Mental Health And The Small Business Sector

Many people choose to become self employed, or to start their own business, to achieve a better work/life balance but the reality is often very different. This perceived flexibility brings its own challenges that are not widely reported upon and much more can, and must, be done to support this so called backbone of the economy. With over 5 million people now self employed and a further 1 million small businesses in existence it’s worth bearing in mind that only the public sector is larger.

With the cost of living crisis coming hot on the heels of the pandemic you’d be forgiven for thinking that these challenges are financial and, while that is partly true, there is a lot more that needs to be addressed. Working from home, a blurring of home and work life and a continuing downturn in trade are all contributing to an increase in mental ill health amongst Britain’s SMEs.

Working from home is not unique to the sector, with many employees also doing that now, but there is one big difference. Employees have their colleagues to liaise with which is a support structure whereas the self employed are on their own. This is leading to loneliness, feelings of isolation and a consequent lack of motivation and thus productivity. We are not in any way downplaying the issues that employees are facing but are urging government to identify and seek to address the particular needs of our sector.

Irregular working hours and payments are the norm now and these are leading to stress and anxiety amongst the small business community. Many of our members are saying that they feel they need to take time off but cannot afford to do so both financially and in terms of retaining clients. It is clear to see that the workforce has changed and the provision of resources now needs to change accordingly.

It was Mental Health Awareness Week last week and we intend to keep this to the fore going forwards. Staggeringly it is estimated that the cost of mental ill health is £105 billion each year in this country alone. It is well documented that talking about problems helps enormously but not enough is being said yet by legislators.

We will be reaching out to relevant agencies and charities so that we can create awareness of what support is available for our sector. By their very nature small business owners like to do things for themselves but we want everyone to know that you don’t have to be alone.

“You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared and anxious. Having feelings doesn’t make you a negative person. It makes you human.” – Lori Deschene