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Self-care, employee-care, business-care: How to reenergize your ecosystem

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Spring is about new beginnings, a theme that’s more meaningful than ever in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. After an extended winter spent hunkered down, many have emerged out-of-shape, heavier and not quite as nimble as they’d like to be. The long hibernation brought on by the crisis has compounded the effect, but with spring in the air now is the time for small business owners to reenergize themselves, their employees and their businesses so they can reenter the market with renewed vigor.

Self-care for small business owners

Self-care might seem irresponsible for small business owners who have a lot of ground to make up, but it’s not just about pampering oneself: self-care can boost productivity and help small businesses accomplish more, faster, so they’re positioned for success this spring. Here are some self-care resources business owners can tap into.

Sleep well

Sleep is critical to restore and prepare the body for the stresses of business ownership, but many entrepreneurs do not get enough sleep – in fact, one survey discovered that more than half of CEOs get less than six hours of nightly sleep, even though the average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep to maximize productivity.

In addition to reduced productivity, getting less than the recommended hours of sleep increases the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Conversely, getting enough sleep offers benefits such as an improved immune system, heightened brain function, enhanced mood and better mental health.

The Sleep Foundation offers tips for getting enough sleep during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get fit

Diet and exercise aren’t always at the top of people’s self-care lists, but eating well and taking care of one’s body can not only help business owners look and feel better, it can help save money: the annual cost of being overweight is between $432 and $524, while the annual cost of obesity is between $2,646 and $4,879 per person.

A study by the British Journal of Health Psychology found that people who eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables just four days per week enjoy 25% better job performance than those who do not. Moreover, a Stanford University study found that cognitive performance improved after just 15 minutes of moderate exercise.

Busy entrepreneurs do not need to dramatically change their diets or devote two hours per day to exercise to reap the rewards; rather, they can limit portion sizes, add in fruits and vegetables, and follow quick (and free) exercise and yoga routines on websites such as YouTube. Small business owners can find nutrition guidelines and physical activity guidelines on the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services website.

Engage in hobbies

Business owners have passions outside of their companies, but many do not allocate much time to enjoy the hobbies they love. That’s perhaps because they feel they should be working on growing their businesses instead, but taking breaks for leisurely activities can have positive psychological and physical effects that help entrepreneurs improve work performance.

One series of studies measured positive and negative psychosocial states after participants engaged in leisure activities. The research suggested that those who make time for leisure enjoy benefits such as lower blood pressure, decreased waist circumference and improved physical function.

Making time to pursue passions can yield both mental and physical health advantages that carry over to the workplace. Entrepreneurs can explore different hobbies and find inspiration on Discover A Hobby.

Get a massage

It’s no secret massages feel good and can help alleviate pain, but they can also help reduce stress and anxiety. Indeed, one study found that massage therapy can reduce the psychological measures of stress; specifically, improved heart rate and reduced cortisol levels (the hormone associated with stress).

Entrepreneurs might be hesitant to take time out of their hectic schedules to get massages, but reduced stress and anxiety coupled with an opportunity to relax and reflect might be just what they need to renew their vigor and tackle their most pressing challenges.

Local massage therapists can be found on the American Massage Therapy Association’s website.

Take a vacation

Today’s small business owners are busier than ever; not only do they need to maintain operations, many must dig their businesses out of coronavirus-induced holes. That doesn’t mean they can’t take some time off, however, especially since doing so can yield significant benefits to their wellbeing and businesses.

Research suggests that those who take regular vacations have lower risk of heart disease, depression and stress. Not only that, but taking time off can improve work performance – while working more than 50 hours per week severely limits productivity.

That doesn’t mean every small business owner should plan a ten-day trip halfway across the world (which could prove to be its own stressor), but it does mean entrepreneurs should take time away from work to recharge, refresh and reinvigorate. And, with vacation homes starting to open back up, now might be the time to plan a weekend getaway on Airbnb or HomeAway.

woman with weights and healthy foods

Employee-care ideas

Benefits associated with fitness, leisure and vacations aren’t exclusive to small business owners. Employees need to recharge, too, and their improved health and wellbeing can yield significant benefits for employers. Here are some ideas.

Diet and fitness

Companies can launch team fitness/weight loss challenges that motivate employees to improve their diet and exercise regimens. In-house teams can face off against one another; or, a company could challenge other local businesses and pledge donations to charities. Challenge Runner offers both free and paid fitness challenge management solutions.

Business owners can also purchase gym memberships for their employees. Depending on the number of employees, it might be possible to negotiate reduced rates. Some companies also sponsor nutritionist visits to help employees improve their diets. This might even be an available benefit to some employer health insurance plans.

Companies that are looking for something a little easier to manage might encourage employees to train together for an upcoming charity 5K. Numerous C25K (Couch to 5K) training programs are available, many of them free of charge.

Training for career advancement

Motivated employees are productive employees, so companies can consider offering free training that will help employees advance in their careers. Investing in employee training offers companies significant benefits, including improved performance, reduced turnover and cost savings: employers spend an average of $1,500 for ongoing employee training but around $30,000 for a new hire.

In addition, companies that offer extensive training programs can yield 218% higher income per employee and 24% greater profit margins. Training can be delivered via online workshops, live classes, online courses, employee mentorship/coaching and self-directed learning.

Find a list of employee training options here.

Rest and relaxation

Time off might not be in the cards right now, especially since many employees are returning from furlough and need to catch up on their own bills, so they’re not apt to want it anyway. Still, businesses can help employees reduce stress and anxiety by offering opportunities for a little R & R – which in turn can bolster employee productivity.

One idea is to give employees gift certificates for spa days, massages and yoga classes. Alternatively, companies can hire a masseuse to give employees chair massages throughout the day.

Simple, cost-effective measures can be taken to improve employee happiness in the workplace. For example, small businesses can allow employees to listen to their favorite music while they work. Or, they can encourage extended lunch breaks or half-days on Fridays – a perfect complement to an Airbnb gift certificate good for a weekend getaway.

Foster an amazing work environment

Team building activities, performance-based recognition, employee appreciation and even a little bit of fun at work have all been shown to improve employee happiness, which in turn yields greater productivity. In fact, one study found that happy workers are 13% more productive than unhappy workers – and another found that highly engaged teams yield 21% greater profitability.

Research has shown that employees want flexibility, commitment to their wellbeing and the ability to work with a purpose, so companies should foster an environment that delivers those attributes and enables employees to enjoy their work.

Employee support is likewise important; when employees feel like their employees care, they’re more committed to company success. Small businesses should identify ways to support employees and boost employee morale during uncertain times.

Inc. offers tips for creating a positive workplace culture, and a list of fun and engaging team building activities can be found on Wrike.

Business-care to boost profits and spur growth

Once they’ve taken care of themselves and their employees, small business owners can turn their attentions toward caring for their companies. Here are some ideas for boosting profits and spurring growth post-pandemic.

Explore new opportunities

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world, which means now is the perfect time for companies to explore new opportunities that could take their businesses to the next level. Small businesses should consider how things will be different after COVID-19, and how they can position their businesses to thrive in a post-COVID world.

For example, companies might need to revisit their supply chains and determine whether they can find more reliable, faster sourcing. Or, they might allow more employees to work from home as a cost-savings measure. Adding new services to satisfy demand for delivery and curbside pickup, or pivoting to new products and services (or repurposed uses for existing products and services) could introduce businesses to new audiences.

Small businesses should identify exactly how they’re going to ease back into normal, while recognizing that things might never return to “business as usual.” Returning to work, then, means not only meeting previous levels of profitability, but exceeding them by identifying new opportunities.

Regain financial control

COVID has wreaked havoc on many small business finances, so regaining control is critical to both immediate viability and long-term success. Companies would be wise to develop action plans to assess, regroup and survive.

Ideas include cutting unnecessary costs that do not directly impact business operations, projecting cash flow to ensure enough cash is available to maintain productivity until pre-COVID levels are reached, and preparing for economic recession and recovery, no matter what economic shape coronavirus recovery takes.

Take care of customers

Getting back to business means getting back in front of customers. Now, more than ever, companies must work to make customers feel special. They also need to ensure customers feel comfortable doing business with them in a post-pandemic world.

Consistent communication is key. While many retailers are prioritizing sanitization and cleanliness, those efforts might go unrecognized unless they tell customers what they’re doing to keep them safe when they visit their stores. Restaurants that adjust their layouts to accommodate social distancing measures should tell customers why, and service businesses that don masks and gloves or offer contactless delivery should help customers understand they take their safety seriously.

Though offering special sales, discounts and rewards programs can certainly help convince customers to come back, communication via signage, email, social media, websites and direct mail can help foster long-term customer loyalty from an uneasy population.

Refine marketing strategies

Budgets might be tight, but now is not the time to scale back on marketing. Rather, companies should identify which marketing strategies yield the greatest ROI and focus their efforts on maximizing their efficacy.

In addition, small business owners should consider how they can leverage new opportunities in marketing: previously untapped marketing channels and new audience segments, for example. If a business has pivoted or launched a new product or service, it needs to identify the best marketing strategies for those initiatives.

A spring cleaning mindset might be just what some small businesses need to shed the coronavirus cobwebs and freshen their marketing with updated branding, solidified value propositions and customer demand value. Companies can find marketing inspiration on Small Business Revolution.

The coronavirus crisis has been devastating at worst, inconvenient at best, but entrepreneurs cannot let it keep them down. Investing in self-care, employee-care and business-care is a powerful way to reenergize, reinvent and reinvigorate small businesses so they can reenter the market with a renewed passion for productivity and profitability.

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