Workers aren’t happy and burnout is affecting over 40% of workers. 

“Forty-one percent of those in the U.S. felt burned out at the end of last year, compared with a 42% rate globally, and slightly less than a year earlier. The poll also found that flexible conditions, including when and where people worked, played a big role in satisfaction. More than half of those who reported inflexibility cited burnout and were twice as likely to say they would look for a new job.” [Worker burnout at pandemic high: Poll]

In a conversation I had with Carol about my new book, she asked me if small businesses had any advantages in addressing mental health challenges in the workplace. I said I thought they could because there are fewer levels of sign-offs and compliance regulations for small businesses. 

As often happens when I talk with Carol, I continued to think about her question for a few days after the conversation. 

In my book, I sound a rallying cry that we need to evolve working so it works for everyone. Below are some things that entrepreneurs and small business owners can do:

Manage your and your employees’ workload

Lorraine Minister contributed this great post to the blog recently. Sometimes the overwhelm you are experiencing is self-inflicted. Do you have a process in place to regularly evaluate your projects and priorities? Are you willing to let go of projects or tasks you shouldn’t be working on right now? Please check out “Why Making Goals to Reduce Your Workload Can Help You Achieve More.” 

Set the tone at the top

We are social animals. We are wired to try to fit into a hierarchy, even as many small businesses are flatter organizations. Inevitably, the founders and senior management will set the tone. You have the opportunity to literally be the change you want to see in your company – and the world. 

Walk your talk 

Your employees will likely model what you do more than what you say. While it may be hard not to send that email as you are thinking about it during off hours, you can save it as a draft or schedule it as a delay send so your employees receive it during normal working hours. 

It you had your marketing team or an outside consultant include copious details about your collaborative and inclusive corporate culture, and yet workers feel unheard and are siloed, you have a disconnect within your company that you need to address immediately. 

Have tough conversations

We are messy humans with messy lives. Small businesses can be more compassionate. It is inevitable that employees will have things happen in their lives – health diagnosis, death of a loved one, accident, episode of anxiety or depression, etc. We need to normalize talking about difficult topics and asking for help. 

I often joke that help is a four-letter word, but not that kind. 

If a colleague is clearly not themselves or is actively struggling, don’t accept “I’m fine” as an answer. Tell them they don’t seem like themselves. Ask if you can take something off of their plate or help in any way. Offer specific ideas for how you could help. 

As you saw in the quote at the beginning of this post, flexibility is a big part of what workers want. Flexibility could be setting their own hours, working from different locations, or having more say in what projects they are staffed on. As a small business, you can try things and see what works well on both sides. 

The world of work is clearly changing and the future of work is still to be determined. Small businesses can experiment with ways of working, keeping the ones that are successful and dropping the ones that are not. 

Your people are the most valuable asset in your business. If you do what you can to keep them happy and productive, they will do their best to keep your business profitable. 

Photo by Ángel López on Unsplash