Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Healthy Entrepreneurs for Healthy Businesses: An Exploratory Study of the Perception of Health and Well-Being by Entrepreneurs

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Healthy Entrepreneurs for Healthy Businesses: An Exploratory Study of the Perception of Health and Well-Being by Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt


With this paper, we want to emphasise the importance of healthy entrepreneurs for sustainable business development. We contribute to the field of entrepreneurship and show how entrepreneurs assess their own health state. We contribute to the field of occupational health by explicitly focusing the social dimension of health besides the physical and mental well-being. Drawing on a multiple-case study of six entrepreneurs, we show that entrepreneurs' rarely perceive their health as a resource for business performance. Whereas the concept of physical well-being is relatively well understood by the entrepreneurs, they have a very limited awareness and understanding of the mental and social well-being dimensions.


For many people, the opportunity to own and operate their own business is seen as the chance to realise one or more of a number of different opportunities: either to realise a dream, get adequate financial reward, work with family, or to focus on lifestyle aspirations. Such business operators are a significant group of any population. Estimates suggest that approximately 10% of the adult population in many industrialised countries are involved in running a small business venture (Reynolds et al, 2005). Setting up or running a small business is a rigorous activity, not only physically but also mentally. A clear separation of work and non- work is generally hard to achieve, and a normal work day can extend to 10 or 12 hours. This involvement also influences individual well-being. However, with a few notable exceptions (Boyd & Gumpert, 1983; Jamal, 1997) scant research has been conducted so far about the impact of business ownership upon individual well-being.

Depending on the perspective adopted, the individuals involved in business ownership have been identified in the literature as entrepreneurs, small business owner-managers, or selfemployed. The term "entrepreneur" is usually used to describe a a person who sets up a business, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit (Gärtner, 2001). Entrepreneurs typically invent new products or services and introduce them to the marketplace by launching a business venture. The small business owner-manager is someone who runs a small scale business, and the self-employed is a person working for oneself as a freelance or the owner of a business rather than for an employer. By definition, an entrepreneur is self-employed, but someone who is self-employed is not necessarily an entrepreneur. However, both entrepreneurs and small business owner-managers are the corner stone of their business ventures and they are required to be familiar with many of the same technical skills and business concepts (Schaper & Volery, 2007). Therefore, although we primarily focus on entrepreneurs in this article, we also included small business owner-manager and selfemployed in the scope of the research.

This article is of an exploratory nature. We want to find out whether entrepreneurs are aware of health, according to the World Health Organization's definition of occupational health (WHO, 1986), and whether this resource is perceived as crucial for entrepreneurial success. We further investigate what determinants influence the physical, mental, and social dimensions of entrepreneurs' health, and how they maintain a positive life balance. We draw on a series of in-depth interviews with six entrepreneurs.

Health Dimensions

In medical terms, the most widely agreed definition of health is as "... a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (WHO, 1986: 2). Macintosh, MacLean, and Burns(2007) remarked that the WHO definition of health is adequate for most purposes. It offers a holistic interpretation of health that is not rooted in a medical or pathological paradigm solely. In addition, it expresses health in functional terms as a resource that permits people to lead individually, socially, and economically productive lives. …

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