Australia’s Small and Family Business Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, has urged small business owners to take time at the start of the new year to assess their mental and financial wellbeing.
“When you own a small business, it’s just as important to spend time working on your business as it is to spend time working in your business,” says Mr. Billson.
“Too often, the day-to-day pursuit of keeping the door open and managing the many immediate demands prevents you from spending time thinking about the health, future and goals of your business. And for that matter, your health.”
“That’s why it’s vitally important that those running or managing small businesses take care of their mental and financial well-being. Sometimes it can be as simple as finding time to pause, reflect and reconnect.”
Mental health challenges
Research released by the Treasury just before Christmas confirmed that many small business owners are struggling with mental health challenges.
One in five respondents was diagnosed with a mental condition by a doctor or health professional. In some industries such as manufacturing, retail trade, accommodation and food services, it was one to three.
Small business owners said the key cause of stress was finding a balance between the demands of work, family and personal life, followed by the Covid-19 quarantine.
Other major issues causing stress were: concerns about ongoing profitability and business survival; maintenance of cash flow; difficulties in accessing government information and support for small businesses; accessing or maintaining affordable finance; receiving payments on time; and developing knowledge and skills to deal with the changing business environment.
One of the study’s insights was that small business owners feel acute pressure to ‘do it all’ and to maintain the impression that they are fine even when they are struggling with their mental health and well-being. They feel that others – family, business partners, employees and suppliers – depend on them. One of the survey respondents said: Everything is up to me.
Mr Billson urged small and family business owners to take advantage of the many free support services provided by small business experts.
“Being able to talk to someone who understands the mental toll of running a small business makes a big difference,” he says.
Some resources to help small business owners include:
- New Access for Small Business Owners is a free mental health support service developed by Beyond Blue. Offers one-on-one telehealth sessions tailored for small business owners with specially trained mental health coaches who provide evidence-based advice on stress management strategies.
- Ahead for business helps small business owners take action on their mental health and well-being through personalized resources and tools tailored to their specific needs, including a mental health check that you can use to see how you’re tracking your mental health and well-being.
- MindSpot provides free, digital mental health services to adults across Australia, including a free and confidential online assessment tool that can be used to learn more about anxiety and depression symptoms and access clinically proven treatment options.
- The Small Business Debt Helpline run by Financial Counseling Australia has a team of qualified financial advisers who can answer calls directly or assist via a web chat function. The helpline offers free, independent and non-judgmental advice by calling 1800 413 828.
- Lifeline is a national charity that provides all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 131144.
- ATO Business and Employer Support has learning resources, tools and services to support small businesses.
More information, resources and advice to help you run your small business is available at www.asbfeo.gov.au.