Small businesses are suffering a mental health hangover from the pandemic with one-third naming it as their number one concern, an increase of almost 20 per cent over the past two years, according to the latest survey.
In addition, more than half of SME owners reported increased stress compared with 2020-21 while 44 per cent experienced anxiety and one in five have been depressed in the past year.
While Australia has been emerging from the pandemic in 2022 the survey, by MYOB of 1,000 small-business operators across Australia, showed the impact of COVID is the chief concern – ahead of purely financial worries.
MYOB chief employee experience officer Helen Lea said the findings come as inflation and supply chain pressures add to problems for SMEs.
“As rewarding as running a business can be, these pressures can impact the wellbeing of those who lead them,” Ms Lea said. “We’ve been monitoring the mental health of business owners since 2020 and while the topic has always been important, the findings are a clear reminder that this remains a major concern.”
The survey found 31 per cent of SMEs ranked mental health as their top concern, up from 26 per cent during the two pandemic years. More than six out of 10 SME owners think they could do more about their own mental health while 55 per cent also feel responsible for the mental wellbeing of their staff.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson said the findings showed small-businesses owners shouldered huge responsibilities while navigating the recent challenges.
“It is not just an enterprise but their life – often their home and mortgage, family and identity are all tied together,” Mr Billson said.
“This can feel unrelenting and it is vitally important to look after your emotional wellbeing and mental health. Sometimes it can be as simple as making time to pause, reflect and reconnect.”
The chief executive of not-for-profit Smiling Mind, Dr Addie Wootten, said it would soon be adding a special small-business program to its free wellness app.
“It’s crucial that mental health and wellbeing stays high on the agenda as we move out of COVID, as businesses are clearly still being impacted in various ways,” Dr Wootten said.
“Supporting SME owners to equip themselves in managing their own wellbeing and that of their teams has never been more important, and to that end we will be adding more content to our small business program over the coming months.”
The latest MYOB Business Monitor surveyed a national sample of 1,000 business owners, managers and directors (operators) from 22 March to 21 April 2022.