Aussie entrepreneurs at risk of business burnout

A new research has shown more than one in 10 (11 per cent) SME owners in NSW have been diagnosed with depression, stress, anxiety or business burnout at some point as a result of running their own enterprise.

Findings from BOQ’s Business Balance Report revealed that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of local small-business owners had become physically unwell as a result of operating their sole venture, while a further 17 per cent had sought the services of a psychologist to help them manage the daily pressure. These wellbeing impacts are most commonly culminating in regular sleep problems (32 per cent), constant fatigue (18 per cent) and feeling distanced from friends and family (25 per cent).

When questioned about the causes of emotional stress the primary contributing factors cited by SME owners was related to the day to day administration of their business while generating enough funds to keep their business afloat. This was followed by constant tiredness and the pressure business owners felt in finding time to focus on their personal life.

The repercussions of trying to balance these concerns can be extreme, with more than one-third (38 per cent) saying they had put plans to start a family or get married on hold because of their business, more than a quarter (26 per cent) putting off getting a health check and a similar number (28 per cent) delaying the purchase of a new home.

Despite this, a significant number of SMEs (37 per cent) admitted they’d be unlikely to discuss the emotional strains of running their own business, raising a red flag for mental health experts.

Corporate psychologist Stephanie Thompson said most SME owners tended to keep the pressure they were feeling bottled up in a bid to save their friends and family from feeling the same strains.

“When someone goes out on their own, there’s a tendency for them to hide any struggles they are experiencing in case they are perceived as a failure or as unable to cope,” she said.

“Equally, they feel the need to shield their loved ones from their stress as they are afraid it will pass on to them.

“However, in many cases, once an SME owner decides to open up and talk to someone – whether it’s a professional, friend or family member – they feel a huge weight has lifted and are able to address these challenges more effectively.”

With more than half (53 per cent) of SME owners saying they would most likely seek business help and advice from their banking advisor, BOQ spokesperson Brendan White said banks had a major role to play in better supporting the three million Australians who have chosen to become their own boss.

“It’s a well-known fact that small businesses are essentially the engine room of the Australian economy,” White said.

“It would be a significant oversight by any financial institution if they did not recognise that the pressures of business extend beyond the practicalities of day to day operations.

“We’ve long acknowledged that our BOQ branch owner managers – who are SME owners themselves – need help and support to succeed and grow, which is why we offer both business coaching for franchisees and access to business psychologists throughout the network.”

White added that BOQ would be supportive of any discussion into SME pressures and mental health support both among BOQ’s 145 Owner Managers and within the broader business community.

“It’s critical that we normalise the issue so that SME owners feel they are able to talk openly about their struggles,” White said.

“We know that emotional pressures can be caused by financial issues such as cashflow and bank loans, so banks in particular need to recognise this and provide appropriate emotional support.”

Inside Small Business

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