From stress to success: 3 tips to enhance the mental health of small business owners

- July 12, 2023 3 MIN READ


Small businesses that survived the turbulence of recent years – natural disasters, a pandemic and now rising interest rates and a potential recession – are likely to have concluded that ‘business as usual’ looks very different to what it used to, writes Helen Lea, Chief Employee Experience Officer, MYOB.

Those feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed are not alone.

The latest MYOB Business Monitor, a survey of over 1,000 small business owners across Australia, found that over half (51 per cent) are dealing with stress. Alarmingly, for most (55 per cent), running their business has contributed to feelings of anxiety or depression. Respondents identified that the biggest factors impacting their mental health are financial concerns or cash flow (34 per cent), not having enough time (12 per cent), and the ongoing impact of COVID-19 (11 per cent).

Despite business owners being time-poor and worried about their finances, they continue to show remarkable resilience as they navigate uncertainty.

While we, unfortunately, can’t create economic clarity or find more hours in the day, there are ways for business owners to proactively support their own mental wellbeing, to cope with the stress and pressure of business which have become standard for many.

Taking preventative measures to protect mental wellbeing is a good place to start.

3 top tips to help manage stress

At MYOB, we’ve partnered with Smiling Mind to develop the Small Business Program, which provides free resources for small business owners and employees to build their mental fitness. Practical strategies such as meditations and exercises specifically focus on the challenges commonly faced by small business owners.

It’s a great way to build strong mental health foundations.

We have also integrated Sonder into our internal team support system. Sonder is an app that is medically accredited and offers mental health support, medical advice and safety assistance to employees. With the Sonder app, MYOB employees have easy-to-use access to confidential and immediate support from registered and clinical professionals 24/7.

Here are three tips from Sonder’s Head of Psychology, Jason Vella to help manage stress:

1. Reframe stress

Some stress helps us stay productive and achieve our goals, while other forms can be detrimental. Learning to identify unique stress triggers can better isolate those stressors that are overwhelming and need to be proactively managed.

The difference can often rest in how aligned the source of the stress is to your goals and interests, the time or resources available, or your confidence in the skills and knowledge you can bring.

2. It’s good to talk about it

Leaders can create a psychologically safe environment for others to raise concerns about stress by modelling it as a priority.

For example:

  • Include standing items regarding wellbeing on meetings and 1:1 agendas.
  • Provide regular updates regarding actions that might have come from an engagement survey or internal safety audit.
  • Engage openly with team members who raise concerns, and invite them to contribute to solutions.

3. Address the ‘busyness paradox’

Consider if a degree of perceived stress relates to the team’s perception of resources available to get work completed efficiently, and if some task overload triggers for stress might be addressed with technology that reduces manual processes or busy work.

While small business stress is a common experience, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

I’d encourage business owners and their teams to connect with support services, access free tools, talk to others, and take steps towards enhancing workplace mental wellbeing. The result will be helping everyone to better ride business uncertainty in 2023 and beyond.

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