Achieving small business owner wellbeing (data-led advice)

Monday 24th July 2023

Achieving small business owner wellbeing (data-led advice)

Monday 24th July 2023
Written by Maxim

According to a recent Xero report, ‘The global state of small business owner wellbeing,’ the wellbeing of small business owners lags behind the rest of the population. 

If you’re a small business owner, this likely comes as no surprise. We know running a small business can be stressful. The late nights, the people and cash flow issues, and the ongoing fear of the economy. It’s a tough gig.

Unfortunately, wellbeing has been proven to correlate with higher life satisfaction, better health and enhanced work performance. Because of this, it’s also a big factor in the strength of our economies and communities. 

So, we must start taking our own mental health and wellbeing more seriously. Before we dig into what we can do, let’s explore the findings in more depth.  

The findings: Factors affecting our wellbeing

The report focused on seven countries (Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada, South Africa and Singapore), looking at five factors that may influence small business owners' overall wellbeing and life satisfaction.

These five factors are:

  • Macroeconomic and business-related financial distress – All small businesses were affected by things like inflation pushing up costs, eroding customer spending power, economic growth tapering as the post-COVID boom recedes and the continued challenges of finding and retaining staff. But levels of financial distress varied. 
  • Stress management and mindset – Unsurprisingly, when small business owners felt relatively cheerful, calm, and active, they were more likely to experience higher levels of wellbeing. Stress caused by managing employees' mental health was often a significant worry.
  • Prioritising recovery – Only one in five small business owners can take a break when needed. When people feel rested, they experience higher levels of wellbeing. But being able to take time off work doesn’t necessarily mean people are rested. 
  • Fulfilling work – Most small business owners still feel high levels of fulfilment, which is perhaps why we persist despite the pressures. And fulfilling work generally equals better wellbeing (though not always.)
  • Accessing support – Many small business owners find themselves lacking the affordable psychological support and care needed for themselves and their employees.

Interestingly, the results didn’t vary hugely between the seven countries, suggesting issues are global and common across the board.

The Australian wellbeing stats

To understand our situation better, let’s take a closer look at the Australian-specific data that came out of the survey. 

Overall, we scored 60 points on the wellbeing scale, placing us six out of the seven countries. We also scored 6.6 on overall life satisfaction, placing us fifth. 

Financial distress and second-hand stress from managing employee mental health issues appear to be less than in other countries, and 24% of Aussie business owners admitted to being able to take a break at any time (the second highest below the US).

However, despite claiming a good work-life balance and personal fulfilment from their work, many Australian small business owners still struggle to effectively rest or keep business from encroaching on their personal lives. 

This is attributed to various factors, including difficulties in setting boundaries and the expectations or ambitions we place on ourselves as small business owners. 

As economic conditions grow increasingly challenging, we’ll likely struggle even more to meet our own expectations. So this should be addressed.

Recommendations from the report

The report makes four broad recommendations to deal with the issue: 

  • Investment in policies that encourage small business innovation, learning, and upskilling
  • Training and guidance in addressing the root causes of employees’ mental health issues
  • Counselling and peer support networks to help small business navigate their challenges
  • Exploring ways to achieve ‘restedness’ that intentionally set business matters aside

While we can’t directly influence policy, as business owners, we can take advantage of any support the government and other agencies offer and work on our own situation and mindsets. 

Achieving small business owner wellbeing

Practical sources for boosting our wellbeing

Here are some new and existing programs and resources for small businesses and their owners that you may find useful: 

NewAccess for small business owners (NASBO)

Developed in partnership with Beyond Blue, NASCO is a free and confidential guided self-help mental health program that can be accessed on the phone or via video call. 

The program runs over six sessions, during which a trained mental health coach with a small business background will work with you to manage stress and overwhelm using simple problem-solving approaches. 

Ahead for Business 

Ahead for Business supports small business owners to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing through personalised digital resources tailored to their specific needs. 

Resources include everything from articles to training, video webinars and toolkits. They also have a Bouncing Back podcast where you can hear from other business owners about how they’re addressing challenges. 

The National Workplace Initiative: Mentally Healthy Workplaces

To avoid the stress of worrying about the mental health of your employees, Mentally Healthy Workplaces is an online resource that offers resources and guidance on how to create a mentally healthy workplace. 

It covers best practices on mental health support and includes a series of modules filled with helpful resources, including mental ill health, hybrid work, psychosocial hazards and suicide. 

The Small Business Debt Helpline

If you’re facing financial stress, the Small Business Debt Helpline (1800 413 828) offers dedicated small business counselling services online or over the phone. The service is free, independent and confidential. 

As well as offering free personalised guidance on your debt situation, they can help you develop effective debt management strategies, provide you with education and resources and, importantly, emotional support.

Wellbeing is within reach—we just need to grab it

Ultimately, the study suggests we need to consider our own internal discourses around rest, work, and purpose – and find a balance that brings us closer to greater and more sustainable overall wellbeing. 

We can do this by embracing the resources and support on offer, improving our practical skills and putting less mental pressure on ourselves. 

It also suggests that by embracing innovation, such as automation and digitalisation, we can outsource the tasks that bring us less joy, freeing us up to do more of what we love. 

If you’d like support in achieving better wellbeing as a small business owner, reach out to your Maxim advisor or get in touch with our team. We’re more than just financial advisors; we care.