Running your own business can be richly rewarding. When I talk to people who have made the brave step, they give me a number of reasons for doing it – the ability to realise a dream, employ people in your local community, achieving a better work/life balance, or simply being their own boss.
When you list these reasons, it’s hard not to wonder why everyone isn’t out there trying to launch the next Google or open the next ‘must eat at’ food hot spot. The reality is though, that the good things do come with challenges that can make it harder to look after your mental health or cope with poor mental health – and when poor mental health affects you or your staff it can be difficult to know where to turn.
I know all too well the impact this can have. My own father suffered from depression for many years – something which impacted his ability to run and manage the family business. In fact, it was partly due to this that I decided to leave school when I was only sixteen in order to help run the business.
Although I have no regrets about that decision, and have enjoyed a very rewarding career running my family business, it has made me very conscious of the impact of poor mental health on small business owners as well as employees.
Despite this, many employees are still reluctant to talk about mental health at work. A Heads Together report showed that only a quarter of us would feel comfortable opening up about mental health to a colleague, and just 2% would feel comfortable about speaking to someone in HR. I know employers sometimes feel scared of saying the wrong thing, and sometimes feel that it’s not their place – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
I believe that we, as business owners, must play a critical role in talking about mental health in the workplace and lead the way in both destigmatising mental health in the workplace and acting to help our people when they are struggling. By both talking about it and addressing it, we can help promote an open environment where people feel comfortable talking about the issues that are affecting them, work out what positive changes we can make to the workplace, and make some progress to help each other.
At FSB, we are playing our part in providing small business owners and the self-employed with information and advice that they can use to learn more about mental health and their role in addressing it in their businesses. We have recently launched our mental health campaign, ‘It’s okay to talk about mental health’, which aims to give a better understanding of mental health and how it can affect you and your employees. Alongside that, we’ve launched our , which offers advice and tips on how small business owners and the self-employed can approach mental health in the workplace.
We have also worked with Mind, the Heads Together campaign and ten other organisations, to help develop this website. As Chairman of FSB, I am extremely proud to be part of this initiative and I hope that many small business owners will use this site to learn more about mental health and how they can play their part in making their workplace the best it can be.
By encouraging the conversation, we can promote good mental health in the workplace.