A guide to supporting mental health for small trades business owners


If last year’s chaos taught us anything, it’s the importance of self-care. For business owners, 2020’s woes were a reminder to maintain our mental health and support our team so we can navigate the uncertainties of the business landscape together. The past 12 months have proved especially taxing for business owners in the trades industries – with record unemployment, closely followed by a national tradie shortage as demand continues to rise almost halfway into the new year.

To ensure your needs don’t take the backseat while running your business, here are a few basic things tradies and other business owners can do to look after themselves and their teams.

Rethink your mindset

The struggles associated with running a business in highly disrupted conditions are undeniable. Despite how endless the work can feel, the worst thing you can do for yourself and your business is to overwork and burn yourself out.

There are two important mindset switches to consider to avoid burnout. First, try to value rest. Shutting off occasionally is actually a necessity for mental wellbeing and success, and not a hindrance. And second, trade your profit for time. The root cause for many of our stresses are self imposed profit decisions. There is great power in identifying which tasks may not be well suited for you, and how best to offload them to win back time.

Work smarter, not harder

Business owners know that running a company of their own is no easy feat. In the early days you’re often taking on the role of finance, HR and marketing, which might not be your main skills.

We live in a time where technology is doing exceptional things for the trades industries. Resources that weren’t available a decade ago are altering the way we work. For small and micro businesses, it’s highly beneficial to lean on these tools to streamline systems and automate backend processes like bookkeeping or payroll. This will free up time, as well as lighten the workload and lower stress levels. It can also be helpful to seek advice from a business coach or mentor, who may be able to pinpoint improvement opportunities and how best to achieve them.

Promote open communication

The staff is the core of any business, so creating a healthy work environment that allows them to feel safe and supported is an important part of running a successful business. As a male dominated industry, trades environments are often blanketed with an overall ‘macho’ persona that discourages people from asking for what they need to stay mentally well. That being said, a shift has definitely begun, with more trades owners putting their foot down for what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. We’re seeing leaders encourage open communication and give workers a chance to express their feelings with one-on-one check-ins. Toolbox talks are also gaining popularity to discuss behavioural and workplace safety, and communicate strong stances on things such as workplace bullying. Implementing wellness aspects, with resources, company partnerships or access to counselling services can further help ease personal stresses.

Australians work on average 1693 hours a year. Looking after yourself and encouraging a healthy, supportive work environment can make a world of difference for someone’s mental health. There’s never any shame in seeking help from a trained professional too, to help further improve your life and business. If you’re curious to learn more about mental health and how to lend support to others, sites like ruok.org.au, Mates in Construction and Tiacs Foundation have great resources and information.