Research by cloud accounting software provider FreeAgent has revealed the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small business owners and the steps that they have been taking to combat it.
According to a new survey conducted by the company – who provide accounting software for small businesses and accountants – more than half of UK SME owners polled said they have experienced burnout since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Projected across the wider SME sector, this equates to around 2.9 million business owners across the UK suffering from burnout.
The survey findings also reveal that over a third (35.8%) are working longer hours than they were before the pandemic. Interestingly, more than half (56.2%) of respondents indicated they are more conscious of burnout now because of the impact the pandemic has had on UK workers, while just over one in ten (14%) said they weren’t sure if it had made a difference.
How SMEs are combating burnout
With rising pressure and stress being felt from the pandemic, many business owners have turned to new hobbies and measures to help lessen the negative impact on their mental health:
- Walking is the most popular method SME owners are using to combat stress as a result of the pandemic with over a third (35.6%) saying they have taken it up as a hobby to calm their minds.
- Other hobbies have also been adopted to combat the burnout including regular exercise (23.8%) and meditation or mindfulness (18.0%)
- As well as implementing personal lifestyle changes to combat burnout, more than a fifth (22.9%) of UK small businesses have implemented mental health policies for their businesses or employees since the start of the pandemic.
Things SMES have enjoyed about remote working
While 42.5% of small business owners said they worked from home prior to the pandemic – and therefore had not seen any new benefits from COVID-mandated remote working – there were some key factors that were enjoyed by those who hadn’t experienced it before:
- A third (29.4%) enjoyed being able to wear more relaxed clothing
- Making food at home was also a popular outcome, with 1 in three people (27.2%) saying they liked being able to make lunch from scratch in their own kitchen
- Longer sleep-ins rather than commuting was the most appealing thing for 24.2% of people, and the same number (24.1%) said the thing they most enjoyed about working from home was doing house chores during the working day (for example, washing or hoovering).
Roan Laverly, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent said: “It’s quite saddening to see such a high number of SME business owners saying that they have faced burnout during the pandemic. This research is a reminder that the past 18 months or so has not just been devastating for the economy, but it has also had a massive impact on the mental health of many freelancers and small business owners across the UK.
“The SME sector is one of the most, if not the most, vital pillar of our economy. With SMEs making up around 99% of all businesses it is essential that they have all the support they need not just to remain economically buoyant, but also to preserve their mental health and avoid burnout. While I am hopeful that the pandemic has passed its worst, it will still be a long time until small businesses are fully recovered and back on their feet.
“The government must do what it can to ensure as much pressure as possible is alleviated for small businesses, so they make it safely to the end of the year. This will then help bolster the UK economy and take it from strength to strength – both in the short term and in the post-pandemic future.”