Mental health a big concern for one in three small-business owners

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Business management platform MYOB’s latest Business Monitor reveals that while 31 per cent of SME owners and operators consider mental health to be an immediate concern, almost 30 per cent find it difficult to talk about.

The survey, released to coincide with Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day today, also shows that in running their business over the last 12 months, 53 per cent SME owners said it has caused them stress, up slightly on 2021 (52 per cent) and 2020 (45 per cent). In particular, 44 per cent cited personal feelings of anxiety and one in five said they have experienced depression over the past year.

Furthermore, 55 per cent of SME owners also say they feel responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, while 61 per cent think there is more they can do to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

MYOB Chief Employee Experience Officer Helen Lea commented that the findings come at an already stressful time for business owners with cost-of-living concerns for consumers, inflationary and supply chain pressures for businesses and EOFY just around the corner.

“The 2.3 million registered SMEs in the country are a group of passionate business owners who work incredibly hard and have faced many setbacks in recent times. As rewarding as running a business can be, these pressures can impact the wellbeing of those who lead them,” Lea said.

The report also found that 56 per cent of SME business owners are aware of how they can access resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and 53 per cent would be open to introducing initiatives for their employees.

“Small-business people take on a big and often stressful responsibility running a business,” Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, said. “It is not just an enterprise but their life – often their home and mortgage, family and identity are all tied together.

“And beyond this big responsibility at the best of times, small-business owners and leaders have had and continue to navigate unexpected and at times insurmountable challenges from well outside anything they could have anticipated or controlled,” Billson added. “This can feel unrelenting and it is vitally important to look after your emotional well-being and mental health. Sometimes it can be as simple as making time to pause, reflect and reconnect. Talking to trusted advisers and networks is a great way to find solutions.”

Since 2020, MYOB has partnered with mindfulness app Smiling Mind to create the Small Business Program – a psychologist-designed program to support the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of small-business owners. Smiling Mind’s CEO, Dr Addie Wootten, stressed the importance of continuing conversations around workplace mental health post-COVID.

“The latest research shows mental health conversations are a tricky subject for many small-business owners,” Dr Wootten said. “I’d encourage all business leaders to acknowledge that while it might be uncomfortable, it’s important to lead by example and create a safe environment to have open conversations to support your team members and colleagues. You don’t need to know how to solve problems, simply letting them know you’re available if they need, or directing them to resources that can help, can make a big difference.

“It’s crucial that mental health and wellbeing stays high on the agenda as we move out of COVID, as businesses are clearly still being impacted in various ways,” Dr Wootten added. “Supporting SME owners to equip themselves in managing their own wellbeing and that of their teams has never been more important, and to that end we will be adding more content to our small business program over the coming months.”