How to avoid burnout when you manage a small manufacturing business?

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    What are the main reasons why people decide to start their own small manufacturing business? Passion for what they are doing. Freedom to do things the way they want. A belief that they know what they need to do to be successful. And most importantly – they can shape the company to be something they are proud of and that they may even be able to pass on to their children. 

    Plus, when you work for yourself, it’s easier to find the motivation to make each day as productive as possible, believing that hard work will pay off in the future.

     At least at the beginning.

    A current study from Capital One found that 42% of small business owners said they had experienced burnout in the past month. 24% of company owners meanwhile reported they are currently feeling burned out.

    How can you avoid burnout or at least minimize the effects of work-related stress? We’ll share a few tips in this article – together with an explanation of where the burnout even comes from. 

    Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses

    Being your own boss does come with plenty of perks. You have full control over your work hours, schedule, and company running vision. You are financially independent. And the feeling of power you have!

    So at the start, running your own business in the manufacturing sector might seem like the best decision you could ever make. 

    At first, it felt like a dream come true: we were super busy, had loads of orders, I was in my element – says Tom, an owner of a small CNC workshop. Quite quickly, we built a reputation for a high level of service. The customers were beating down the doors.

    To meet the deadlines and complete all orders, Tom hired five more people – so together it was 10 people working in the workshop.

    That’s when my struggle started – he sighs. I had to be there almost 24/7 to supervise, monitor progress, guide, and solve problems on the spot. As a result, I spent more time at the workshop than with my family, not to mention friends. How could I leave work when I had to take care of production planning, scheduling orders, minimizing material loss, controlling workers, and the quality of our products?

    Each time Tom wasn’t physically present in the workshop, something went wrong with the production. So he often had to burn the midnight oil or sacrifice his family time for job demands such as improving a process’s efficiency, verifying the measurements, or keeping track of industry trends.

    But it wasn’t enough. The more orders they had, the worse the information flow between each employee was and the more confusing the production was. And also, the less freedom had Tom.

    Reality check

    The sudden difference between the expectations of running a manufacturing company and the reality (together with the disappointment) is unfortunately something that many entrepreneurs are familiar with.

    When they started their businesses, most hoped that they would have the freedom to decide their schedules and have a stable financial situation. Not to mention the feeling of fulfillment that comes from knowing they do something important.

    Unfortunately, the reality is far different though. Business owners are tied to their computers and phones at all hours, struggling to have everything under control. The more time they need to spend managing their business, the less time they have for their passion, family, friends, or hobbies. Their financial situation isn’t so good either, as they are often struggling to make ends meet.

     And so the pressure on them mounts.

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    Burnout and its costs

    Like running their own business weren’t already difficult for owners, the last few years made their situation even harder. The covid19 epidemic, the war in Ukraine, high inflation, the rising cost of labor and materials – all of those have affected businesses of all industries and sizes but especially the smaller ones. Trying to keep their company afloat while managing the unique challenges, restrictions, and financial issues was no easy task.

    And that left many business owners feeling overwhelmed, stressed, dejected, and simply burnt out.

    What is burnout?

    Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion caused by chronic job stress and pressure. Among the main symptoms of burnout, experts often mention: 

    • Lack of energy to handle day-to-day tasks
    • Negative thinking and lack of hope for the future
    • Growing problems with making decisions
    • Feelings of isolation and anxiety
    • Being frustrated or dejected with even the smallest issues
    • Frequent conflicts at home or work
    • Various physical health issues such as loss of appetite, insomnia, frequent headaches or back pains, getting ill more often, heart palpitations, etc.

     How common is feeling burnout among managers or business owners?

     In The Hustle’s survey of more than 300 entrepreneurs, 63% of business owners said that they’ve dealt with or are currently dealing with mental health issues related to burnout. Since 2019, burnout is even recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon.”

    Why feeling burnout is so common among business owners?

    Wearing several hats, heavy workloads, working long hours, or struggling to meet deadlines are all parts of a small business owner’s life. Occupational stress might seem like simply part of the job. Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed or stretched thin sometimes? But what makes burnout especially common among business owners is that you often don’t have the luxury to go on longer holidays or even take sick leave. 

    After all, you have employees and clients that depend on you, orders to make, and deadlines to manage.

    So it happens far too often that while their employees can enjoy days off, extended holidays, or a sabbatical leave for personal reasons, business owners just can’t find the time to relax. OnDeck Capital found that only 57% of small business owners take vacations. A report published by FreshBooks meanwhile found that 85% of small business owners continue to work when they’re supposed to be out of the office on vacation.

    With no time to take care of themselves and the mounting pressure, burnout is just a step away. 

    How to notice and beat burnout?

    When dealing with burnout, you might have the thoughts that it would be better if you just closed the company for good and found another thing to do in life. However, this isn’t necessary – you can bring your passion and motivation for your job back. How? With those few tips:

    Set a work schedule

    Do you have designated working hours, or are you working around the clock? Or maybe you are the type that does leave the office…only to open your laptop for more work as soon as you are at home? We know the nagging feeling that you didn’t do everything you could during the day so you should spend time on finishing “those few tasks” all too well. 

    Having a precise work schedule with tasks organized by priority could be very helpful here. As you’ll have the priority tasks clearly marked as such, you will know what you should focus on first – and which tasks can be left for later. Plus, by checking what tasks are already done, it will also be easier for you to notice that yes, you actually did a lot today – and you deserve time off.

    Break your main business goals into a smaller, more manageable task

    And while we are on the topic of schedules – dividing complex tasks or large goals into simpler steps is also a handy method for making your workload less overwhelming. By turning a large manufacturing order into a series of tasks and steps and then checking out each task you completed, you can see clearly how much progress you are making, giving you a motivation boost.

    A good idea is also to set weekly and monthly goals to meet – just make sure they are realistic ones. Using the SMART goal planning method here is a great way to both plan your goals but also make sure that you can realistically meet them. 

    Learn to delegate tasks

    Are you of the people who feel like they need to do everything themselves because only then will the work be up to your standards? If yes, then you probably know the feeling of struggling to find time for each of the 15 tasks you have on your list. By delegating some of the workload to your employees though, you could have more time to focus on your core responsibilities as a business owner – growing the company.

    There’s also a good chance that your workers might notice things or opportunities you have missed, as they are looking at the task with fresh eyes. For example, they might show you a much easier way to complete a task that you didn’t even think about before.

    Bonus: by asking your employees to handle some of the tasks for you, you are showing that you trust in their abilities and value them as employees, boosting their confidence and motivation. That way, learning to delegate tasks can also be a fantastic way to build a positive company culture.

    Find time for self-care and time off work

    We know it may feel like you cannot afford the luxury of even 30 minutes for yourself when you are so busy growing your business, not to mention a whole day or weekend. But after spending some time just doing the things you like (gym, reading books, cooking, DYI, or any other hobbies you have) and taking your mind off work, you’ll be surprised to see just how much clearer you can think. A nice way to not forget about the time off is to add it to your calendar and work schedule as a priority.

    Also, don’t work about taking short breaks during the day. Going through the entire workday without having breaks might seem efficient, but after a while, you’ll be struggling to focus on your task. A quick 10 or 15-minute break meanwhile will make you feel refreshed – and full of new ideas.

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    Is getting manufacturing software solutions a good idea for fighting burnout?

    There’s one more thing that can help business owners find more time for themselves and beat burnout feelings. Namely, software platforms designed for manufacturers. Since this is a bit tricky topic though, we decided it deserves a separate point.

    Nowadays, there are hundreds of platforms dedicated to the manufacturing industry that can handle virtually any task, from production planning and task tracking to inventory or photo management. Especially advanced ERP systems are sometimes advertised as a tool that can solve all small business owners’ issues, no matter their size or niche.

    Many small businesses are so happy to see there’s a tool that could manage most of their mundane tasks itself that they decide to buy and implement the first platform they see and have good reviews. Besides, they often feel like they don’t have time to compare the systems and then plan everything in detail.

    Once they decide to get a full-blown ERP system though, it might turn out that implementing it is far more complicated than they thought: 

    • There are dozens of steps they have to do before the system can be installed
    • The implementation itself might take long months
    • New, more expensive equipment is needed
    • You need to hire a dedicated IT team to set everything up
    • Employees will need training on how to use the new system, etc.

    You wanted to save time with the ERP system, but it seems like you are only wasting it on getting everything prepared. In our opinion actually, getting a large ERP platform is rarely a good idea for small business owners – those systems are simply too complex and too expensive for them. 

    Using a smaller, simpler manufacturing execution system (MES) might be just the thing they need though. Its features make it a dedicated task manager for manufacturing.

    How can our Prodio help small business owners with their day-to-day tasks?

    One of the tasks business owners regularly spend long hours on is tracking production progress, going around the workshop asking who is doing what tasks, and simply trying to stay on the same page with their workers.

    What if you could drastically reduce the time needed to stay on top of the task while also having the entire progress information available to you whenever you need it? Our platform Prodio was designed to give you exactly this, both to save your time but also to ease the anxiety that you have to be 24/7 in the workshop just to have control over the production. 

    Here are a few benefits of working with Prodio:

    Remote control over your manufacturing facility

    No matter where you are at the moment, you can have the entire information about your production task, task progress, and employee productivity right at your fingertips. How? Simply by opening Prodio on your laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

    You can also assign tasks, send messages, track orders or manage production costs from the Prodio dashboard as well. That way, you can manage your production projects from wherever you want. Do you feel like having a coffee in the local bakery instead of your office? Do you want to watch your daughter’s school play? Feel free – Prodio will keep an eye on everything happening in the workshop for you.

    Reliable work progress and employee performance data

    Managing your entire production schedule and workers’ clock-in time with several Excel spreadsheets? That probably takes too much time, effort, and nerves on your part. How about having an application that can track all those for you and update them in real time?

    Inside Prodio, workers can clock in and clock out from their work, note down what tasks they are working on, and then update their progress. They can also add any comments or mark issues they noticed as well – and the information will be then visible to anyone involved. One click on the “Start” button and Prodio will start registering their work progress – the “Finished” button meanwhile will show that a given task or production part is ready.

    Plus, once they clock in, they will see their tasks (with priorities clearly marked), due dates, and the expected production stages order right at their dashboard – so they won’t have to call you for information either.

    Avoiding stressful mistakes

    Remember those complaints from your customers, where you had to re-make a given product because it wasn’t looking the way they expected it? Or when you noticed that the items that got out of the conveyor belt have faults and can’t be sold? That’s probably one of the most stressful things that might happen during a workday.

    Prodio could help you significantly reduce the number of such situations in a few ways: 

    • As the entire project schedule and list of tasks is visible to all workers, there’s a much lower chance of someone misunderstanding the requirements
    • With a company database full of production manuals, guidelines, helpful tips but also troubleshooting tips, and defects photos, all workers know how they should handle the tasks and what are the internal product standards have to be met
    • With one-click progress and issue reporting, workers can immediately alert that one of the machines is behaving strangely or that there are other issues that might delay the production

    With that information in place, you can rest assured that the entire manufacturing process will go smoothly – even if you aren’t in the office. And in case there will be delays or issues, you can tackle them right way as you’ll get alerts on your device. Fewer mistakes = less stress, both for you and the workers as well.

    Improving your budget

    Last but not least – working with Prodio can also help you cut your production costs while boosting your revenue. 

    • With the production data coming from our MES software, you can better calculate the production cost and then estimate an optimal price for the products.
    • Using the data about which production tasks take the most time, you can spot places where your manufacturing process could be optimized
    • As you no longer need to spend your precious time running around the workshop and asking each worker what they are working on, you have far more time on your hands to handle your main responsibilities better and grow your company.

    Want to see how Prodio can work in your own company and whether it can really give you more time to spend on your hobbies or with your family rather than stressing over endless work tasks? Then, how you about you see the benefits of working with us with your own eyes?

    Give our Prodio 15 minutes for installation, and you can start using it straight away. And while the app will take care of all the heavy lifting for you, you can go and enjoy a very well-deserved time-off to spend with your family and friends.


    Keeping a small company running isn’t a simple task. Finding new customers, managing orders, ensuring that the production goes smoothly, and keeping an eye on your finances – the list can go on. But should those and dozens of other administrative things keep you feeling anxious because there’s just not enough time for everything? Absolutely not.

    So if you are waking up each day and only feel dread thinking about the mountain of tasks to do, it’s time to change something. Learning how to separate “Urgent” tasks from “Not so urgent”, dividing large projects into far more manageable tasks, and sharing your workload with others can remind you that you actually love what you are doing.

    Plus, with Prodio at your side, you don’t need to sit the entire day (and a good part of the night) at the office, feeling that otherwise, you might miss someone important. Prodio doesn’t need to rest, so you can leave it to monitor your production schedule 24/7 – while you’re enjoying your hobbies or holidays with your family.

    Manufacturing business owners FAQ

    What are the risk factors for burnout among small business owners?

    Since small business owners have to handle multiple responsibilities during the day, they typically work long hours and rarely take time off to rest or take care of their physical health. Dealing with anxiety/stress caused by financial problems, customer demands, or work-family conflicts can also lead company owners to feel emotional exhaustion or more physical symptoms of occupational stress, such as frequent headaches.  

    What are the common signs of burnout?

    Company owners experiencing burnout might feel dejected at their job and have low motivation and job satisfaction or the opposite, they might be constantly anxious about their performance. This can lead to frequent work/family conflicts or a poor atmosphere at the workplace.

    Insomnia, lack of appetite, or frequent falling ill might also be early signs of burnout.

    What can small business owners do when they notice the symptoms of burnout?

    The most important thing here is that they need to find more time for themselves. By learning how to delegate some of their tasks to other employees, taking regular time off to recharge, and finding ways to relax managers can release the anxiety/stress caused by their demanding job. This way, their occupational health (both physical and mental health) will improve, and the chances of burnout will fall down.

    How can tools for the manufacturing industry such as MES help prevent burnout among managers but also employee burnout?

    One of the main reasons why both employees and managers suffer from burnout is that besides their core responsibilities, they also have dozens of administrative tasks to do. MES (manufacturing execution system) can handle some of the most time-consuming tasks for them, such as monitoring the production progress or employee work time. Employees meanwhile can use those tools to have all the information about work progress they need in one place, together with a company database for production manuals or quality standard guides.

    Why should employers have strategies on how to reduce stress in the workplace?

    Teaching their employees how to deal with occupational stress and what are the risk factors of employee burnout can be a great way to build a positive company culture and boost employee retention. A company database might be helpful here as well, as it can include information on what employees should do when they feel overwhelmed or how to break their larger tasks into smaller ones.