Small Business Owner Burnout 101

By Henry Brown

Burnout is one of the most troubling, concerning issues that an individual can face – but it’s also one of the most overlooked. Best regarded as a “state” rather than a condition, burnout can have serious consequences for an individual’s health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Left unmanaged, it can progress to a point where normal functioning is next to impossible.

Unfortunately, for business owners, identifying burnout can be incredibly difficult.

Why is burnout so difficult to identify?

If you run a small business, you’ll likely have thought about burnout in the past, particularly in regards to your employees. However, like most business owners, it’s less likely that you’ll have considered burnout as an issue that may impact you personally.

There are various reasons burnout tends to be overlooked by entrepreneurs, but perhaps the most obvious explanation is that running a small business is tough. Very few entrepreneurs start their business in the expectation of an easy life; most know that the combination of operating the business, managing the finances, strategizing for the future, and so on will always present challenges to the way they live and work.

As a result, business owners can easily interpret the signs of burnout as simply the signs of running their business. You may find yourself thinking that yes, you’re stressed, but aren’t all business owners stressed? It’s par for the course.

There is, however, a big difference between ‘standard’ stress and burnout.

Differentiating burnout from standard business owner stress

– Burnout tends to be constant, whereas standard stress is usually more situational. You may, for example, feel stressed about an upcoming client presentation – which is far from ideal, but is understandable. However, if you are experiencing burnout, you will experience the symptoms even when there is no particular reason to experience them; even when the business is running and performing well, and there are no issues on the horizon.

– Burnout is rarely eased by taking a few days off. You may find that you take what should be refreshing vacations, but upon return to work, feel exactly as you did before.

– While everyday stress can create feelings of numbness or apathy, these issues are far more commonly associated with chronic burnout. Stress tends to make people anxious or keen to check all is well with the business; burnout is more likely to cause you to reach a point where you don’t even really care, or feeling that you’re going through the motions.

What are the solutions for business owner burnout?

Therapy can help with burnout, so it is always worth investigating this possibility. However, in most cases, combating burnout tends to require a material change in the way you work. Essentially, you have to change the reasons you experienced burnout in order to prevent the issue returning in future.

There are a variety of different ways you can change the way you work. You could switch to a four-day working week, for example, working more hours on fewer days, so you can enjoy a permanent three-day weekend. Alternatively, you could seek to lighten your workload via outsourcing; recruitment, marketing, IT, and bookkeeping services for small businesses are all well worth considering, and can ensure you have fewer responsibilities resting on your shoulders. Whatever you choose, just ensure it genuinely changes your working patterns and habits permanently – burnout is a sign that a significant shift is required, so temporary fixes are unlikely to resolve the issue once and for all.

In conclusion

Hopefully, the above will allow you to identify the signs of burnout should you experience them in future – and also empower you to find a solution that provides long-lasting relief.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop, he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover