Ombudsman urges small businesses to focus on mental health

Ombudsman urges small businesses to focus on mental health

October 10 is World Mental Heath Day. The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, is urging all small business owners and their employees to take time out to reflect on the status of their mental health.

“One in five people will experience a mental health issue at some stage in their life,” Carnell said. “High demands, work overload, bullying and poor communication can all contribute to stressed employees taking leave to avoid a toxic workplace, or leaving their job altogether.

“A happy workplace is a productive workplace. A mentally healthy business retains staff for longer and everyone knows what the business goals are which helps set realistic timeframes and expectations. When there’s a lack of communication, your business runs into problems,” Carnell added.

 Mental illness currently costs Austtalian businesses almost $11 billion dollars a year. Recent research has suggested that small business owners are often bearing the brunt of this cost given their propensity for health and wellbeing issues.

“Scottish Pacific’s latest SME Growth Index reports small business owners are working up to 80 hours a week or more, losing sleep from not getting everything done in a day and worrying about cash flow,” said Carnell.

“The recently announced Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health is very important, as this will focus on mental health as a productivity issue, not just a health issue.”

Carnell suggested there are some simple first steps you can take as a business owner to ensure your own and your employees wellbeing.

“If you want to help improve the mental wellbeing of your employees, start by acknowledging them for their work. It’s important to also involve employees in the decision-making process, and ensure there’s good communication across all levels.

“Small and family enterprises tend to work as very close units, which means there are regular opportunities to notice if someone is acting out of character. Ask them how they’re feeling, listen to them, and if they’re struggling, suggest they seek support or offer to help them arrange to talk to a professional.”

Carnell had several suggestions for small business owners hoping to improve their own mental health  such as scheduling meetings during core work hours, setting  realistic deadlines, take time our for a holiday, exercising regularly and getting some ‘me’ time.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing mental health issues, contact Lifeline on 1800 809 384. Find out more about creating a mentally health workplace at


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