Strategies for Small Business Leaders to Avoid Burnout and Increase Productivity

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Strategies for Small Business Leaders to Avoid Burnout and Increase Productivity

Jan 02, 2024
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Small businesses thrive when employees are committed to the cause and are highly motivated. Engaged employees are 21 percent more profitable, 87 percent less likely to resign, and 4.6 times more likely to perform at their potential. 

However, small businesses may be at a heightened risk of suffering from high rates of burnout. This is because work at most small firms requires employees to perform multiple roles, and this can cause significant amounts of pressure, especially when workers are not adequately supported.

As a self-employed small business leader, you can avoid burnout and increase productivity by addressing stress and creating a culture of continuous learning at work. This protects employees who are susceptible to overworking and ensures that everyone feels empowered while working at your firm. 

Addressing Stress

Excess stress saps your team’s productivity and undermines your ability to lead a small business. Periods of prolonged chronic stress can detract from the strength of your company culture and cause a rise in absenteeism and turnover. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to negative outcomes like: 

  • Reduced energy;

  • Lack of focus;

  • Impeded creativity; 

  • Poor interpersonal relations.

These negative outcomes will derail your day-to-day operations and reduce your team’s profitability. This is a serious issue if you’re a self-employed entrepreneur, as you’ll likely be operating with tight profit margins in the first few years of business. 

High stress can be particularly bad news if you work in a high-risk industry like construction or manufacturing. Stress can increase the risk of accidents by increasing the potential of making mistakes or misusing safety equipment. Stress can also cause issues like: 

  • Poor communication;

  • Misinterpretation of regulations;

  • Increased absenteeism. 

All of these factors put your staff at risk and may lead to expensive lawsuits following an accident. As a self-employed small business leader, you must take proactive steps to counteract high stress and empower your employees. Practical steps, like funding continuous learning, raising the skill level of your staff, and creates a culture of continuous learning at work. 

Continued Learning 

Burnout occurs when employees experience lengthy periods of stress. Common signs of burnout include: 

  • Feeling tired most of the time;

  • Helplessness; 

  • Detachment from work;

  • A cynical or negative outlook;

  • Self-doubt;

  • Procrastination. 

Dealing with these symptoms can be tricky. However, you can take action to support staff and increase engagement by investing in continuous learning. Businesses that support continued learning benefit from significantly improved engagement and can keep up with demanding industry trends. 

Continuous learning also ensures that staff have the skills they need to work efficiently and effectively. This is key to reducing burnout, as filling skill gaps with continuous learning minimizes the risk of overworking and ensures that folks can leave work on time. Creating a culture of continuous learning can help you attract talent in the future which improves your ability to delegate tasks and collaborate on projects. 

Delegating Responsibilities 

If you’re new to leadership, you may struggle to delegate tasks properly. This is understandable, as you’re likely used to doing everything yourself. Unfortunately, this sets a bad example for your team who may follow your lead and try to take on more than they can handle. 

Minimize the risk of overworking by delegating tasks fairly. Proper delegation empowers your team and ensures you’re in a good position to grow your business. Check in with staff weekly to find out whether your current delegation strategy is working and try to routinely shift responsibilities that you know are monotonous or mentally taxing. 

Remember that responsible delegation applies to yourself, too. Sometimes, asking for help is the best thing you can do. Asking for help will free up some of your time and give you a chance to respond to cultural issues that are causing burnout. This is critical as a business leader, as you add value to the firm by guiding folks towards heightened productivity at work. 

Work-Life Balance 

As a self-employed small business owner, the idea of a work-life balance may sound like a foreign concept. You’ve probably put in plenty of late nights already and have given much of your time and effort to your fledgling business. 

However, your staff shouldn’t be expected to make the same kind of sacrifices that you did. Employees deserve to feel safe in their role at work and shouldn’t be pressured into working overtime just to keep the firm afloat. 

Instead, encourage a healthier work-life balance by making strategic changes to boost productivity at work. For example, if you’re used to figuring things out on the fly, consider establishing a clear workflow instead. Proper workflows organize the business and help employees see exactly what must be achieved before the day is over. 

You can further enhance productivity and reduce burnout by encouraging staff to take off their holiday. Many small business owners mistakenly see holiday pay as lost productivity. In reality, staff who take regular breaks can recharge their batteries and destress after a busy quarter at work. This is particularly important if you work in a project-based industry where folks work hard to meet challenging deadlines. 


Small business leadership is all about empowering staff to become the best version of themselves at work. You can do this by encouraging employees to pursue further training and take their vacation time. This will help folks recharge and ensure your team has the skills they need to grow with your firm.

Meet The Author:


Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger.


The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Association for the Self-Employed or its members.

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