Small business owners risking mental health by working too much, reveals research

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Small business owners are on the brink of burnout working long hours and taking minimal breaks, reveals new research by Simply Business and Mental Health at Work.

In a survey of over 700 SMEs, small business owners said they work over 46 hours a week on average – 10 hours more than typical UK employees.  

Meanwhile, three quarters (73 per cent) take fewer than 20 days of annual leave per year, well below the UK’s statutory 28 days.

But almost one in six (15 per cent) believe a lack of time off is directly impacting their mental health. Over half (56 per cent) say they have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months –  an 124 per cent increase compared with the national average.

What’s more, nine in 10 say the government isn’t doing enough to support the mental health of the self-employed.

With a cluster of bank holidays falling in May, many small business owners feel taking more time off isn’t an option. SMEs stand to lose as much as £2,163 over the course of a year if they shut on bank holidays.

Simply Business has partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by leading mental health charity Mind, to highlight the mental health challenges facing the SME community. It has also donated £100,000 to support the UK’s self-employed.

Alongside a breadth of resources, Simply Business is also giving one small business owner the chance to win a £2,000 wellbeing package – including holiday vouchers, access to a virtual assistant, and financial and business coaching. 

Brink of burnout

Bea Montoya, chief operating officer at Simply Business, comments: “The worrying state of small business owners’ mental health has been laid bare in our recent research – with over half suffering from poor mental health in the last 12 months alone. During a cost of living crisis, the self-employed are working at capacity. Long hours, rare breaks and sleepless nights are leaving many on the brink of burnout. 

“And the situation should concern us all. Small businesses are vital to both our economic recovery and the prosperity of our communities, and this will only compound the challenges of an increasingly economically inactive population. 

“It’s critical that the real people behind the country’s SMEs recieve the support they need. That’s why we’ve partnered with Mental Health at Work to raise awareness of the challenges facing this audience, and create tailored resources designed to help.” 

Making a difference

Andrew Berrie, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, adds: “We know that small businesses and the self-employed are often overlooked when it comes to public workplace mental health initiatives. These communities face unique challenges, and the events of recent years have only made it more difficult for these small organisations and business owners to prioritise wellbeing at work.

“Results from our survey in partnership with Simply Business shine a light on how crucial it is that we act, right now, to support these groups. The results expose a mental health crisis, with over half of respondents struggling with poor mental health in the last year, many experiencing insomnia, working long hours, and very rarely taking breaks – it’s a recipe for burnout. 

“Simply Business and Mental Health at Work are working together to make a real difference in addressing this issue. Together, we’re providing accessible, bespoke support for small business owners and the self-employed, to enable them to make positive changes to their mental health.”

A range of tailored resources are also available at Mental Health at Work here.