Workplace wellbeing is something that has been on the radar for quite some time, highlighting the need for founders and business managers to be more aware of and do more for their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. But one thing that often isn’t considered in this drive for wellbeing, is the founders themselves.

Running a business you often wear many hats, carrying the responsibility for a number of different areas, from employee care to finances. This can cause extremely stressful environments and oftentimes doesn’t leave founders with a lot of time to look after themselves! But it is vital for the success of the business, the wellbeing of the team and for themselves, those founders are looking after their wellbeing. 

We recently caught up with Namrata Kamdar, founder of Plenaire and the 2022 London & East of England Fashion and Beauty StartUp Awards winner, to discuss the importance of founders’ wellbeing, how she’s looking after her own mental health and get her perspective on how founders can focus more on their mental health!  

Plenaire is an ethical and sustainable UK-made skincare brand that encourages emotional wellbeing and self-care, perfect for even the most delicate and sensitive skin. And when it comes to wellbeing it goes far beyond the skin, with founder Namrata speaking openly about the importance of founder and employee wellbeing. 

Why is it important that founders are taking time to tend to their mental health and wellbeing, and how does this affect the whole team?

I think the pressures and anxieties with founder-led businesses are often much higher than with regular, maybe paid jobs – and in addition, the media focus and attention on founders has never been more unrelenting – making it harder to stay focused over meeting external expectations. 

That aside, the particular pressure on female founders to continuously deliver consistent growth, and lead high-performing teams while at the same time, meeting expectations of female leadership around having empathy can lead to a double bind with impossible standards being set.

It’s more important than ever for us to be open and honest about our mental health and compassion for the team can mean creating an environment wherein people feel free to speak up about their challenges but also where leaders are also vulnerable and open about their struggles too. If someone is open about their challenges that doesn’t mean they can’t be a powerful and effective leader. As brave female leaders, we can and should break that stereotype.

When we talk about mental health with founders they often say “I neglected my wellbeing because I didn’t have time” – how would you encourage those founders to take the time to look after themselves, and what tips do you have to help them?

I think that having good accountability for mental health is important- only you decide how you spend your time, and with freedom comes the responsibility to look after yourself. 

Often, in entrepreneurship, you can get to the stage where you have very little balance as far as work and life and a constant feeling of accountability to yourself can leave you feeling burnt out and exhausted. Luckily there is far better awareness of mental health and work-life balance these days. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of comparisons to other people – I’d be lying if I said that I never looked at how other successful businesses are doing and felt inspired, motivated by that and compelled to do as well if not better. However, it’s keeping that positive energy and good competitive feeling alive – rather than the defeatism or feeling like you are not “as good as….”

In moments of stress, it’s important to take a pause and:

  • Slow down! Take a few deep breaths. Stay calm and present. Focus on now, and be mindful. Practice CBT. Congratulate yourself on the successes you have so far, and what you have achieved.
  • Count your blessings and have gratitude towards the people who have helped you get there. Remember to send notes of appreciation.
  • Remind yourself your journey is your own, and no one else’s. Train your mind to NOT focus too much on an end result – enjoy the journey and the present moment.
  • Stay open to people’s feedback but trust your gut, too. Very few people would create something actually interesting if they worried about what other people’s opinions were.

As a busy founder yourself, what are you doing to look after your mental health and wellbeing?

  • I make sure to stay in touch with nature and get enough sleep and exercise. It’s not selfish to do these things, it’s absolutely key to performance.
  • Take a break and go to what I like to call “another world”. Get lost in cooking, travel, fashion, art, culture or the outdoors. Come back to work with a fresh and brilliant perspective. Early morning rising and goal setting/planning. At least once a week I get up at 545/6 am before the sun is up and turn on the kettle. I spend an hour on some whiteboarding/strategic planning. I take time for myself and focus on long-term goals for my life, family and work rather than firefighting.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. Positive affirmations- both of these techniques have been used by the best leaders and they work!
  • Focus on relationships, not JUST results. Results are important but relationships impact results exponentially.

Lastly, how can founders create a positive environment in the workplace where employees feel able to be open and honest with them about their wellbeing?

  • Create a code of conduct around wellbeing and encourage positive behaviours that promote well-being. Get your team members enrolled in wellbeing activities together. It’s an investment that pays off.
  • If you see toxic behaviours, call them out, and have zero tolerance for those values. Issues like Nepotism, organizational politics, excluding others, bullying, harmful gossiping, and driving poor work-life balance, are all examples of toxic leadership behaviours that despite organizational codes are still rampant in many places of work: they still need to be addressed. Encourage people to feel that they can speak out if they see examples of harmful behaviours.
  • Gandhi once said, “ be the change you want to see around you.” It’s so important to lead by example and show people that you can be a strong leader, but someone who is vulnerable too. Someone who is challenged and challenges back in a constructive way.

Find out more about Plenaire here.