Mental Health and the SME. Image showing profile of a head with screwed up paperwork.

Running a small business can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be highly stressful. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, entrepreneurs are more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to the general population.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of mental health awareness for small business owners and provide tips on prioritising mental well-being.

Before we continue, let’s look at some facts.

According to a new study conducted by Mental Health UK and the small business lender Iowa:

  • Four in five small business owners report experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year. Furthermore:
  • 80% reported experiencing symptoms of poor mental health.
  • The pandemic has made this more acute, with people reporting panic attacks and experiencing symptoms of depression more frequently since the pandemic began (read our previous article entitled Beyond the Numbers – How is Your Business Feeling?
  • 86% of female business owners reported experiencing poor mental health, compared to 77% of males.
  • Despite this, 44% of small business owners have never accessed mental health support.
  • Owning and managing a small business can bring high levels of stress and pressure. As a small business owner, you’re responsible for every aspect of your business, from finances to marketing to customer service. Factor in that you will probably be working long hours and feeling somewhat lonely, all of which can affect your mental health.

Ignoring your mental health can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and even physical health issues.

Moreover, the unpredictability and competitive nature of the market can exacerbate stress levels, leading to chronic anxiety that affects not only the business owner but also permeates the entire business environment. Entrepreneurs often feel the weight of their employees’ livelihoods on their shoulders, which can add layer of emotional strain.

By prioritising your mental health, you can improve your well-being and your business’s success

The Impact of poor mental health on your business 

  • “The top causes of long-term absence: Mental ill health (63%, acute medical conditions such as stroke or cancer 51%, musculoskeletal injuries 51%)” CIPD
  • “57% of all working days lost was due to mental health costing employers c.£44bn” 2019 National Statistics
  • “Those with good mental health are more productive” CIPD

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can negatively affect your business in several ways:

Decreased productivity: Mental health issues can lead to decreased focus, motivation, and energy, making it difficult to manage your workload.

Poor decision-making: When your mental health is suffering, it can be challenging to make sound decisions for your business.

Employee well-being: As a small business owner, you’re responsible for the well-being of your employees. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can affect their work environment and morale.

Customer satisfaction: Your mental health can also impact your interactions with customers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it can affect the quality of your customer service.

By prioritising your mental health, you can improve your performance, decision-making abilities, and relationships with both your employees and customers.

Additionally, a lack of attention to mental health can lead to high employee turnover rates. Employees often look to their leaders for work-life balance and company culture cues. If they see you neglecting your well-being, they may do the same or look elsewhere for a healthier work environment.

The Importance of Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace 

Mental health in the workplace. Group of people talking.

“Good mental health and good management go hand in hand” CIPD

As a small business owner, you are responsible for creating a positive and supportive work environment for your employees. To do this, it is essential that you address mental health in the workplace.

  • “15% people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health problem”
  • “Businesses can get a 5x to 10x return for investing in improved mental health” Stevenson and Farmer Report 2017

Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of their role or responsibilities. Promoting mental health awareness and addressing mental health issues can create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for your employees and improve productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention.

According to NHS Talking Therapies, signs that your employees are suffering from poor mental health may include one of these: 1) Behavioural: Changes such as withdrawal/isolation. 2) Performance:  Procrastination, late deadlines, poor concentration, over working. 3) Emotional and physical:  Mood swings, irritability, fatigue and reduced motivation.  4) Cognitive: Memory, concentration, decision making. 5) Workplace:  Loss of enthusiasm, resistance to change, poor management.

Encouraging employees to take steps for self-care and seek help when needed will help contribute to a more resilient and adaptive workforce.

The NHS suggest the following tips for improving mental health:

  1. Connect with other people
  2. Be physically active
  3. Learn new skills
  4. Give to others
  5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

More information can be found on the NHS website.

Tips for Prioritising Your Mental Health as a Small Business Owner 

Business owner (SME) taking time out for self.It is important to lead by example, when you look after your mental health, you will send a clear message to your employees that their mental health is also important.

1.Recognise the Signs 

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by chronic stress. As a small business owner, it’s essential to recognise the signs of burnout so that you can take steps to prevent it. Common signs of burnout include:

  • Feeling exhausted and drained, both physically and emotionally
  • Loss of interest and motivation in your work
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Increased feelings of anxiety or depression

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s crucial to take a step back and prioritise your mental health.

Understanding the root causes of your stress can also help you address burnout more effectively. Whether it’s financial concerns, workload, or interpersonal issues, identifying the stressors allows you to develop targeted strategies to mitigate them.

2.Practice Self-Care 

Self-care refers to any activity that you deliberately do to maintain your mental, emotional, and physical health. As a small business owner, it’s easy to neglect self-care in favour of work. However, taking time for yourself is crucial for maintaining good mental health.

Make a list of activities that bring you joy and make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. These activities could include walking in nature, reading a book, or spending time with loved ones. Make time for these activities regularly, and don’t feel guilty for taking a break from work.

Consider adopting a regular exercise routine or mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga. These will help reduce stress and improve overall mental health. Self-care is not a luxury but is necessary to run a successful business.

3.Seek Support 

Running a small business can be isolating, and having a support system to turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed is essential. This could be friends, family, or fellow small business owners. Feel free to reach out for support when you need it.

You can also seek professional help from a therapist, mentor or business coach who will provide you with coping strategies and support to manage your mental health.

Participating in local business groups or online communities can offer camaraderie and the opportunity to share experiences with peers who understand your unique challenges. Networking provides emotional support and can lead to collaborative solutions to business problems.

4.Set Boundaries 

As a small business owner, it’s easy to let work take over your life. However, it’s crucial to set boundaries and create a healthy work-life balance, such as setting specific work hours, delegating tasks to employees, and learning to say no to extra work or commitments.

Setting boundaries can help prevent burnout and ensure you have time for self-care and other activities outside of work.

Learn to delegate effectively and trust your team with responsibilities. This empowers your employees and gives you the space to focus on your well-being and the strategic aspects of your business.

5.Invest in Technology 

Technology has made it easier than ever for small business owners to manage their workload and stay organised. Investing in technology can streamline processes, reduce stress, and free up time to focus on your mental health.

Use project management tools, accounting software, and other applications to help you stay on top of your workload and reduce stress.

Technology can also facilitate better communication with your team, allowing for more efficient collaboration and time management. Automating routine tasks can significantly lower your daily stress levels and give you a clearer mind to tackle the more complex aspects of your business.


As a small business owner, it’s easy to prioritise your business’s success over your mental health. However, neglecting your mental well-being can have serious consequences for both you and your business. By prioritising mental health awareness and implementing strategies to support your mental well-being, you can improve your performance, decision-making abilities, and overall satisfaction with your business.

Remember, your mental health matters, and taking care of yourself is crucial for the success of your business.

If this article resonates with you and you would like to speak to one of our experts, to help lighten your load, please get in touch.