is incredibly useful.
“If we are paying full attention we tend to get more out of it and enjoy it more – and that’s your base of mindfulness,” he says.
“Once we are more aware of where our attention is moment to moment, which is one of the things that mindfulness helps us to do, we can then start to notice if we are worrying or obsessing, or focusing on problems and negatives and we can just shift our attention to positives and what we can do to affect change or focus or what is going well.”
Make your digital work for you
Being able to unitask means limiting the constant notifications on your smartphone, and even its mere presence. Managing technology is a simple yet key area for small business owners and their staff, Dr Chambers says.
He only checks his emails at certain times of the day, prioritising those that are urgent, turns his phone to flight mode when he wants to concentrate and bans all notifications on his phone’s locked screen.
For many SMEs, cash flow is one of the most pressing issues that causes undue stress. One way of reducing this friction is to embrace Fast Payments and use PayID. Fast payments enable businesses to send and receive payments quickly, with funds generally transferred between participating banks in under 60 seconds around the clock.
PayID is a unique identifier for receiving fast payments. It can be your business mobile number, email address or ABN so there’s no need to remember BSB and account numbers. Providing your PayID makes it simpler for others to pay you.
The human brain is only capable of focusing on one complex piece of information at a time, so flitting between doing your bookkeeping, answering a client’s email, writing a report and liking a few posts on Instagram means you are not completing any one task well, and likely causing stress.
“If you check an email and then get back to what you are doing, it takes 64 seconds to get fully back into what you were doing,” he says. “If you do that every five minutes in a 40-hour work week you will lose 8.5 hours – a whole day.”
Try to unitask instead – you’ll get more done with less stress and enjoy it more because you are engaged with it.
Pay a little gratitude
The emerging practice of gratitude has great results for a positive attitude. Quite simply, each night before bed, think of three things that have happened that day that you are grateful for – it could be related to work or your personal life.
“In your mind you hang out with that – you take yourself back to that moment, you relive it, you feel it in your body and it locks it away in your long term memory so you start to become more and more grateful,” he says. “And then you start to notice more and more positive things throughout the day.”
Sleep, eat, play to stay happy
Exercise, sleep, diet are all super-important for physical and mental wellbeing, as is spending time with people you love for those feel-good endorphins. But you also need to recognise your own ‘tells’ when it comes to stress, tension in your shoulders, your breath, starting to get angry, and learn how to flip it into a positive.
“Maybe take a walk or do something that connects us with the senses – have a cup of tea or a conversation with a colleague and really listen to what they are saying, just anything that gets us back in the moment and stops us from worrying about stuff unnecessarily,” he says.
Share the glow
Simple tips like the ones above and low-cost classes for yoga, meditation or mindfulness as examples can increase your own happiness and wellbeing, and this has a great ripple effect. A PWC study showed that for every $1 invested into workplace wellbeing programs the return on investment was $2.30 thanks to a more engaged, productive staff.
“Stress is contagious but so is happiness and gratitude and wellbeing, particularly if you are present with people, they will be more present with you so that helps with relationships of all kinds,” Dr Chambers says.
* Fast Payments and PayID are available within a class of products issued by National Australia Bank Ltd ABN 12 004 044 937 AFSL 230686 (NAB). Any advice contained in this article has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any advice in this article, NAB recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances and that you review the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Terms and Conditions.
For 160 years, NAB has been helping our customers with their money. Today, we have more than 30,000 people serving nine million customers at more than 900 locations in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. As Australia’s biggest business lender*, we work with small, medium and large businesses to help them start, run and grow. We fund some of the most important infrastructure in our communities – including schools, hospitals and roads. And we do it in a way that’s responsible, inclusive and innovative. We’re more than bankers; we’re backers. We back people, businesses, and communities to grow, to change, and to move Australia forward. *NAB is Australia’s Biggest Business Bank according to Monthly Banking Statistics lending data (non-financial corporations) published by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority as at January 2020.