Proactive approach to mental health challenging for small business, says fresh data

24 Sep 2019

More than two thirds (67%) of small businesses have not discussed mental health days, according to fresh data from MYOB.

The finding, from a survey conducted with 757 Australian small business operators, is compounded by the fact that just half (52%) of respondents said they feel able to address mental health issues affecting their staff.

The number of businesses who had not talked about mental health days was particularly high for those with a small number of staff, with 72% of businesses with two to four employees saying they had not had the discussion.

Helen Lea, MYOB’s Chief Employee Experience Officer said given MYOB recently reported 43% of small business operators had experienced some form of mental health condition since starting a business, a proactive approach to managing mental wellbeing would face off potential problems at the very start.

“We are extremely cognisant of the pressures running a small business can bring. Having support from the outset to stop any sense of anxiety before it can take hold is an essential step, but it’s perhaps the toughest to fulfil when there are so many demands on a business owners’ time,” she said.

In a bid to provide support to small business operators, MYOB has forged a community partnership with mindfulness leader and not for profit organisation, Smiling Mind. The partnership will focus on supporting a positive and proactive approach to mental health.  Over the next two years, Smiling Mind will work with MYOB to develop content tailored to support small business owners across Australia and New Zealand to help enhance their wellbeing and performance.

“The subject of mental health can be overwhelming to anyone, but the small business community has a set of unique considerations that we need to consider and support. Let’s face it: being in business for yourself can be lonely and challenging. That’s the reason why we have pledged to work with Smiling Mind to create a resource small business can lean on,” said Ms Lea.

Dr Addie Wootten, clinical psychologist and CEO of Smiling Mind said taking a proactive approach to mental health comes with many benefits.

“We want to change the way people think about mental health – moving it from a term with negative sentiment to a positive one – to get people looking after their mental health the same way they look after their physical health. Like our bodies, the more we take care of ourselves mentally, the healthier we are,” she said.

“MYOB touches many of Australia and New Zealand’s small business owners daily. I know that together we can inspire, engage and transform the lives of millions of small business owners and employees to help them better succeed in their business and live the lives they want to lead.”

Sam Burmeister, founder of bookkeeping company Tall Books, started his own company three years ago after starting out in marketing and studying a Bachelor of Music. Something Sam struggles with is ‘imposter syndrome’; he has doubted himself and the difference he makes to the industry, despite taking out accolades including MYOB’s Young Bookkeeper of the Year in 2018.

“I experience anxiety. It’s something I’ve had to deal with all my life. So I have to be really smart about staying on top of it and for me, fitness is really important. I started seeing a personal trainer when I started my business, and it very quickly became my outlet,” he said.

“While business can seem all consuming at times, it’s so important to embrace your hobbies and make time for them. I still make time for my music, because it’s about achieving balance and keeping at bay feelings of pressure at work. Quite often, our biggest barriers are ourselves. Having the right head space is critical to being successful.”

Other key findings of the research conducted included:

  • Businesses working in finance and insurance and agricultural industries were least likely to have discussed mental health days with staff (71% said they had not)
  • The likelihood of this discussion taking place declines with age. Seventy-seven per cent of small business operators aged 60 plus had not discussed mental health days with staff, versus 57% of business operators aged under 40
  • Male small business operators were most likely to report they did not feel able to discuss mental health issues with staff (21% versus 16% of women)
  • Business operators under 40 feel least equipped to have that conversation. Thirty-one per cent said they did not feel able to address mental health issues affecting staff

For anyone experiencing mental health challenges you can seek support from lifeline on 13 11 14 or at

For further comment or other information please contact:

Collette Betts

About MYOB

MYOB is a leading provider of online business management solutions. MYOB makes business life easier for approximately 1.2 million businesses across Australia and New Zealand by simplifying accounting, payroll, tax, practice management, CRM, job costing, inventory and more. MYOB operates across three core segments – Clients and Partners (business solutions to SMEs and Advisers); Enterprise Solutions (larger businesses) and Payment Solutions. We also provide ongoing support via many client service channels including a network of over 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and other consultants. We are committed to ongoing innovation, particularly through our Connected Practice Strategy and through the development of the MYOB Platform. For more information visit or follow @MYOB on Twitter.  

About Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind is a whole lot more than Australia’s #1 mindfulness app. We are the not-for-profit that is helping make future generations happier and healthier through the practice of mindfulness meditation – we are aiming to reach 5 million young people by 2021 with our tools and resources.

Our evidence based, award winning schools and workplace programs aim to reverse these trends. Combining mindfulness training, resources and teaching tools to make mindfulness a seamless inclusion in any classroom, it is already utilised by over 100,000 teachers, 2.4m young people and hundreds of thousands of workers.

About the research

The research was conducted by Gundabluey on behalf of MYOB between the 24 June and 3 July 2019 and gathered the responses of 757 small business operators. Questions were crafted in collaboration with Beyond Blue and Smiling Mind.