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The hidden mental health implications of running a small business

Over half (53%) of UK small business owners have experienced burnout as a result of working too hard, according to research carried out by cloud accounting company FreeAgent. An astonishing 86% admitted to having sacrificed personal care, such as missing meals or cancelling social plans, for the sake of business success. 81% also admitted to working through illness because they didn’t feel they could afford to take the time off.

The survey of nearly 740 UK freelancers and small business owners revealed that although over half (53%) of respondents felt that they had a good professional support network to turn to, 38% had no such network in place

Encouragingly the survey showed that the majority of small business owners remain positive about their choice to go solo, with 75% saying that they would recommend self-employment as a career choice to others.

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, said:

“Running a business can be a very rewarding experience that allows people to follow their passions. However, it also has the potential to be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming – usually because you spend a lot of time on your own, having to troubleshoot difficult issues and deal with tedious admin, and you don’t always get to work on the parts that are actually enjoyable. 

“While it’s certainly positive to see that the majority of small business owners said they would recommend self-employment, it’s troubling to see how stark the reality of working for yourself can be when you scratch under the surface. For lots of self-employed people it means working very long hours, with the pressure of maintaining their ventures having a noticeable effect on their mental health. 

“The large proportion of business owners without a support network in place, suggests that either there is not enough support available for these self-employed people, or they are unsure about where, or who, to seek help from when they need it. 

“Working for yourself should be an uplifting experience that enables you to be the master of your own destiny – not one that is detrimental to your mental health. As a small business owner, it can be tempting to devote all their time and attention to your work, but it’s also essential that business owners take care of themselves. More needs to be done to ensure that the UK’s legion of freelancers and small business owners can protect themselves from any mental health problems that arise from self-employment in the future.”