Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” In reference to entrepreneurs. It has been an interesting few years, to say the least. All of us are coping the best we can with what resources we have, on the daily, but business owners are a special demographic who will mostly do anything to support their own employees, while not recognizing their own needs in the process. Before the pandemic, 1 in 4 individuals worldwide experienced a mental health crisis at any point in time. Now 2 in 3 of our employees are suffering from mental health issues. Leaders of these employees were also experiencing an increase in mental health issues from before 2020 and on; currently, these rates are now higher.
Statistics may vary widely; however, business owners are usually an afterthought when it comes to mental health. Part of the reasoning behind this could be owners are a smaller population versus the overall population of workers in general. Another reason could be that when considering entrepreneurship, individuals possess skills such as intensity to win regardless of rewards, easily takes risk for future gain, but most importantly they usually have difficulty admitting error or defeat. As a result, entrepreneurs rarely strive to achieve the same care and consideration for themselves that they strive for the employees who work with them.
Having a business can bring much happiness, self-fulfillment and rewarding passion for an entrepreneur; however, with this comes the opposite of these experiences and emotions: restless and sleepless nights, financial worries, lack of confidence, all the while some have these compounded with concerns for their own parents and children. Keep calm and carry on, is the mantra of most entrepreneurs, and now the emotions and discourse are mounting exponentially. The pandemic had mounted more stressors atop a business owner such as rethinking already established successful business models, quick and unanticipated redesigning of marketing channels, altered focus on customers, employees, and suppliers just to be ready for the “next new normal” and we remain in this mode. Now, we are experiencing economic instability and international and unrest.
Mel Joseph, founder/owner of a digital mental health platform, Mente, said “in the start up stages, we work with limited finances and to ensure we stay in the game, we develop the “always-on” culture that leads to intense work schedules, sleepless nights and feelings of helplessness which can lead to low self-worth caused by a heightened threat of failure… success… leaves us pushing ourselves harder and harder which is not sustainable in the long term.”
In a study accomplished by Michael A. Freeman for the University of San Francisco, he studied the entrepreneur mental health crisis. Freeman’s study revealed this of startup entrepreneurs:
- ½ of the entrepreneurs who participated experienced at least one form of mental health condition during their lifetime
- They were twice as likely to have depression
- They were six times more likely to have ADHD
- They were three times more likely to experience substance abuse
- They were ten times more likely to have bipolar disorder
- They were twice as likely to have a psychiatric hospitalization
- There were twice likely to have suicidal thoughts
Another study of more than 1000 company directors done by a private bank, claims that more than 75% of small business owners had been plagued by their mental health, stating that this fact had impacted their work performance. A further 3/5 of those who participated, felt that their business had mounted their problems.
Another study by a software firm claimed that 65% of small business owners and senior managers revealed they struggle to “switch off” from their workday once it is completed. The most common concerns impacting mental health was cash flow, taxes, decreasing revenues or profits, as well as time management.
Being self-aware of what personal stressors are impacting you with the admission and acknowledgement of these will allow for an imperative and realistic plan to make the circumstances more manageable.
In an interview done by Jack Knowles, CEO/founder if Yapa, “take time out of your day to appreciate what you have achieved in that single day, where you want to go tomorrow and what these things will do to benefit the future of your business. Remember to take time also to put your phone down and forget about work. Spending time with close friends and family is a massive part of building a support network, as well as being able to let go. I also enjoy going to the gym for my mental health; everyone knows that good exercise is good for the body but exercise if also one for the most effective ways to improve your mental health.” Toronto business owner, Regina Sheung, uses Wednesdays are “Power Down” day weekly – no one their uses their cell phones, not even the shoppers walking into her store, Labour of Love. “It’s a day to reeducate ourselves on how to slow down”.
It can be difficult for a business owner to make themselves a priority when one is pulled into so many different directions and decisions and how does a business owner do this with all the mounting pressures internally and externally? Remember the concept of the oxygen mask: one cannot assist others until they have assisted themselves. There needs to be a culture change from a top-down perspective. Interestingly, upon research, it was discovered that there’s many resources out there to assist employers with employees, but not necessarily many resources assisting employers with their own mental health journey. This is clearly indicative of a missed variable in our mental health programs within our workplaces.
Based on the Ministry of Health Ontario, it is recommended that:
- There is consideration and awareness that some fear and anxiety is normal
- It suggested to seek credible information (from experts and reputable sources)
- It’s important to be self-aware and to assess your own personal risk
- Seek support
- Get proper rest and sleep
- Stay active
For the next few weeks, we will focus on mental health in the workplace as we know that health and success go hand and hand.