Employee mental health has been a priority since the pandemic hit, but those facing some of the most challenging work-related stressors – small business owners – are often omitted from health and wellbeing strategies. Alison Wild looks at why they shouldn’t be forgotten.
Small business owners face a constant uphill struggle, with 20% of SMEs failing in the first year and 60% failing in the first three.
For many business owners, managing mental health has been a longstanding issue, but the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and now the cost-of-living crisis have all further exacerbated the problem.
Towergate Insurance recently surveyed 750 small business owners about the threats they’re facing and the impact these are having, both professionally and personally. Worryingly, over two-thirds (68%) admitted to struggling with poor mental health at least occasionally, with nearly a third (28%) saying they frequently struggle and one in ten constantly dealing with it.
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The impact of poor mental health on small business owners cannot be overstated, especially when combined with the myriad other threats they face on a daily basis, from supply chain delays and cyber threats to changing consumer demands and retaining uniqueness.
Impact in and out of work
When asked about the impact these threats have had on their business, almost a third (29%) of SMEs reported a loss of profit, with 28% reporting a loss in revenue. Employee turnover was an issue for 27%, while 26% highlighted a shrinking customer base.
And for some, the impact felt can be even greater. An increasing number of businesses are being forced to close their doors for good, with 57% of SME owners feeling their business is at risk of closure in the coming year.
The survey also revealed that small business owners in human resources organisations suffer the most with their mental health, with 82% saying they’ve struggled at least occasionally. Finance (73%), manufacturing and utilities (73%) and legal (73%) were also among the sectors with business owners suffering most with poor mental health.
In addition to poor mental health, small business owners are also neglecting other important areas of their lives. The survey found that 31% prioritised their business over their mental health, with 30% ignoring their hobbies, and 28% neglecting their physical health. Furthermore, 27% said they had deprioritised their family and 26% had ignored their friends.
The impact of this neglect can be far-reaching, aggravating existing mental health issues and increasing the chances of burnout.
Business owners neglected
SMEs are the backbone of our economy, making up 99.9% of the UK business population. However, while recent years have seen increased discussions around the importance of employee wellbeing and positively managing mental health, this is often neglected when it comes to business owners themselves.
It is vital that the same level of importance is put on the mental health of people at all levels of business.”
It is vital that the same level of importance is given to the mental health of people at all levels of business. One way to do this is to increase awareness of the problem and provide business owners with the necessary support.
Just like their employees, small business owners should be encouraged to take regular breaks and focus on self-care. They should also be provided with access to mental health support services, whether that’s counselling or therapy, as well as resources to help them manage their stress levels.
The government should also play a role in supporting small business owners. It can do this by providing funding for mental health support services and creating a regulatory environment that promotes good mental health practices.
From liability losses to changing consumer demands, it can be hard to pinpoint and predict the biggest threats to a business. But while it can be easier to focus on the external threats, it’s equally important to acknowledge the potential threat that neglecting business owners’ mental health could have on the business’ stability.
The mental health of small business owners is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The impact of poor mental health on small business owners is not only damaging to their wellbeing but also to the economy as a whole. It is time that we took this issue seriously and provided small business owners with the necessary support to manage their mental health effectively.