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How is poor mental health affecting the UK’s self-employed?

3-minute read

Data reveals self-employed mental health struggles
Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish

15 May 2023

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A new study from Simply Business has revealed that 56 per cent of small business owners in the UK have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months.

This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the rising costs associated with running a business mean that people are working harder than ever to make ends meet. One in three small business owners are working over 46 hours a week – 10 hours more than the UK average.

This extra work adds up, with many self-employed workers reporting they’re struggling with sleep. A third of those surveyed are surviving on less than five hours a night on average.

Three quarters of small business owners take fewer than 20 days of annual leave per year – a number significantly smaller than the national entitlement of 28 days.

Feeling the effects

Almost half (41 per cent) of small business owners revealed that financial worries are having the single biggest impact on their mental health. These long hours combined with a lack of sleep are beginning to take their toll.

Of those surveyed, 59 per cent revealed they suffer from anxiety, 38 per cent with depression, and 22 per cent reported experiencing feelings of loneliness. One in three also experience burnout at work.

Despite these feelings, more than half (51 per cent) say they wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing poor mental health as a reason for time off or for delaying deadlines.

More than a third (40 per cent) say they don’t take time off for their mental health – despite acknowledging the benefits it would have both personally and professionally.

Serena Fordham, founder of community interest company ProspHER, echoed these sentiments: “Being self-employed does require an ability to work without barriers or parameters. As a result, the quality of your personal life is directly linked to the success of your business. Though you might have the passion, an extraordinary amount of effort is required to get things off the ground and keep things going, which can really take its toll.”

What’s to be done?

A staggering 90 per cent of those we surveyed said that they believe the government isn’t doing enough to support the mental health of the self-employed – with small business owners unable to claim the same rights as employees when it comes to Statutory Sick Pay and holiday entitlement.

But despite this, there’s a desire in the community for change. A third (35 per cent) want to learn how to improve their mental health while running a business – but don’t feel they have access to the correct resources.

A new partnership

With this data in mind, Simply Business have partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by Mind, to launch their new Mind Your Business initiative. Acting as a toolkit and resource hub, small business owners will be able to access expert articles and guides to better manage their mental health in the workspace.

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business, commented: “The worrying state of small business owners’ mental health has been laid bare in our recent research – with over half suffering from poor mental health in the last 12 months alone.

The situation should concern us all. Small businesses are vital to both our economic recovery and the prosperity of our communities, and this will only compound the challenges of an increasingly economically inactive population.

“From financial worries and stress, to isolation and insomnia – it’s critical that the real people behind the country’s SMEs are given the support they need. That’s why we’ve partnered with Mental Health at Work to raise awareness of the challenges facing this audience, and create tailored resources designed to help.”

Making positive changes

Andrew Berrie, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, commented: “We know that small businesses and the self-employed are often overlooked when it comes to public workplace mental health initiatives. These communities face unique challenges, and the events of recent years have only made it more difficult for these small organisations and business owners to prioritise wellbeing at work.

“Results from our survey in partnership with Simply Business shine a light on how crucial it is that we act, right now, to support these groups. Simply Business and Mental Health at Work are working together to make a real difference in addressing this issue. Together, we're providing accessible, bespoke support for small business owners and the self-employed, to enable them to make positive changes to their mental health.”

The next steps

As part of the partnership, Simply Business have launched their Mind Your Business campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental health at work. As well as expert guides, there is also the opportunity to win a £2,000 wellbeing package – which includes a £500 holiday, virtual assistant subscription, and business and financial coaching sessions. Enter the competition by 7 June to win.

Mental Health at Work have also created a dedicated Self-Employed Support Hub of toolkits, resources, and powerful stories to help improve workplace wellbeing.

Do you think the government is doing enough to support the mental health of the self-employed? Let us know in the comments.

Mental health resources for the self-employed

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Photo: Deen Jacobs/
Rosanna Parrish

Written by

Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business specialising in side hustles – as well as all things freelance, social media, and ecommerce. She’s been writing professionally for nine years. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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