Seek help! And other crisis lessons
Coronavirus has changed our work and everyday life. How are entrepreneurs and self-employed people doing in this new situation? For some there is more work than before, many have seen their contracts moved to the future or work has simply run out. Uncertainty has cast a shadow over everyone’s thoughts. In the EntreFox project we have facilitated online meetings for entrepreneurs, and people have shared their experiences actively.
And this is the number one lesson learned from crisis situations: share the burden, seek help and offer your help. Decision-making in a crisis is better quality if there are several scenarios for the future and possibilities can be discussed together. For micro-entrepreneurs or self-employed people the situation might already have been difficult before the Covid-19 pandemic. Without colleagues, many have felt lonely in their working lives even if supported by family and friends. Many foreign-born entrepreneurs have found it difficult to get involved in the networks of Finnish-speaking entrepreneurs and society in general, and now the feeling of being left out has become stronger to some.
The participants in our online meetings have told us that sharing thoughts with other entrepreneurs or ex-colleagues has helped them to carry on even in the difficult current situation. Maintaining routines is important: for instance in families with children it is still useful to make big portions of food at the weekends in order to get something nice to eat in the middle of working from home, looking after kids and homeschooling cacophony of the weekdays. Planning the tasks of each day and week is still important: a reasonable number of tasks creates the feeling of achieving something. Tolerating instability is of importance now and this mindset can be supported by, for instance, setting a date with your customer when you will evaluate the situation again.
Entrepreneurs and self-employed people are looking for new paths and many are studying a lot. Through social media it is possible to find a lot of free content which helps in developing your business. Learning new things is inspiring but also potentially an overload for the brain. Our participants have noticed that recovery time is needed even now, even if your mind is buzzing with thoughts on how to develop your business. Working as an entrepreneur or a self-employed person is in itself an energizing thing because of the possibility to manage and lead your own work, doing things you find meaningful. At the same time, this enthusiasm can increase the risk of burnout. At least for experts and consultants the risk has not gone away, even if customers have moved their orders into the future.
The situation is especially stressful for those of us who have considerable care responsibilities or worries about our own health or the health of those nearest to us. In this situation it is important to be compassionate towards others but also ourselves. It is good to seek help before problems become too big to handle. For instance, the Suomen Yrittäjät website has a lot of information about organizations that offer help. It is worthwhile asking for advice in English even if the service is described in Finnish. If your own situation is OK and you are feeling energetic enough, helping others will most likely give you further positive thoughts. In crisis situations the networks of entrepreneurs and clients are going to be changed for good. The ones who help others get their reward afterwards. This is something that has been learned in New Zealand, where earthquakes have put the society and the economy to the test.
We will find new – also other than virtual – ways of doing things that are important to us. There will be plenty of work to do for all of us in the rebuilding phase after the crisis.
Tytti Steel & Miira Heiniö