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Small business owners have faced more than their share of challenges this past year. There are severe pressures to keep the business afloat, employ employees as long as possible, pivot to different business models or make the most challenging decisions of all — to pause operations or even close the doors.
All of these scenarios have a clear impact on the mental health of business owners and entrepreneurs. At Wagepoint, we are honoured to speak to small business owners every single day and we understand the struggles first hand.
As resilient entrepreneurs are — and wow, have we seen outstanding examples of resilience this year — the past 12 months have been the most trying for small businesses across Canada and around the world. Mental health and self-care are so much more than a high-calorie snack and binge-watching your (new) favourite show.
How is the Canadian small business community feeling?
We reached out to some of the country’s leading entrepreneur organizations to get their thoughts about the importance of investing in mental health and wellbeing now more than ever.
Mental health of business owners is critically important, both in the sense of support to employees and their own self-care. As small business owners continue to struggle through the pandemic on a day-to-day basis, doing their best to innovate business models and keep employees etc., they have to figure out covering fixed costs, ensuring health and safety of their staff and customers, keeping their doors open, as well as a multitude of pressures at home. Short on the heels of the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, looms a mental health and well-being crisis across this country.
— Leah Nord, Senior Director of Workforce Strategies & Inclusive Growth, Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC)
Balancing professional and personal pressures is always a challenge — even for the most experienced entrepreneurs and business owners. Establishing a support system for all of these areas is key to both success and continued business growth.
Being a small business owner like a franchisee can be hugely rewarding — but the additional pressures of COVID-19 can take a toll. As owner-operators of their own businesses, franchisees can experience increased stress from financial insecurity, health concerns for their customers and staff, and the weight of responsibility for not only their own livelihoods but also those of their employees. However, the benefit of being a franchisee is that you are in business for yourself but not by yourself. The morale and business support from the franchisor and franchisee peers in the franchise system can provide franchisees with a network of other small business owners in similar situations.
— Sherry McNeil, President & CEO, Canadian Franchise Association (CFA)
There is a light at the end of the tunnel with continued commitment to safety protocols. With our shared goal to do what it takes to be safe and keep everyone healthy, business owners need to prioritize mental health and invest not one time, but on an ongoing basis to keep their spirits up and support the employees and people that rely on their businesses.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), entrepreneur mental health is at an all time low. As a female entrepreneur, I see the impact first hand. As an advocate for mental health I share with my community that it makes us stronger to share when you need help and coach women on the steps they must take to feel less alone. We also teach soft skills on how to be resilient and to prioritize our own needs instead of always putting others first, leading to depression and burnout.
— Leigh Mitchell, CEO, Women in Biz Network
Our team at Wagepoint takes mental health seriously across the organization. From virtual social events to grassroots support of our employees, we not only talk the talk but lead by example when it comes to the well-being of our team.
It’s good practice to remind folks of all the resources that are out there — including things that they might have overlooked in their health benefits plans like counselling or Employment Assistance Programs (EAP). It’s also important to demonstrate that you are practicing what you preach yourself. For example, our Director of Operations led our team in a meditation session. I participated. Your people notice the things you show up at and it gives them freedom to prioritize it in their own workday.
— Shrad Rao, CEO, Wagepoint
What does the research say?
In November 2020, BDC released the Canadian Entrepreneur Mental Health and Well Being Report.
This study found that 64% of entrepreneurs feel that they still have everything under control. However, 40% of them are stressed by fear of loss or failure and 39% of business owners feel depressed at least once a week. Note: This survey study was also completed before the new lockdowns began at the end of 2020 and start of 2021.
On a positive note, according to BDC, entrepreneurs are regaining confidence and feeling optimistic about the future of a sustained and measured business growth post covid.
5 things small business owners can do right now to improve their mental health.
1. Stay connected — We may need to physically distance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected. It’s not the time to go dark on your friends, family, community and customers. Use this opportunity to reach out and reconnect to your loved ones, friends, customers, partners and community. Share your story and talk about it.
2. Surround yourself with a supportive community — Other business owners are going through the same struggles. There is strength in numbers and quite possibly an opportunity for business growth. Reach out to your peers in business. Create a support circle which can be just a group of like-minded entrepreneurs with a listening ear to a formalized group to share knowledge and plan the way forward for your businesses.
3. Free up some of your time — Say, “No.” You don’t have to do it all and you don’t have to do it all now. It is an excellent time to reevaluate your busy work to focus only on what is essential and take some things off of o your plate. Give yourself time and space to breathe.
4. Take it outdoors (at a distance, of course) — It only takes 120 minutes a week immersed in nature to improve your well being and mental health. Whether it is a walk in the park, skating, skiing or a hike, regular time outdoors can reduce anxiety, improve your fitness and give you a change of scenery that you may need to give you a new and renewed perspective.
5. Take the plunge and talk to a professional — Getting professional help is a strength. You don’t have to carry all of this alone. If you do not feel comfortable sharing what is on your mind with the people you are close to, consider reaching out to ask an unbiased person about what you are feeling. At worst, you will get it all out of your system. At best, you will feel lighter and supported.
Closing words from Wagepoint’s own small business customers:
When something bad happens, you can sit around and wallow in it or you can find a way to make it better.
— Ken Hoover, Owner, Unleashed Petsitters
It’s not life without Covid, it’s life with Covid.
— Barry Alper, CFO, Fresh Restaurants
Be kind to yourself.
Times are hard and changing rapidly for small businesses. Entrepreneurs have a unique blend of drive, optimism, creativity and sheer grit that will help get them through even the most challenging situations. The important thing is to treat yourself with compassion and kindness and know we will all get through this. We believe in you!