'You don’t have to face the challenges alone'

MYOB's Chief Employee Experience Officer looks at the pressures of running a business

'You don’t have to face the challenges alone'

The connection between the pressures of being in business and mental health is very concerning, according to MYOB’s Chief Employee Experience Officer, Helen Lea.

Previous research indicates cashflow is a major pressure point for small business, however new data suggests its impact runs much deeper than the books, added Lea.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Australian economy, and we need to support them. That means creating environments in which they can thrive and thinking of ways we can eliminate the points of stress we know exist, like late payments,” she added.

MYOB surveyed 757 Australian small business operators to understand the extent to which mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, affected the small business community and how much this was directly linked to running a business.

The research found more than half (56%) of small business operators say running their own business has led to feelings of anxiety or depression, with nearly half (48%) of all respondents reporting anxiety was largely caused by financial and cashflow concerns. 

Worryingly, 43% of respondents reported that since starting a business, they have experienced some form of mental health condition. This percentage rose to 52% of respondents for business operators aged under 40.

The data found that businesses with more employees are most likely to be affected, with 62% of business operators with between five and nine employees reporting they had experienced a mental health condition, versus 38% of sole traders.

Moreover, the incidence of stress was higher in businesses with employees; 12% of business owners reported experiencing stress, versus 4% of sole traders. 

Top challenges for small business owners

  1. Financial concerns and cashflow (48%)
  2. Attracting and/or retaining customers (13%)
  3. Not having enough family time (12%)
  4. Not having enough time to do the work (12%)

The survey also looked into ways of dealing with feelings of anxiety or stress. When asked where respondents are most likely to go for advice when they’re feeling stressed, most replied family (47%), while their GP came second (31%) and friends third (28%).

In terms of how the people they turn to can provide support, nearly three quarters (71%) of small business operators said it would be beneficial for their family and friends to have access to resources about mental health at work.

Of those who said it would not be beneficial, 11% said it was because they wanted to keep their situation private.

Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Adviser Dr Grant Blashki added that business owners who felt stressed, anxious or depressed should seek support.

“While it is normal to feel pressure when running a small business, you don’t have to face the challenges alone,” said Dr Blashki.

“Mental health support for small business owners can be as simple as talking to family, friends, peers and co-workers, or their GP, about how they are feeling.”

READ MORE: How to strengthen your mental health strategy

Research shows that mentally healthy workplaces attract and keep top talent, get the best out of everyone and provide a strong return on their wellbeing investment, added Dr Blashki. 

“Taking a proactive approach to your own health and wellbeing can assist in overcoming challenges, build healthy relationships and work more productively.”

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