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Source: University of Waikato

Right now, many of us are struggling with keeping our work and home lives separate, and keeping to a routine to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.

While working from home is new to many of us, entrepreneurs have been known for working irregular hours and blurring their work and home environment well before COVID-19 came on the scene.

Lecturer in Innovation and Strategy at the University of Waikato, Dr Amanda J. Williamson, along with her co-authors, has completed research on the psychological implications of entrepreneurship, and their findings could help people work through some of the challenges of the current lockdown.

“Generally we have quite a romanticised view of entrepreneurship – it’s amazing, it creates jobs, it gives fulfilment to people. However, I look at the dark side of entrepreneurship, and what happens when things go wrong,” says Dr Williamson.

“I looked at the factors that could influence an entrepreneur’s ability to behave at their innovative best on a given day. Worldwide, it is an under-researched topic yet there’s a huge negative pull that can come when entrepreneurs face challenging times.

“When entrepreneurs fail, it affects their whole being and ability to function in society as they’re very attached to their business. It’s their ‘baby’, and hopefully a path to financial freedom.”

Dr Williamson found that, like many people, when entrepreneurs had a bad sleep, they were more likely to experience negative emotions like anxiety.

“But when we sleep well, we experience positive emotions and are more likely to apply our best effort to our work, and be more creative and resilient.”

When people get into this situation, Dr Williamson says one of the best things to do is practice self-compassion – something that has entered the mainstream consciousness over the last few years.

“We found that sleep quality doesn’t just affect entrepreneurial outcomes, it influences how people feel. In today’s crisis-filled world it’s very easy to lose your routine and not care about sleep, and overindulge in things like coffee or alcohol.

“These actions influence your sleep, and in turn, your ability to function the next day,” says Dr Williamson.

One way to combat these negative reactions is to practice good sleep hygiene, which means having a dedicated sleep zone.

“These days we’re very good at turning our beds into an entertainment centre, watching TV and eating in front of it. However, our beds should really just be for sleep. That’s how we can keep it ‘hygienic’,” says Dr Williamson.

Dr Williamson’s interest in this area of research came from her work at the New Zealand Centre for Small Business Research, where she used to interview different business owners.

“I found that, once we had covered key topics like dealing with tax, and started talking human-to-human, we’d discuss how hard and lonely it is to be an entrepreneur. There’s so few resources to help them through the journey psychologically, so this sparked my desire to help those in entrepreneurship.”

Further to this, Dr Williamson’s interest in sleep came when she was researching topics for her PhD while being a mother to a small baby.

“While thinking of research topics, due to the lack of sleep from dealing with a newborn, I just had a mental block. This sparked an interest in what happens when you don’t get enough sleep.”