COVID burnout affects one in two business owners

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Date: 24 August 2021

A stressed food business owner is exhausted and feeling burned out

A new survey suggests that around 2.9 million small business owners have experienced burnout since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Research by cloud accounting software provider FreeAgent has revealed the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small business owners and the steps that they have been taking to combat it.

According to its latest survey, more than half (51%) of UK SME owners polled said they have experienced burnout since the start of the pandemic. Projected across the wider SME sector, this equates to around 2.9 million business owners.

The survey findings also reveal that over a third (36%) are working longer hours than they were before the pandemic. More than half (56%) of respondents said they are more conscious of burnout now because of the impact the pandemic has had on UK workers.

Many business owners say they have taken steps to help lessen the negative impact on their mental health:

  • 36% have taken up walking to combat stress;
  • 24% have taken up other forms of exercise;
  • 18% have turned to meditation or mindfulness;
  • 23% have implemented mental health policies for their businesses or employees since the start of the pandemic.

Working from home has been seen as positive by most business owners - although 43% of small business owners said they already worked from home prior to the pandemic. Even so, 29% said they had enjoyed being able to wear more relaxed clothing and 27% appreciated being able to be able to make lunch at home. Longer sleep-ins rather than commuting was the most appealing thing for 24% of people.

Roan Lavery, ceo and co-founder of FreeAgent said: "It's quite saddening to see such a high number of SME business owners saying that they have faced burnout during the pandemic. This research is a reminder that the past 18 months or so have not just been devastating for the economy, but it has also had a massive impact on the mental health of many freelancers and small business owners across the UK.

"With SMEs making up around 99% of all businesses, it is essential that they have all the support they need not just to remain economically buoyant, but also to preserve their mental health and avoid burnout. While I am hopeful that the pandemic has passed its worst, it will still be a long time until small businesses are fully recovered and back on their feet.

"The government must do what it can to ensure as much pressure as possible is alleviated for small businesses, so they make it safely to the end of the year. This will then help bolster the UK economy and take it from strength to strength - both in the short term and in the post-pandemic future."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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