Most jobs come with some degree of stress, whether it is self-imposed or inflicted by a supervisor. Either way, there is no doubt that there are health risks associated with stress and working. But are they quantifiable. New research suggests small business owners are jeopardizing both their mental and physical health by working long hours and exposing themselves to stress. Almost three-quarters of the entrepreneurs surveyed by the accounting specialist FreeAgent said they thought their health had been put under strain at some point as a result of their business activities.
There is a myriad of issues that can lead to increased health problems, including the pressure of being accountable for the financial well-being of your employees, the debt you may owe from the business, and the fact that there is no chain of support for you as there might be in larger corporations. Insurance wise, it is difficult enough to pay for insurance for you and your employees, if you currently do at all, let alone have benefits like mental health counseling, chiropractic and massage therapy, etc.
Long hours are often cited as well as a factor in both physical and mental health. Research and surveys support this notion. According to insurance company Zurich, entrepreneurs risk burn-out because of the time they devote to their businesses. Zurich found that small business owners routinely miss out on holidays and sacrifice family time because of their commitment to their businesses. Zurich said 14 percent of small business leaders were taking no annual leave at all, while a further 18 percent were taking less than 10 days.
The correlation between stress and health is well documented. According to the American Institute of Stress, 3 out of 4 doctor’s visits are stress related ailments. What’s more, the price tag is estimated at $300 billion each year in stress related medical bills and productivity lost. That is enormous. Of course, these last figures represent workers as a whole. It’s no picnic apparently whether you are the worker or the boss. Stress is almost inevitable in the workplace.
Now that we have established a cause and effect relationship, what can be done? While it is difficult to take time off and run a start-up, it is necessary to get away from work to free your mind and body of the anxiety. While Europe is not necessarily the model to hold up for American entrepreneurs, they mandate much more time away from the job than their American counterparts.
In a recent survey of 13,000 workers conducted by the health insurer Bupa, 60 percent of employees at small and medium-sized enterprises who considered themselves stressed said they had anxious thoughts at work.
When we look back at the recent Labor Day holiday and some of the reasons for its existence, we find that workers faced similar, albeit much more difficult hours and times at work during and after the industrial revolution. Laborers routinely worked 70 and 80 hour weeks, often without a day off. One wonders how the typical American survived. There were no health plans or Xanax available at the time. The American worker is resilient and entrepreneurs will find ways to improve working conditions and lower stress, not the government.
Editor’s note: As a small business owner, thinking about this article, I love my work, I love the people I work with, and I seem to be working all the time. Work, people and work hours are rarely stess points to me. Stress is almost always related to money. We HAVE TO make payroll. Do you agree?