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SME Founders and Business Owners

Research conducted by Simply Business in January 2021 showed that 1 in 5 SME owners felt their mental health was in a 'bad' place and over half of them say they have experienced anxiety since the start of the pandemic. The research also showed that 61% of SME owners experienced a negative impact on their mental health owing to financial concerns at some point in the pandemic, , economic worries have only increased due to today's rising inflation and the cost of living crisis. 


It may seem like you are alone in these struggles, and according to the Simply Business research, a fifth of SME owners had experienced loneliness within the 12 months the data was taken by Simply Business. Maren Thomas Bannon, co-founder and Partner at January Ventures, wrote an article for Forbes magazine on start up founder mental health. She recommends "building a trusted support system with fellow founders. Find founders who are at a similar stage, where you can share what's going on in your inner and outer world. Create a small group where you can share deeply and honestly, knowing that they are in a relatable situation. There is power in being able to share experiences and learnings." At the BioEscalator, we hold regular CxO forums where our resident company leaders meet and discuss the burning issues that keep them awake at night.


FSB has written an article listing six tips for managing loneliness as a small business owner and a document on mental health for SMEs. SOM also has a detailed document on mental health support for small business owners and team leaders.



SME Employees

According to the CIPD Health and wellbeing at work 2022 survey, the overall trend for the last five years suggests that employee wellbeing is gradually rising up the corporate agenda. Just over half of organisations (51%, up from 40% in 2018) have a standalone wellbeing strategy. At the BioEscalator, we have observed several of our tenant companies proactively supporting health and wellbeing, building that into their developing company cultures, and sharing best practices with other companies.


Nevertheless, stress continues to be one of the leading causes of workplace short- and long-term absence, with 79% of respondents reporting some stress-related absence in their organisation over the last year. Workload remains the most common cause of stress, worsened by the impact of COVID-19 on operational demands and the increase in absences putting pressure on staffing levels. However, the pandemic also brought its own anxiety, with 24% of organisations including COVID-related anxiety, such as a fear of contagion, among their top three causes of workplace stress. Although a positive change for some, one in five reported a poor work-life balance owing to homeworking due to COVID-19 as a main cause of stress-related absence. 


Employers are responsible for their employees' health, safety and wellbeing, whether in the workplace or working from home. The HSE provides guidance on how employers should manage home workers' health and safety, and Adrian Wakeling, Senior Policy Adviser at Acas gives his 3 top tips for better mental health at work in an article published on the Companies House blog page. 


We are all responsible for looking after our own and others' mental health. It can be as simple as ensuring you take your designated breaks or creating a wellness group for your colleagues and neighbours. As Matt Haig, Novelist and Journalist, commented, "We need, ultimately, to be able to view mental health with the same clear-headedness we show when talking about physical health."


Further resources:

Mind and FSB employers guide to mental health

FSB - How to support your employees' mental health

Acas - Supporting mental health at work