Almost one year on, the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact all of our daily lives. And few have been hit harder than the self-employed ‘ livelihoods are on the line, with small business owners facing an unprecedented amount of pressure.
Clearly, this is having a huge impact on their wellbeing ‘ the scale of which can be seen in our latest customer survey, which revealed that 82% of SME owners report poor mental health, and 55% are suffering from anxiety.
At, Simply Business insuring over 750,000 small business owners and landlords helps us understand the specific challenges being faced by the self-employed, and the reasons behind some concerning data. Four in five SME owners admitted the Covid-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on their mental health, while a fifth describe their current mental wellbeing as ‘bad’. Almost half are also worried about their mental health.
Additionally, 27% of SME owners have felt low self-esteem in the past 12 months and a fifth have experienced loneliness. The vast majority ‘ if not all ‘ said that any symptoms of poor mental health have either been caused by or made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This situation should concern us all because small businesses are crucial to our economy and communities ‘ and will be central to our collective recovery. At Simply Business, we feel compelled to highlight this issue and provide practical support where we can.
Running a small business in Covid-19
As small businesses have been among the hardest hit economically from Covid-19, the pandemic has caused severe disruption to business operations and therefore income. Running a small business during Covid-19 is arguably one of the toughest and hardest experiences that these SMEs have to face. Our research revealed that a third (33%) of SME owners have had to temporarily close their business at various points of the pandemic and 44% are operating at a reduced capacity. Just 21% have been able to continue operating as usual.
But the study also showed that running a small business during the pandemic has had a huge impact on small business owners’ mental health, with over a third (35%) struggling to switch off, one in five (21%) saying it has affected their confidence and more than a fifth (22%) saying it has impacted relationships with family or friends.
What’s more, almost a third are feeling demotivated to work or restart their business, and one in five (18%) have fallen out of love with their business or the industry they work in. This trend risks a huge blow to the UK’s 5.8 million small businesses which together hold a vast contribution to the country’s economy.
Causes of negative mental wellbeing
We have also noticed that financial worries are having the biggest negative impact on SME owners with two in three (61%) saying it has negatively affected their mental wellbeing in the past 12 months. This was closely followed by not being able to see family or friends (60%), uncertainty surrounding their business (44%), and stress (48%).
As expected and reflective of how the rest of the country feel at the moment, almost one-third (28%) of SME owners cited isolation or loneliness as negatively impacting their mental wellbeing over the last year, and almost a quarter (24%) said a lack of physical exercise has harmed their mental health. With no end in sight for this current national lockdown, we are hoping that SMEs can continue holding in there.
Looking ahead to 2021
It’s clear that some worries remain as SME owners look ahead. Almost half are concerned about the future of their business, while over one in five worries about their business permanently closing this year.
Perhaps a greater cause of concern, is that almost half (47%) are concerned about their own mental wellbeing in 2021 ‘ with the almost-year-long Covid-19 pandemic beginning to take its toll after such a sustained period of difficulty.
Reasons to be encouraged
But despite these challenges, SME owners also have an encouraging level of optimism when thinking about the year ahead. Two in five (39%) are optimistic about the economy picking up and well over a third (36%) feel hopeful about the future of their business, and jobs and orders picking back up (35%).
Improving mental health and wellbeing
Reassuringly, SME owners are taking steps to improve their wellbeing this year. Two in three (67%) are spending more time outside and in nature where possible, while a further 64% plan to exercise more and dedicate more time to connecting with friends and family. A third (32%) will use reading as a tool to improve their wellbeing.
Financial worries, dealing with stress, and lack of time for self-care are just some of the very real challenges being faced. We’re in a tough period ‘ one that is likely to continue for some time, so it’s key that anyone in the small business community who feels like they need support during this time, can access advice and help, whether online or otherwise.