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How business owners can improve their mental health

February 9, 2021 | 9 minutes

If you’re a small business owner, you might believe that sleepless nights are all part and parcel of running a company. But when those feelings of stress and anxiety start to have a detrimental impact on your life and those around you, it might be time to start addressing the problem.

According to a survey from the charity Mental Health UK, half of small business owners have experienced symptoms of depression as a result of the pandemic and over a third have experienced panic attacks. Of those surveyed, 78% cited cashflow concerns as the main cause of their worries.

The effect of poor mental health on UK business

There has been much debate about the long-term effects of lockdown on small businesses, but conversations rarely focus on the personal toll the pandemic has taken on the individuals who run those businesses.

A survey conducted by the Corporate Finance Network (CFN) suggested that by June last year, 9% of small business owners had decided to liquidate their companies due to fears over future finances. A sign that Covid may have created a culture of fear which could have a lasting impact on our economy.

SMEs employ 16.3 million people in the UK, contributing to 60% of all jobs. Britain is counting on them to play a vital role in the recovery of the economy post-lockdown. If the stress of owning a business starts to outweigh the benefits, we could lose a generation of entrepreneurs and put millions of jobs is jeopardy. In other words, the mental health of business leaders is not just a social problem, but an economic one.

In Jan 2021, Tom Bloomfield stepped down from his position as CEO of Monzo, bravely citing mental health as the reason for his resignation. “Going through a pandemic, going through lockdown and the isolation involved in that has an impact on people’s mental health,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch, “I don’t think I was any different, so I was really struggling.”

Tom’s frank statement sent a message to business leaders globally — it’s time to start taking mental health seriously.

Support for business owners

If you’re a business owner suffering from poor mental health, the first step to recovery is seeking help. There are various resources available to those who are struggling at work, here are a few of them:

  • Your Mind Plan is a free online tool from Public Health England that assesses your mental health and provides an action plan based on your needs. The plans include relaxation exercises, home workouts and an app designed to improve your feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Wellbeing in the Workplace is an online course from The Samaritans which is designed to teach employers how to look after their own emotional health and reach out to co-workers who might be struggling. The course is free to join, relevant to all levels of seniority and can be completed in your own time at your desk.
  • Wellness Action Plans from the charity Mind were created to help people cope with stress at work. The plans include a guide for line managers, a guide for employees and a working from home wellness plan.
  • The Mental Health Guide for Small Businesses is a booklet from The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) designed to help business owners navigate stress and anxiety in the workplace. The FSB also have a Covid-19 campaign page which includes information and advice for business owners affected by the pandemic.
  • If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can always talk to your GP who will refer you to a professional service.

Addressing cashflow concerns

Cashflow is the number one cause of anxiety amongst business owners in the UK, with many citing late payments as the main source of their concern. New research from Pay.UK suggests that one in ten business owners have considered seeking mental health support as a result of being paid late. Whilst 66% say that late payments make owning a business less enjoyable.

The best way for business owners to ease the stress of late payments is to build a strategy to prevent them and fortunately, advances in technology make it easier to access the necessary tools to do that.

Business owners can now use credit checking software to gain a real-time view of their customers’ financial position before they agree their payment terms, protecting their business from customers who are likely to pay late. Additionally, automated credit control tools can help relieve the stress associated with chasing invoices.

It’s important that small business owners know that they don’t have to deal with cashflow concerns alone. Talking to an accountant can be the first step towards putting effective strategies in place that will protect your business against financial pitfalls and ease your mind. Allowing you to look to the future with confidence.

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