Entrepreneur, look after your mental health

Your work ability is a vital condition and resource for your company. Take care of yourself at least as well as you would of your company’s other assets. Mental health is an important part of your work ability. You will succeed best when you identify and manage harmful workload.

Mental health is part of work ability

Work ability means having sufficient resources (for example, health, competence, values, motivation) in relation to the requirements of the work. Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual has the ability to cope with the normal pressures of life, to work in a productive way and to participate in the activities of one’s work community. Promoting and supporting mental health is thus an important part of your work ability.

Identify harmful workload

The requirements of work cause stress. Aappropriate amount of workload is a normal part of work and something you cannot or should not try to eliminate completely. However, prolonged harmful workload, such as an excessive amount of work, insufficient possibilities to control, manage or set the pace of work, or difficult conditions, can put your work ability at risk. By managing the workload, you support your mental health. 

From the perspective of mental health, the most important workload factors are psychosocial, in other words psychological. Studies have shown that the most common sources of stress for entrepreneurs are uncertainty, loneliness, haste, and the amount of work. High stress levels are also associated with lower business success.

How you can manage your workload

  • Make sure you know and understand what the workload factors in your work are. Never be content with the initial, easy impression. 
  • Take excessive workload seriously also when the work gets done despite it. No one else will do it for you. 
  • Maintain and develop your competence, reserve time for training, experimentation, and planning.
  • Entrepreneurship has its own dedicated skillset; also develop your entrepreneurial skills. 
  • Make sure you have a support network and co-operation partners for situations where you need support. 

Remember leadership

Even if you are the only employee in your company, the company’s operations must still be led. The hallmarks of good leadership include fairness, consistency, the ability to make decisions, appreciative feedback, caring for the employees and setting realistic targets. Lead yourself as you would like others to lead you. Set clear and realistic targets for your company. Monitor the realisation of the targets and, if necessary, change direction. Take care of your health, disengage from your work regularly and keep your working hours at a reasonable level. Plan and monitor your company’s finances, use external help if required, network and organise your work. Request and collect feedback. 

As an entrepreneur, you have many responsibilities, but also a great deal of freedom. According to studies, the factors supporting the well-being of entrepreneurs are largely the same as for any employees: good organisation of work, feedback, learning, independence and variety. Make use of the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship and accommodate your working hours to be more flexible.

Create rhythm, regulate, and recover

According to a number of studies, self-employed persons tend to be more committed to work than employees. Working and entrepreneurship are often a strong part of their identity. Work is highly engaging when you work with something interesting and important to you. Entrepreneurs’ work satisfaction is often high although the requirements are tough, the working hours can be long, and the work always involves uncertainty.

As an entrepreneur, you have no fixed work schedule and you alone are responsible for deciding when to work. Take seasonal variations into account when planning your company’s finances. If you count on doing paid work every single day of the year, you will have no time to recover. Therefore, you should also take vacation times and national holidays into account.

Do not expect yourself to be effective and productive all the time. You can only work in a focused way if you also allow yourself time to recover. Many entrepreneurs work long hours, but on the other hand, you also have the opportunity to regulate your working hours. If and when your work seeps into your free time, you can also allow the opposite. You can pause your workday to do other things.

No need to do everything on your own

While you have full responsibility for the success of your business, you do not need to do everything on your own. Carefully consider what areas are your sole responsibility and where you can use external help.

You have probably acquired some kind of external help for managing your company’s finances. You should take the same approach to taking care of your coping, competence, work ability and (mental) health. You can get help for taking care of your physical and mental health from the occupational health services. You can look after your well-being and competence by, for example, participating in the activities of local entrepreneur networks and online entrepreneur communities. It is also a good idea to discuss matters related to the content of your work, entrepreneurship, and your own well-being with an external specialist, such as a mentor, counsellor or coach.