Always “on” office culture was a growing trend even before the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that nearly half of the U.S. workforce has made the transition to the home office (opens in new tab), maintaining any sort of work-life balance has become even harder. Blurring the lines between business hours and personal time—not to mention the pandemic pressures—has led experts to predict a huge uptick in employee burnout (a.k.a. chronic stress and overwork). Recent studies have already found that over two-thirds of employees have experienced burnout (opens in new tab) while working from home, and the data suggests those numbers are likely to continue to rise (opens in new tab) into winter.
Setting a strict sign-off schedule and unplugging all together may seem like the obvious solution, but for workers who are also their own boss, it’s not that simple. According to Sharon Miller, head of Small Business at Bank of America, it is much more difficult for small business owners to compartmentalize the roles of boss, employee, and family member. “Business owners don’t stop and say, ‘Oh, I’m a business owner. Now I’m the CFO. And now I’m going to go home and be the mom,” she’s said when discussing some of the top challenges small business owners face (opens in new tab). And with more on their plate and more to prove than the average 9 to 5 employee, business owners and freelancers may be some of the workers most at risk for burnout.
We sourced some of Miller’s best tips to help those running their own show beat the burnout the rest of this year. Tune in to Getting Down to Business on December 1 at 4:30 P.M. EST for a live Q&A with Sharon Miller and Marie Claire’s Editor in Chief, Sally Holmes, for more on the state of small business now.
Stay connected to your community
Despite the challenges of 2020, a strong and active community is one silver lining Miller has found amidst the uncertainty. “Find other business owners going through similar challenges,” recommends Miller. “At Bank of America, we don’t just serve clients, we serve communities. We’re here to support you, to train you, to mentor you, to connect you with other women [in our network],” she says to the bank’s small business community (opens in new tab).
Working smarter (not harder) is key when combating burnout, and a professional community can be a great way to source help while keeping the creative engine running. “Keep thinking, ‘Okay, how can I do this better, faster, more efficiently?’’ is advice she often gives young women jumping into their own business (opens in new tab). Staying on top of the trends is essential in managing your workload and growing as a company. Also, it’s the one thing Miller always encourages all small businesses to do.
Ask for help
When it comes to financial health, don’t wait to get guidance. “It’s about women understanding that, you know what, you don’t have to have it [all together]. Raise your hand, let us know you’re ready to lead, let us know you want to grow, and we're going to support you, and we're going to help you get to where you want to go,” Miller says to the bank’s small business community (opens in new tab).
Especially at a time when many small businesses are making a pivot and rethinking their business model, getting the right guidance is critical. For those at a professional crossroads, Miller suggests speaking to a bank advisor (opens in new tab) so you can determine your roadmap to success. “Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Go now so you can get advice from professionals and learn.”
Take care of yourself
For many—including Sharon Miller—the living room now serves as an office, a classroom, and the place we hope to relax at the end of the day. Taking time for yourself and making room to refocus places pretty high on Miller’s WFH recommendation list. “You can’t do your best if you can’t be at your best,” Miller says in her small business community forum (opens in new tab). “We have to tell ourselves, ‘I can’t control this,’ so focus on what you can control.” Coffee breaks and midday walks have never been more essential!
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