Thames Valley: 74% of SME owners struggle with their mental health

Conflicting pressures from business needs and family lifestyles mean SME business owners constantly struggle to separate business stresses from family and personal wellbeing. Three quarters (74%) suffer a negative impact on their mental health as a result of managing the division and the dependency between these two separate worlds.

  • Always on: 69% of business owners in the South East have never taken more than a week off
  • Family income: 72% have a family that is reliant on the income from the business
  • Financial pressure: 46% say they would struggle to reduce the income they draw due to their family financial commitments

Facing pressure from both sides, two out of five (42%) feel that no-one understands the pressure they’re under and the same proportion (42%) feel that there’s no-one they can talk to about it. According to research conducted among 500 UK SMEs by top 15 chartered accountants Haines Watts, the pressure comes from two places:

Time pressure

Because of the demands many business owners face to manage the day-to-day operations of their business, the time needed to think strategically and work “on” the business gets pushed into their personal time. Two thirds (65%) of business owners in the Thames Valley report working at the weekend and 69% report working while on holiday. And that’s just those that can take a proper holiday; more than two thirds (69%) have never taken more than a week off. One in 20 (4%) are able to work a 40 hour week or less.

Money pressure

Perhaps most worryingly, more than a third (37%) of business owners in the South East have put off financial investments in their business because of the need to draw a personal income. In fact, 46% 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 East, the business bears the responsibility for maintaining that family lifestyle as three quarters (72%) say their spouse either works in the business or has no alternative income.

Michael Davidson, regional managing partner at Haines Watts, commented: “For many, personal success and business success are deeply intertwined, but they also conflict. It’s imperative that business owners’ long-term plans for the business 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, but 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.”