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The Epidemic Entrepreneurs Should Fear
 

The flu outbreak made me pause and consider another powerful contagion.

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Lately, you can't turn on the TV without hearing about a flu outbreak. Most people can relate to being busy at work and hesitating to take a sick day, but this often cuts even deeper for entrepreneurs. Big corporations can typically float the costs of an ill employee's decreased productivity or absence better than a small business--let alone a solo shop.

So, similar to deciding when the physical symptoms of an illness require a day off, how can you determine when your employees' attitudes are just too negative to come into the office? Let's all admit it, there is a time and a place for taking "mental health days."

Here are my thoughts on when to hit pause at work due to stress or bad attitude, as inspired by a list of tips from WebMD on when one's "Too Sick To Work."

Threat Level 1: Proceed with caution.

How well can you carry out your work duties? Although I generally have a sunny disposition, sometimes I wake up feeling "off." So just as I pop vitamin C when I feel an unidentified tickle in the back of my throat, I similarly take a moment to nip nascent negativity in the bud before it can proliferate. Typically, this is as straightforward as addressing a residual concern that I haven't been able to shake: squashing a small argument with my husband, scheduling a meeting with one of my sons' teachers, or putting a card in the mail to a friend who's been on my mind. Once I resolve such issues, my mind is more at ease, and I can re-focus on work.

Threat Level 2: Limit interaction.

Are you contagious? At other times, I discover that my mood is so funky as to likely "infect" my staff and clients. Even if I feel like I can't afford to disconnect 100%, I force myself to at least take a break...which on hectic days takes herculean effort! Often I can remedy things with a quick and dirty fix: rearranging my day to limit interaction. I focus on solo projects; postpone meetings; disconnect from email; and if possible, work outside and soak in the healing benefits of sunshine. The feeling that we can't afford to unexpectedly disconnect means we've either lost perspective by overestimating our importance, or that our business model is dangerously askew. CEOs shouldn't be so critical to daily operations that our staffs can't step up and handle such unforeseen breaks! Plus, our staffs will be thankful that we had enough regard for their health that we didn't allow our funky attitudes to spread.

Threat Level 3: Quarantine yourself.

 Will resting at home help your body to overcome the illness? OK, I admit it: there have been days when my attitude renders me almost completely ineffective. Thankfully, this only happens once or twice a year, and when it does, the decision is made for me...I take a day off and re-calibrate! I implore fellow entrepreneurs who find themselves feeling this way to take at least one day to get it together. Just like driving when you're angry, working when your mind's not right can be downright dangerous. It may feel like you can't afford a day off for a mental, vs. physical, issue. But in fact, "working when awry" can cause much costlier damage. We are much more likely to make rash (and potentially costly) business decisions, lose our tempers, or give an unsuspecting new client the false impression that this temporary foul attitude is part of our modus operandi. In hindsight, the mental health days I've taken have been worthwhile--without fail.

When entrepreneurs aren't feeling well mentally, we must protect ourselves, our teams, and our businesses by "treating others as we would want to be treated." Do you have strategies for preventing bad attitudes from infecting your company? Please share a comment below, or on Twitter or Facebook.

 

IMAGE: breatheindigital/Flickr
Last updated: Feb 19, 2013

SELENA CUFFE is the president & CEO of Heritage Link Brands. Previously, Selena served as a marketer for the Council on International Educational Exchange and the Procter & Gamble Company.
@selenacuffe




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