Want business success? Look after your mental health

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For World Mental Health Day, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell reminded small business owners of the importance of mental wellbeing.

“Today [Wednesday October 10] marks World Mental Health Day,” she said. “A timely reminder for Australian small businesses and family enterprises to assess their work practices and culture.”

One in five

“One in five people will experience a mental-health issue at some stage in their life,” Ms Carnell said. “High demands, work overload, bullying and poor communication can all contribute to stressed employees taking leave to avoid a toxic workplace. Or leaving their job altogether.

“A happy workplace is a productive workplace. A mentally healthy business retains staff for longer. Everyone knows what the business goals are, which helps set realistic timeframes and expectations. When there’s a lack of communication, your business runs into problems.

$11 billion per year

“Mental illness costs Australian businesses almost $11 billion per year,” Ms Carnell said. “Scottish Pacific’s latest ‘SME Growth Index’ reports small business owners working up to 80 hours a week or more, losing sleep from not getting everything done in a day and worrying about cash flow.

“The recently announced Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health is very important. This will focus on mental health as a productivity issue, not just a health issue.

“If you want to help improve the mental wellbeing of your employees, start by acknowledging them for their work. It’s important also to involve employees in the decision-making process. Ensure there’s good communication across all levels.”

Ask them how they’re feeling

“Small and family enterprises tend to work as very close units, which means there are regular opportunities to notice if someone is acting out of character,” Ms Carnell said. “Ask them how they’re feeling, listen to them. If they’re struggling, suggest they seek support or offer to help them arrange to talk to a professional.

“Small-business owners looking to improve their own mental health should schedule meetings during core work hours, set realistic deadlines, take a holiday, exercise regularly and get some ‘me’ time.”

Small business owners can find out more about creating a mentally healthy workplace by visiting www.headsup.org.au.