The cost of burnout to you and your small business


This month we’re talking about burnout because as we head into May, the year is well on it’s way and it’s getting harder to stay committed to the everyday drudgery.

Check out our #FinanceFridays for this month as we tackle burnout from a variety of different angles.

If you can equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge, you’re well on your way to managing yourself right into more productivity!


Week 1: Overwork and burnout – the cost to your profitability and productivity

What is burnout?

Burnout is beyond stressed. It’s physical, emotional, social, occupational, and spiritual.

Ask yourself the following questions to gauge where you’re at on the burnout scale:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you: 
    • Lack the energy to be consistently productive?
    • Find it hard to concentrate?
    • Lack satisfaction from your achievements
    • Feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

Why are entrepreneurs at risk of burnout?

Burnout is prevalent in entrepreneurship even more so than in any other workplace. Let’s take a look at six factors why that is…

Lack of control

Entrepreneurs have an inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — which could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work.

Unclear job expectations

If you’re unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you’re not likely to feel comfortable at work. As an entrepreneur, you’re your own supervisor so, how often do you clarify what you expect from yourself?

Dysfunctional workplace dynamics

Perhaps you work with an office bully, or you feel undermined by colleagues or your boss micromanages your work. Or this could be your clients. This can contribute towards job stress.

Extremes of activity

When a job is extremely monotonous or extremely chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.

Lack of social support

If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed. Without the right support network rallying around you, entrepreneurship can become dangerously lonely.

Work-life imbalance

If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.

Job burnout risk factors

You might be more likely to experience job burnout if you:

  • Identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life
  • Have a high workload, including overtime work
  • Try to be everything to everyone
  • Work in a helping profession, such as health care
  • Feel you have little or no control over your work
  • Have a monotonous job (as entrepreneurs our job is not necessarily monotonous!)

Burnout costs companies (profitability)!

Here’s some alarming statistics from around the globe…


Working longer hours doesn’t increase productivity!

The research is clear – long hours back fires for businesses and people.

In a study of consultants by Erin Reid (a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business) managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. That’s scary, right?!

Numerous studies by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and her colleagues (as well as other studies) have found that overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, showing up as absenteeism, turnover, and rising health insurance costs. Even the Scroogiest of employers, who cared nothing for his employees’ well-being, should find strong evidence here that there are real, balance-sheet costs incurred when employees log crazy hours.

Find out more here.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” —Banksy

You’re simply more likely to make mistakes when you’re tired — and most of us tire more easily than we think we do! Only 1-3% of the population can sleep five or six hours a night without suffering some performance drop-off. Moreover, for every 100 people who think they’re a member of this sleepless elite, only five actually are! The research on the performance-destroying effects of sleeplessness alone should make everyone see the folly of the all-nighter.

Research has suggested that as we burn out, we have a greater tendency to get lost in the weeds. We get distracted and don’t have a clear focus.

And who wants that, right?!

Instead, go ahead and equip yourself with some tools to prevent burnout…

Week 2: Three tools to prevent burnout – Practical ways to help yourself and your small business


One of the top reasons people become entrepreneurs is to have more control over their work hours – so that they can focus on doing what they love. But actually most of us end up becoming slaves to our business yet again. Did you know one of the top complaints from entrepreneurs is lack of work-life balance?

The one thing we all have in common

24 hours in a day. Elon Musk and Bill Gates are also limited to 24 hours a day. So we’re in good company right? Psychologists recommend that those 24 hours are divided into four categories:


Firstly, we all need between 6-10 hours of sleep. At scheduled times.

(If you invent a potion that makes me need less sleep please let us know!)

But for now, we know sleep provides these benefits:

  • Reduced chances of heart complications
  • Less forgetfulness
  • Better decision making
  • Less sensitivity to pain
  • Reduced emotional irritation
  • Better immune system

The benefits of simply getting enough sleep far outweigh the cons!

Read more about Sleep here and here

  • Making fewer mistakes
  • Improved vision
  • Improved learning
  • Reducing financially-risky decisions
  • Better mood
  • Having a better day at work


Normal people (whatever that might be 😁) attend a 9 to 5 job working on average eight hours a day. Weekends are spent catching up on other occupational functions for example, being a home owner or parent. Some seasons of life we do spend more time on our various occupations (think about the mother of a new-born, the start-up entrepreneur, or the home renovator).


These are your self-care needs. Preparing things to fuel your body (grocery shopping, meal prep, cleaning your environment), consuming fuel (meal times, coffee breaks etc.), ensuring fuel leaves your body (exercise, potty), and cleaning everything up again (showers, cleaning, grooming, makeup, etc.). You could even include in this category, your personal finance or budgeting, traveling, and other essential tasks here. They are not work related and you would engage in these activities even when you are retrenched or retired.


Separate to sleep, rest and relaxation is unwinding and re-fuelling the soul time… Socializing. Relaxing. Netflix. Reading. Social media. Puzzles. Being in nature.

Have you forgotten how to have fun? We have more tasks available than hours available. That’s exactly why entrepreneurs need to learn to delegate.

You can’t do everything as much as you wish for an extra hour a day. Wherever possible, don’t skimp on that important creativity time. Top companies like Google have sleep pods, lego, puzzles, tennis tables etc. to allow people to take breaks and focus on other tasks (knowing that during play the underlying problems are working their way through the brain and by the time the employee returns to the desk they are more energized, creative and ready to solve the previously impossible problem). You need to do this for you too!

Next, let’s look at the key tools you can use to prevent and manage burnout.

Tool 1: Time management sheets from the productivity challenge

In our productivity challenge in March we released a bunch of useful handouts to help you track how much time you are actually spending in the various occupations of your life. Make sure you check out the video launching the challenge here.

Here’s a throwback to a few sites and tools we also mentioned:

Tool 2: Micro-self-care strategies

I know I know, you can’t afford sleep pods. That would be great. But what you can do, is take micro-breaks. Here are the top micro-self-care techniques:

  1. Drink more water so you need to go to the toilet. Go to the toilet without your phone for a split second of rest.
  2. While you are in the bathroom, become mindful of your breathing. Imagine blowing bubbles or blowing a balloon with big slow long out breaths.
  3. Of course you need to wash your hands, so while watching the water swirl down the drain, take the time to identify your worries and imagine them swirling down the drain too. If you’re not ready to let them go, at least give them a wash too so they can become clearer and more solvable.
  4. Most bathrooms have a mirror. Look yourself in the eye and give yourself a positive affirmation. Something like “Kristine, you can do this” or “Kristine, I’m proud of you”. It feels weird initially, but wow it makes a difference.

Imagine doing that 10 times a day! A split second of rest, a slow out breath, washing your worries down the drain, and saying something encouraging to yourself. Better go get some water straight away!

But I told you we will be tackling 3 tools today…

Tool 3: UPvisor brings you our new service - "Hire a Chameleon"

Ever wish you could clone yourself? 

As an entrepreneur starting a SME, you have to wear so many hats! You are spending so much time working on your business, you’re overwhelmed thinking about working in your business doing the thing you love: making money!

Hire a Chameleon’s mission is to free time for entrepreneurs to work their business doing what they love. It sets up (mostly) automated systems to task shift the non-income generating functions of the business to cheaper labour by setting up human resource systems to find and retain talent, and developing SOPs and templates for sales, operations, and administrative or financial functions.

It starts off with an assessment of your unique needs and understanding the processes within your business. From there we can set up a cloning service (nope, not in a sci-fi way!):

  • Develop SOPs and templates so that you can trust other people to do the work to the same standard you do (like clones you see).
  • Setup a loyalty program to make sure that those minions are invested in the long run. We do this by investing in your company culture and providing solid training to ensure a smooth transition into operations.

And did you know we offer training in these to help you build these models chop-chop?

Click here to download the brochure and contact Tanya to find out more.


So, take the time to re-evaluate your time management, engage in micro self-care during your toilet breaks, and consider whether it’s time to start outsourcing some functions through our Hire a Chameleon service.


Week 3: Having fun at work – businesses embracing rest


As we’ve been focusing on burnout this month, we hope you’ve been taking many bathroom breaks, washing those doubts and worries away! And if you’re still not convinced this is something you can fix, because hey, we all love being busy, then today is for you.

We live in a time where burnout is worn as a status symbol. But really, if we’re honest, the impact of burnout is severe.

So instead, let’s focus on the opposite. Today we will review a few companies who celebrate having fun at work. maybe this can inspire you to try something new and prevent burnout at work.

Benefits of having fun at work

You might be thinking work and fun don’t mix. How can work be fun? and Why do we need to incorporate fun at work anyway?

But check out these three shifts that have created an opportunity for a climate for fun at work:

Your employees

1. Shifts in the psychological contract

More employees are finding value in jobs where there is a positive relationship between the employee and employer. They prefer working for businesses where the employer is known to care for it’s people and not just the business. Therefore, a more socially aware and socially connected workplace is needed to increase employee satisfaction and employee wellbeing in the workplace.

2. Shifts in workforce demographics

As the working world has developed, employees have differing needs and expectations than they had in the past. This is especially true with the new Generation Z coming through the ranks. They’re all about experience.

3. Shifts in the work itself

Individuals reach across organizational boundaries. They often do work that covers multiple areas or departments or have to work with people in other departments which creates a systems-minded approach. This requires a more collaborative environment. Which considering remote working realities – can be really hard.

Your business

Your next thoughts might be there’s no time for fun. I’m too stressed to have fun. How’s fun going to help me?

But having fun at work has many benefits, not only for the employee but also for the business. Let’s have a look at a few:

  • There is a competitive advantage in merging work with play.
  • It creates a strong company culture and a better culture of learning. Think about it. There is increased work learning (informal learning) because a fun atmosphere creates a better learning environment which means employees will be more likely to try new things and not worry as much about mistakes.
  • It encourages employees to collaborate more and build stronger teams. It brings co-workers together which promotes group cohesion. And at the same time increases creativity among employees in the workplace.
  • It forms an important role in establishing and strengthening social connections within the workplace.
  • Employees are more likely to create meaningful work and be more engaged in a nurturing environment and fun at work fosters a positive environment.
  • It improves employee experience. Ensuring that employees have fun at work shows that you value employee workplace satisfaction and health. It also improves mental health and wellbeing of employees. Employees become more productive, more energized, and less stressed.
  • According to Harvard Business Review, employees who take time out to have fun at work, are more productive and produce a higher quality of work. They are happier in their role, more committed and less likely to call in sick.
  • Executing fun at work involves ownership and accountability from all levels of an organization: individual, team, leader, and organization. Which results in increased employee retention. We all want that!

How does having fun at work increase productivity and profitability?

Companies who go out of their way to encourage a healthy work-life balance benefit from increased profits and productivity. We get:

  • increased job performance
  • reduced employee turnover
  • happier staff providing better customer service.
  • businesses that take proactive steps to engage their people, out-perform their competitors who don’t. 

What does fun at work entail?

So you may be thinking the best companies don’t do this, but actually they do.

There are quite a few companies that have fun as a core value – AES, AWeber, Best Buy, Etsy, Jet Blue, Lego, LinkedIn, Mercedes Benz, The Motley Fool, Southwest, Workday, Zappos.

Here are some ways that companies have incorporated ‘fun’ into the workplace to improve employee wellbeing:

  • Hubspot: Rooftop Meetings – After work employees can socialize and relax at their rooftop meetings. This started when the company started and the tradition still continues today. The CEO believes this led to the company’s success.
  • LinkedIn: Walk & Talks – Team members can go for a walk to catch up or have meetings. this Introduces some exercise into the work day which releases endorphins that reduce stress, improve health and make people happier.
  • Google provides free food to employees. Who wouldn’t be happier with that?
  • Apple is united by a common goal – employees understand how they contribute to the company and therefore find meaning in their work.
  • Intuit: Work/Life Balance – doesn’t expect employees to work before or after working hours. This helps employees maintain a healthy balance. I think we could all take a page out of their book!
  • Growth engineering: Monthly Challenges – They set a new challenge at the beginning of each month and keep record of scores throughout the month. Creates competition and fun among employees

There are so many ideas to implement to ensure improved employee wellbeing. Do a bit of research. You can do it!


So you’re keen, right? Next step: Approach the boss (oh wait you are the boss!).

Start with inexpensive options like the walk and talk approach by LinkedIn. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Just make sure it makes a difference. You’re the master of your own company culture. So drive it.

And if you don’t have enough creativity in your blood, set up a Fun Ambassador who thinks of the fun for you, so you can just arrive and enjoy it. This is one of the many components of our Hire a Chameleon service. So, if you want to find out more about it, let’s talk.

We’d love to see your “fun at the office photos”. Go ahead and share them on social media with #upvisor. And watch our pages to see how we do it too!

Week 4: The Legalities of Burnout


We’ve been talking so much about ways to prevent and manage burnout within our workspace this month, but sometimes it’s too late.

As employers and employees we need to know what our rights and responsibilities are to deal with burnout from a legal perspective.

Our guest speaker for the month is an Employee Relations Consultant from Johannesburg, South Africa, Elsie Heydenrych. Our conversation was almost an hour long! So this is one awesome, resource-packed interview.

The Setting

To make the legal principles more relevant to us, we have set the stage with the following scenario:

Bob has been working for James for 6 months. Bob has recently notified James that Bob is burnt out and that it is James’s/work’s fault. James has been unhappy with Bob’s performance, and is not keen on granting Bob sabbatical to recover from burnout – he’d rather terminate the contract.

The questions

During our interview we discussed a couple of questions which included:

  • Who has to pay for a medical evaluation?
  • Do we have to follow a formal (potentially overwhelming) procedure as dictated by Schedule 8?
  • How often do we have to amend job profiles?
  • Is an employer obligated to tell a new employee that the previous person in that position left due to burnout or that the job caused burnout?
  • Are there ways that an employer can protect themselves from CCMA cases due to employee burnout (e.g. what must we be able to show we did to prevent burnout?)
  • Is it compulsory to make psychological/counselling support services available to employees as part of a wellness program?
  • As an employee how do you deal with instances in which your work demands that you work overtime, but no overtime is paid, but yet you have to put in the hours to succeed or excel and this is viewed as “voluntary” overtime. How do you broach that conversation with your employer? And do you have any recourse?


Burnout is a reality we all face, especially as entrepreneurs.

However, if we take active steps to prevent it, and look after ourselves as we get closer to the edge, the chances of us being more productive and successful is so much greater.

If you need help with reducing the load, our Hire a Chameleon service is going to be a lifesaver!

Make sure you stay in touch.

Until next time!