It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we are looking at the issue of loneliness in business and how to tackle it.
We all know that being an entrepreneur needs time and commitment and this can mean working long hours. Studies have shown that twenty-five percent of founders work over sixty hours a week, which affects their physical and mental health.
But beyond long hours, the financial stress of starting a business, and waiting months or even years to become profitable can take a toll on relationships, leaving entrepreneurs and business owners more vulnerable to isolation and loneliness. A recent study showed that half of CEOs report feelings of loneliness in their role.
Occupational loneliness has also been linked to burn out.
In an ever more digital world, we find ourselves less connected. As much of the global workforce has migrated from offices to home workspaces over the last 2 years, isolation has taken its toll. The lack of community and teamwork, face to face networking and shared experiences has left people feeling isolated.
Isolated and lonely, however, are two very different things. Solitude can have many positive associations, time to reflect, concentrate, work without distraction. There are a lot of people who feel energised from being alone. Loneliness on the other hand is far more damaging, anxiety-inducing and defeating, loneliness has been linked with an increased risk of physical and mental health concerns.
Research now shows that loneliness is as damaging to our physical health as smoking.
In England, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely, equating to over twenty-five million people. The highest levels are in those aged under 25 years and those aged over 65.
And, loneliness is on the rise. In 2021, 61% of young adults reported high rates of feeling lonely.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone, the pandemic has made isolation a shared experience across all types of work. It highlighted the need for better ways to connect remotely, there are free tools to facilitate communication, and more open discussion about mental health.
There is no doubt working alone has its perks. You are free to make your own hours or take your business with you whilst operating anywhere in the world. Alone time can be precious, but if loneliness sets in, don’t ignore it. The effects can have serious implications on your health—and your business.
MD Matt Smith, founded TPS Global Logistics in 2003, and as an independent business owner, he understands the journey of the entrepreneur and shares some tips to help beat loneliness.
1. Prioritise mental and physical health.
Ensuring you get enough sleep and exercise is well known to help fight depression, stress and feelings of loneliness, but drinking enough water and eating a healthy diet can help too.
When multitasking, it’s common to let meals be replaced by a piece of toast or a bag of crisps. Eating poorly isn’t a cause of loneliness, but use a mealtime as an excuse to disconnect from work and engage with humans if you’re already feeling lonely.
Go a step further and start a lunch or supper club with friends, rotating the responsibility of preparing healthy meals, or use a nutrition app that helps track eating habits and connects you to a community to share recipes and tips.
Working out with friends can also help if you’re feeling lonely. A regular fitness commitment that involves other people will also improve your overall wellbeing, joining a running club, hitting the gym, or signing up for group fitness classes even on Zoom, will take you away from packing orders or answering customer service emails for that time each week.
2. Find your community, there’s a community for every type of personality and interest.
Online communities are a great way to find other like-minded people and help fight loneliness. They allow you to have a regular place to “hang out” online. In-person networking groups and meetings are also a goldmine for seeding friendships and meeting up with local business members.
Industry events are great places to build networks of people who understand your business.
Whether you’re treating yourself to a trip abroad to attend a small business conference, or popping into a local meeting, events are great not only for learning new tricks of the trade—they’re also full of other sole worker entrepreneurs looking to connect.
Networking events also offer opportunities to grow your network, practice your pitch, source investors, and bounce new ideas off seasoned entrepreneurs.
Building strong networks in the early stage of your business means that the cure for a bout of loneliness is just a message away. Take care of yourself. Your business will thank you.
3. Don’t work alone, tackle loneliness by working in a shared space.
Often just being in the presence of others can kickstart creativity. Seek alternatives to the workspace squeezed into the corner of your kitchen: answer emails from a café, hire a few hours of meeting room space with shared facilities, or consider seeking other entrepreneurs to share an office.
Where possible, take your meetings or meet your customers in person.
Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. As a small business owner, you may not be interacting face to face with your stakeholders or customers. If human contact isn’t built in, be proactive about making contact regularly, even if it’s virtually.
Technology makes it easy to run a business without ever leaving your home. But you can add human interaction by taking meetings with your camera on. Or squeeze social interaction into your day-to-day business tasks: visit your suppliers in person, deliver local orders by hand, and meet your designer over coffee.
4. Practice self-compassion.
It is incredibly important now, more than ever, to be kind to yourself. Aim for a sustainable work-life balance. Don’t ignore or resist feelings, they can persist. Deal with loneliness before it strikes, reach out proactively, text or call a friend when loneliness sets in. And reaching out to a mental health professional is always a good idea, especially if you find that you’re taking steps to feel connected, but it’s not working.
For entrepreneurs setting up businesses our friendly team at TPS Global can help with freight forwarding and supply chain questions. Our services and solutions can be a cost-effective way of freeing up your time to concentrate on what’s important and helping with the work life balance. Leaving your goods in safe hands.
If you are thinking of exporting your goods MD Matt Smith is a South East Export Champion, appointed by the Department for International Trade to offer practical advice and guidance to help businesses make the most of their potential to sell goods and services overseas. Matt is available to share experiences and insights if exporting is part of your business strategy.
Contact us on 01622 237979 email firstname.lastname@example.org