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Small businesses must be more proactive about wellness

New research has shown that over two-thirds of small businesses have not discussed mental health days.

According to a survey of 757 small-business operators across Australia, conducted by MYOB, 67 per cent of small businesses have not discussed mental health days, which is compounded by the fact that just over half (52 per cent) said they feel like they are able to address mental health issues affecting their staff.

The number of businesses who had not talked about mental health days was particularly high for those with a small number of staff, with 72 per cent of businesses with two to four employees saying they had not had the discussion.

MYOB’s chief employment experience officer, Helen Lea, said given recent reports that 43 per cent of small-business operators had experienced some form of mental health condition since starting a business, a proactive approach to managing mental wellbeing would face off potential problems at the very start.

“We are extremely cognisant of the pressures running a small business can bring. Having support from the outset to stop any sense of anxiety before it can take hold is an essential step, but it’s perhaps the toughest to fulfil when there are so many demands on a business owners’ time,” she said.

“The subject of mental health can be overwhelming to anyone, but the small-business community has a set of unique considerations that we need to consider and support. Let’s face it: being in business for yourself can be lonely and challenging.”

Smiling Mind CEO and clinical psychologist Dr Addie Wootten agreed that taking a proactive approach to mental health comes with many benefits.

“We want to change the way people think about mental health – moving it from a term with negative sentiment to a positive one – to get people looking after their mental health the same way they look after their physical health. Like our bodies, the more we take care of ourselves mentally, the healthier we are,” she said.

The research also found that businesses working in finance and insurance and agricultural industries were least likely to have discussed mental health days with staff (71 per cent said they had not).

The likelihood of this discussion taking place declines with age, MYOB continued, with 77 per cent of small-business operators aged 60-plus had not discussed mental health days with staff, versus 57 per cent of business operators aged under 40.

Elsewhere, male small-business operators were most likely to report they did not feel able to discuss mental health issues with staff (21 per cent versus 16 per cent of women), and business operators under 40 feel least equipped to have that conversation; 31 per cent said they did not feel able to address mental health issues affecting staff.

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in early 2018, Jerome is admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales and, prior to joining the team in early 2018, he worked in both commercial and governmental legal roles and has worked as a public speaker and consultant to law firms, universities and high schools across the country and internationally. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines self-help book series and is an adjunct lecturer at The University of Western Australia.

Jerome graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry).

You can email Jerome at: [email protected] 

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain