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“Four Years of 19-hour Work Days Nearly Put Me in Hospital,” 1 in 3 Brit Bosses on the Brink of Burnout

Startup founder Louise Doherty, 36, reveals punishing lifestyle of small business boss that caused burnout and warns many more will follow.
38% of bosses close to burnout due to long hours, mental strain and rising costs, new research from accountancy tech provider Sage shows.
Half say work is making them ill and 55% have considered walking away.
It comes as Sage launches Sage Membership, giving customers access to insights, events and Member Masterclass from Sage including advice from Author and workplace culture expert, Bruce Daisley on combating burnout.


A small business owner who was forced to close her company after impossible working hours and pressure left her suffering burnout has warned many others will follow as pressure rises on bosses this autumn.

Louise Doherty, 36, was forced to close her £1 million tech startup Yoller last month after four years of working for 19 hours almost every day left her in tears and unable to cope with the stress.

It comes as new research from Sage, the leader in accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), reveals more than a third (38%) of bosses are on the brink of burnout. 17% are currently experiencing it because of rising energy prices, rocketing inflation and supply chain delays.

The Sage research also found rising costs are already one of the main causes of burnout, with 36% of SMB owners citing that as a cause, alongside long hours (39%) and heavy mental workload (37%).

In addition, more than half (54%) say worries about hiring and retaining staff, amid the UK’s crippling skills shortage, is affecting their own mental health and wellbeing.

Louise from Farnham, Surrey, said: “I was obsessed with work, everything else in my life was put to one side. I would often start at 6am, work flat out then crawl into bed at 1am and a few hours later start it all again.

“The moment I knew I was experiencing burnout was when I forced myself to take a holiday - when I came back and saw the mountain of work waiting for me, I burst into tears.”

In response, Sage has launched Member Masterclass giving customers access to talks and articles from the world’s leading experts, with season one focusing on how to find and keep great people.

Author and workplace culture expert, Bruce Daisley who has written on the Member Masterclass about burnout said: “'This is important and timely research. In all of the talk of the Great Resignation and discussions about workers' wellbeing the welfare of the UK's small business bosses is being ignored.

“This research from Sage shows the stresses of bosses have never been higher - and the revelation that half of them have considered walking away should be a wakeup call to political leaders".

The findings are a worrying sign of things to come, as The Bank of England predicts inflation - fuelled by energy price rises - could hit 11% by the end of the year, hiking wholesale costs and reducing the amount of money customers have in their pockets.

Louise founded the social networking site in April 2016, since it launched, she had raised £1 million investment and launched in 140 countries. But in March 2020 she was burned out and had to take a few months off but never returned. This business was officially closed last month.

She said: “I’m incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to rest. The effects of burnout were so severe on my mental and physical health, I think I would have ended up in hospital if I had continued.”

Aoife Fitzmaurice, VP of Workplace Futures at Sage, said: “SMBs have demonstrated incredible resilience throughout the pandemic. But the ongoing effects of this, alongside rampant inflation and a recruitment crisis, are taking a toll on business owners.

“The good news is there are steps bosses can take now to cope - for example taking time out and focusing on their own mental wellbeing. Member Masterclass has advice to help business owners do that.”

Louise now coaches other founders on how to avoid and recover from burnout but warns thousands more SMB owners are at risk in the coming months, as the economic situation worsens.

According to the Sage research, 49% of SMB bosses believe their work is harming their health and 55% have considered walking away. The issue also has wider reaching implications for the UK workforce, with SMBs employing 16.3 million people in the UK.

Louise said: “I believe what happened to me will happen to more people because of mounting pressures of inflation and the recruitment crisis. Overwork is incentivised in all kinds of jobs, and in my start-up journey I have seen how the mental health of founders is consistently ignored and overlooked. The scale of the trail of damage breaks my heart.

“For small business owners often working alone, the danger is that there is often no one there to say ‘You are too stressed’.”

She added: “There needs to be more awareness of the seriousness of burnout. If anybody is going through it right now, there are resources. But it’s very hard to spot.

“I think the first thing that I did was breathe and then to tell friends and family and say, ‘ I don’t really know what this is. But I’m not myself right now.’”

Member Masterclass features content powered by The DO Lectures with speakers including Michael Acton Smith, Co-Founder of Calm and Author and Creative Entrepreneur Charlie Gladstone. For a limited time, Member Masterclass is available to everyone.


Causes of burnout in bosses
 Working long hours 39%
 Heavy mental workload 37%
 Rising costs of running a business 36%
 Not having a healthy work/ life balance 34%
 Pressure to succeed 34%
 Too much work on and not enough help 33%
 Pressure it places on my home/ life relationship 28%
 Pressures from clients 25%
 Lack of technological help or support 16%
 Not having the tools you need to do the job properly 16%




Notes to editors
*Research conducted by Opinium on behalf of Sage and based on interviews with 2,000 small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners and employees in the UK

About Sage
Sage exists to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive, starting with the millions of Small and Mid Sized Businesses served by us, our partners and accountants. Customers trust our finance, HR and payroll software to make work and money flow. By digitising business processes and relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, banks and governments, our digital network connects SMBs, removing friction and delivering insights. Knocking down barriers also means we use our time, technology and experience to tackle digital inequality, economic inequality and the climate crisis.

About The DO Lectures
The DO Lectures believes that people who have done amazing things can encourage and inspire others to do their amazing thing, too. So, back in 2008 from a cowshed in west Wales, it set out to share free talks with the world. To help you reach your potential as a human being. Since then 300+ talks have been viewed more than 150 million times. There is a vibrant programme of DO workshops. The DO Book Company's collection of inspirational pocket guides sells worldwide. And the DO Lectures cowshed has become a destination for the world’s change makers to share their ideas.

Media Contacts
Ben Endley
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