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Three quarters of business owners say work stress affects their mental wellbeing

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Mike Lloyd of Haines WattsMike Lloyd of Haines WattsMore than three quarters of business owners across the South West struggle with their wellbeing and mental health due to stress at work, according to a survey conducted by accounting firm Haines Watts.

The project found the conflicting pressures of running a business and being part of a family can often force SME owners to live a double life in an often fruitless attempt to separate business stresses from family or personal wellbeing.

Three quarters (79 percent) of those questioned in the South West suffer a negative impact on their mental health as a result. The survey found:

  • 64 percent of business owners in the South West have never taken more than a week off
  • 77 percent have a family reliant on the income from the business
  • 39 percent say they would struggle to reduce the income they draw due to their family financial commitments
  • 55 percent feel no one truly understands the pressure they’re under
  • and 36 percent feel there’s no-one they can talk to about it.

According to research conducted among 500 UK SMEs the pressure relates to two key areas:

Time: the day-to-day operations of the business means the time needed to think strategically and work “on” the business gets pushed into personal time.

Three quarters (73 percent) of business owners in the South West report working at the weekend and nearly two thirds (63 percent) report working while on holiday. Less than one in twenty (two percent) are able to work a 40 hour week or less.

Money: a third (34 percent) have put off financial investments in their business because of the need to draw a personal income. In fact, 39 percent say that it would be difficult to reduce the income they draw from the business due to their financial commitments.

For most SME owners in the South West the business bears the responsibility for maintaining that family lifestyle as over three quarters (77 percent) say their spouse either works in the business or has no alternative income.

Mike Lloyd, managing partner at Haines Watts Swindon, said: “For many, personal success and business success are deeply intertwined, but they also conflict.

"It’s imperative business owners’ long-term plans include future business investment and leave a buffer between business income and family financial commitments to help mitigate the stress of ups and downs.

“The key is to not let pressures bubble over into serious stress or mental health issues by seeking support early. At present, only 4% of those surveyed had deemed their struggles severe enough to seek the help of a mental health professional.

"That number will grow if owners don’t recognise and respond to early symptoms of stress.

“Most business owners already feel motivated and are willing to make certain sacrifices to achieve their business aspirations.

"Given this, a solid support network and an environment that encourages open and honest conversations could be all that’s needed to ensure pressures and strains don’t become anything more serious.”