COVID-19 posing serious mental health challenge for small businesses


New research reveals that COVID-19 has overtaken cashflow concerns as the leading mental health issue for small-business owners, with 36 per cent of more than 1000 respondents citing COVID-19 as the primary mental health challenge in MYOB’s latest Business Monitor research of MYOB,

The survey – conducted between April and May, at the height of the pandemic – saw cashflow, usually the major concern, was the primary mental health concern for 26 per cent of small-business owners. This issue was followed by attracting and/or retaining customers (nine per cent), not having enough family time (seven per cent) and staffing issues (six per cent) as primary concerns.

MYOB Chief Employee Experience Officer, Helen Lea, said that study proves the impact of COVID on the small-business sector cannot be overstated.

“Almost half of small-business owners and operators agree that running a business has had a direct impact on any feelings of stress and anxiety, with one in five business owners saying that running their business in 2020 has caused depression,” Lea said. “Businesses whose owners and operators are aged between 18 and 39 were most likely to agree that they had felt anxiety or stress (68 per cent agreed).

“We have been talking to small businesses about their mental health and wellbeing for the last couple of years and recently launched a partnership with Smiling Mind to create dedicated small-business owner content in the Smiling Mind app,” Lea added. “We could not have predicted how important this content would become for the 2.4 million small businesses in Australia.”

The survey also noted that retail and hospitality businesses were most likely to identify COVID-19 as a key mental health challenge (46 per cent).

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell also commented on the findings, saying that looking after one’s mental health is more important now than ever, and that there are resources available to support small-business owners.

“There’s never been a tougher time to be in business. Many small-business owners will be focused on staying afloat right now, but it’s important to balance that with looking after yourself,” Carnell said. “The fact is, one in four Australians will experience depression or anxiety in their lifetime. Small business owners’ mental health may be intrinsically linked with the state of their small business.

“It’s important small-business owners know that there is help available if they need it,” Carnell added. “The work MYOB is doing with Smiling Mind is extremely useful for small-business owners. My Business Health, a free web portal on ASBFEO’s website, offers dedicated holistic support to employers and sole traders.”