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Almost half of UK small business owners report decline in health due to business pressures


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Almost half (48%) of small business owners state that running their own business has negatively impacted their physical and/or mental health, according to new research from accounting software provider FreeAgent.

A survey of 1,616 small business owners from across the UK, conducted by FreeAgent, has revealed the scale of the challenge facing the SME sector regarding mental health, with findings showing that despite two-thirds (67%) of respondents being happy with their current work-life balance, a significant proportion of small business owners have encountered health issues as a result of working for themselves.

The poll reveals that a fifth (20%) of respondents believe that their mental health has been negatively affected by running a business, while one in 14 (7%) said their physical health had taken a hit. An additional 20% said both their mental and physical health had been negatively impacted by running their own business, while more than three-quarters (77%) said that they have worked through an illness due to feeling they could not take time off.

FreeAgent’s survey also reveals how there is little rest for Britain’s SMEs, with nearly two in five respondents (37%) working 32-48 hours on average and a further fifth (18%) working 48-64 hours. This suggests a continuation of the trend of overtime working that FreeAgent uncovered last year, where a third (36%) of business owners stated they often work in the evenings and two-fifths (41%) often or always work at the weekend.

The results highlight entrepreneurs’ commitment to their business’s success but inability to completely switch off. A significant number of respondents plan to work during their holidays. Specifically, 60% of individuals plan to attend to some administrative tasks (such as responding to emails or managing their accounts) while on holiday, however, they do not intend to engage in full-time work. Meanwhile, only a third (32%) of respondents plan to take a complete break and not work at all while on holiday.

Despite the challenges, nearly two-thirds (62%) believe they have a good support network to help them navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. And, positively, around two thirds (66%) also said that running a business has had a positive impact on their mental health at some point.

Roan Lavery,  CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent said, “Running a small business can be incredibly challenging, and our research shows just how much pressure that working for yourself can have on your mental and physical health. Small business owners regularly spend long hours working on their ventures, rarely take time off when they are sick, and are putting their health at risk by not being able to take proper breaks from their businesses.

“While it is positive to note that many SME owners feel they have a healthy work-life balance, our findings still suggest that more support is needed for Britain’s entrepreneurs. Many are currently facing major challenges from inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, so it is important to help them avoid causing significant damage to their physical and mental well-being.

“Enhancing initiatives to facilitate sick pay and health insurance accessibility, coupled with fostering awareness and education on mental health, is paramount for the welfare of our entrepreneurial community. I hope that politicians from across the spectrum will acknowledge these challenges in the SME sector and commit to help small businesses safeguard their physical and mental health.”

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