Is your start-up making you sick?

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Starting a business usually involves long hours, copious amounts of stress and plenty of time hunched over a desk while coming up with a brand or grappling with paperwork.

 

As a lifestyle choice, there are certainly healthier career choices than becoming your own boss.

 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you’re a start-up is a bit of a catch 22 – do you compromise your health in pursuit of success or prioritise your health so you last the distance?

 

“When people decide to start their own business, they generally do so to have more money, more freedom and more time,” says Greg Stark, founder and director trainer of Better Being.

 

“The reality with most small business owners is that they have less time, less money and less freedom.”

 

According to the Australian Work and Life Index 2010, released by the University of South Australia, 50% of men and 66.6% of women are “often or almost always” rushed for time.

 

It seems time-poor Australians don’t even allow themselves a lunch break, with another report revealing a quarter of men and a third of women eat at their desks.

 

Associate Professor Paula McDonald, from Queensland University of Technology Business School, says long lunches are a thing of the past as people cram more work into their days.

 

“Eating lunch at one’s desk may be a very small marker of work intensification and the increased pace of life,” McDonald says.

 

“It often means rising expectations for productivity and outputs – the ‘doing more with less’ phenomenon.”

 

It’s not even a case of work hard, play later. Yet another report highlights how the rise of mobile technology has made it impossible to completely switch off from work-related tasks.

 

Recruitment firm Robert Half International surveyed more than 400 finance and accounting professionals about their work/life balance.

 

According to the survey, 68% of employers expect staff to be available to some degree while on annual leave or afterhours.

 

“Mobile technology has created a culture where employees are always connected to work and many find it difficult to strike a balance,” Robert Half director Andrew Brushfield says.

 

“It’s common across all businesses. But I would say that in smaller start-up firms, people wear more than one hat and therefore need to be across more issues.”

 

This invariably leads to stress, which can have a negative effect on your business, particularly if that stress starts to impact your health.

 

John Toomey, chief executive of Global Wellness, says trying to run a business while key staff are sick has the potential to bring a business to its knees.

 

“When a key player in a business becomes sick or incapacitated, it can be devastating,” he says.

 

“If you are the central figure in your business, a bout of illness can take you out of the picture, leaving your prized customers… looking elsewhere to get their needs met,” he says.

 

So if you’re a start-up, how do you avoid stress and sickness without sacrificing your success?

 

According to stress management guru John Tickell, author of The Stress of Success, the only person who can manage your stress levels is you.

 

“My tip for managing stress is to become a self-manager. You need to keep everything in perspective and set realistic goals when setting out to achieve something,” Dr Tickell says.

 

“A healthy lifestyle can build resistance to the negative effects of stress and help people cope with situations that would otherwise bother them.”

 

Stark and Toomey offer some insight into maintaining your health for the sake of your start-up:

 

Move it


“Running a successful business, particularly from start-up phase, requires a lot of hard work, dedication and time… It is crucial we find solutions that allow for minimal output with maximal gain,” Stark says.

 

“Research suggests that physical and psychological benefits can be experienced with as little as 25 minutes of high intensity exercise two to three times a week.”

 

“This is supported by clinical recommendations of either 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.”

 

According to Toomey, the best time to exercise is early in the morning, which means the session is complete before the day starts.

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