It’s time to ask “are you okay?”

Business couple worried about costs, seek help

The rapidly escalating economic impact of COVID-19 is having a major impact on many business owners’ mental health and wellbeing. But the shock of the rapidly evolving circumstances may cause a number of people to forget to ask for help. Which is where consultants and advisers can step up.

While we are being urged to have physical distancing, it’s more important than ever to stay socially ‘connected’. To our clients, our colleagues, our family and friends.

We are increasingly hearing from SME owners and accountants that their or their clients’ mental health is being affected. My colleagues and I have spoken with numerous people who say they cannot sleep at night and are sick to the stomach worrying about their staff, their business’s cashflow and their future. I spoke with a real estate agency owner who said he’s faced with a myriad of issues including staff who are breaking down in the office or just not turning up to work, tenants not able to pay rent, landlords concerned about their rental income being impacted, and just managing the day-to-day office needs. The pressures – and not just financial ones – are overwhelming.

That’s why it’s so crucial for trusted advisers to offer support. This is a macro event of nobody’s making and it’s important that as an industry we all band together to help de-stigmatise asking for help.

As advisers, our role is more than just dealing with business structures, financial information or stratagems, it’s also about understanding the human element within each business that can affect business owners and their decision making.

Most of Jirsch Sutherland’s Partners, Managers and Principals have undertaken the mental health first aid certificate and the firm proudly supports Beyond Blue in its activities. We understand that the current situation is unprecedented and moving rapidly but even having some tools to recognise if someone needs support is crucial. The insolvency industry is one where we come into contact with many people experiencing high levels of stress – and the current situation is certainly testing us all.

Being at the frontline of business owners who are dealing with trauma, particularly during these challenging times, means we’re in a position where we can offer support. It’s a simple question – “Are you okay?” – and that can make a world of difference.

Here are my tips for business consultants and advisers:

  • For workplaces, take a strategic integrated approach, including protecting employees from psychological risks and hazards, supporting their mental health and promoting healthy and thriving workplaces.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Take advantage of the COVID-19 Telehealth services (a new COVID-19 rebate has been introduced through Medicare for psychologists and clinical psychologists, allowing them to bulk bill patients who are forced to self-isolate or self-quarantine).
  • Remember that while we are required to have physical distance, it’s important to stay connected.
  • Arrange digital “hang-outs” for colleagues, family, friends and neighbours.
  • If you’re struggling, reach out to Beyond Blue or another mental health organisation.

Andrew Spring, Partner, Jirsch Sutherland