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UK SMEs admit running their own business has negatively impacted their mental and physical health

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Almost half of small business owners state that running their own business has negatively impacted their physical and/or mental health – up slightly from 2022 at 44%.

That is according to new research from cloud accounting provider FreeAgent.

A survey of small business owners from across the UK, conducted by FreeAgent, has revealed the scale of the challenge facing the SME sector with regard to mental health, with findings showing more than a third (37%) have experienced burnout as a result of running a business.

According to respondents, many SMEs are working additional hours every week with overtime becoming commonplace, with two out of five (41%) business owners saying they work up to 48 hours a week on average, and a fifth (20%) working up to 64 hours a week. More than 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 data shows that there is no rest when you own your own business. With over three-quarters (78%) of respondents working through an illness because they felt they couldn’t afford to take time off and the majority (84%) have no sick pay provision or business insurance to cover circumstances under which they fall ill, it’s clear that UK entrepreneurs are putting their hearts into their businesses.

However, despite this, two-thirds of small business owners (66%) feel they have a good work/life balance compared to just one quarter (27%) who feel they don’t.

Roan Lavery,  CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent said: “Our research suggests that a significant number of SME owners in the UK are feeling the physical and mental health pressures of running a business. Many say they have experienced burnout as a result of working for themselves, while many more are spending long hours on their business ventures – including evenings and weekends.

“However, despite these challenges, it’s really positive to see that the majority of small business owners still feel they have a good work/life balance and say they would recommend self-employment as a career. That’s a great foundation to build upon as the UK continues to navigate the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“What I would like to see going forward, though, is more support for small business owners to manage these physical and mental health challenges. Whether it’s providing more funding for mental health support programs, increasing access to sick pay and health insurance, offering tax incentives for businesses that prioritise employee well-being, or simply increasing support for business education and training programs, there are plenty of opportunities for the government to step in and provide help where it is badly needed.

“By taking these steps, I believe the government could help to strengthen the SME sector and promote economic growth, while supporting the well-being of the UK’s five million small business owners.”

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