Three quarters of SME owners struggle with their mental health


Conflicting pressures from their business needs and family lifestyles force SME owners to live a double life, separating business stresses from family and personal wellbeing – trying not to let either bubble over into the other.

Three quarters of them suffer a negative impact on their mental health as a result of managing the division and the dependency between these two separate worlds.

Facing pressure from both sides, almost half feel that no-one understands the pressure they’re under and a third feel that there’s no-one they can talk to about it.

According to research conducted among by chartered accountants Haines Watts, the pressure comes from two places:

Time pressure

Because of the demands many business owners face to manage the day-to-day operations of their business, the time needed to think strategically and work “on” the business gets pushed into their personal time.

Two thirds of business owners report working at the weekend and 67 per cent report working while on holiday. And that’s just those that can take a proper holiday; three quarters have never taken more than a week off. Only one in twenty are able to work a 40 hour week or less.

Money pressure

Perhaps most worryingly, a third of business owners have put off financial investments in their business because of the need to draw a personal income.

In fact, almost half say that it would be difficult to reduce the income they draw from the business due to their financial commitments. For most SME owners the business bears the responsibility for maintaining that family lifestyle as three quarters say their spouse either works in the business or has no alternative income. 

Karen McLellan, managing director at Haines Watts Hereford, comments:  “For many, personal success and business success are deeply intertwined, but they also conflict. It’s imperative that business owners’ long-term plans for the business include future business investment, and leave a buffer between business income and family financial commitments to help mitigate the stress of ups and downs.

“The key is to not let pressures bubble over into serious stress or mental health issues by seeking support early. At present, only 4 per cent of those surveyed had deemed their struggles severe enough to seek the help of a mental health professional, but that number will grow if owners don’t recognise and respond to early symptoms of stress.

“Most business owners already feel motivated and are willing to make certain sacrifices to achieve their business aspirations. Given this, a solid support network and an environment that encourages open and honest conversations could be all that’s needed to ensure pressures and strains don’t become anything more serious.”