Software as a (mind) service

Unlock time and wellbeing with tech.

Is the swirl of new tech solutions available for SMEs enough to give you a headache?

Perhaps surprisingly, the adoption of new tech is among the best things SME owners can do for their mental health.

A recent report from Commbank examined why more SME owners weren’t adopting new tech, finding that despite a majority (58 percent) understood the tech available to them only a minority was implementing solutions.

Up to 80 percent of SMEs delay implementing tech solutions, putting it in the ‘too hard basket’ according to Commbank.

It could be that SMEs feel taking the time to research and implement tech solutions is a luxury they can’t afford – or they literally can’t afford to implement tech solutions due to cash flow issues.

New tech solutions, however, invariably make businesses work smarter and ultimately free up time for business owners.

With many business owners putting personal wellbeing on the backburner in the interest of running their business, tech may loom as part of the solution.

“Compromised wellbeing and stress often leads to poor decision making, inhibits creativity and increases status quo thinking,” behavioural scientist Dr Johann Ponnampalam said in the research.

“Given these consequences, it’s unsurprising that stressed out small business owners are failing to recognise the benefits offered by new digital and analytic technologies.”

The irony, he says, is that new tech solutions can help gain time and productivity – thereby contributing to an SME owner’s mental health.

A lack of time is just one of the issues affecting the mental health of SME owners, and technology is just one part of unlocking that time.

The mental health of workers in the SME sector is just not a personal issue, but is estimated by PwC to be costing the Australian economy $10.9 billion each year in lost productivity.

Identifying ways to save time and mental health is one thing, but getting to grips with new tech opportunities and implementing them can be difficult when you’re busy running a business from day to day.

Robert Gerrish, founder of Flying Solo, told The Pulse that the issue wasn’t so much that small businesses aren’t identifying the potential for saving time presented by new technologies – more that there’s too much choice in the tech space at the moment.

“We as business owners have an awful lot of stuff coming at us these days,” he said, “and sometimes we might see that there’s a new app, but we prioritise our work and we don’t get to new technology as quickly as people would like.

“Generally, I don’t think small businesses are slow to adopt things – there are just a lot of pressures on them.”

He also said some of the onus was on tech providers to provide a clearer picture of how their products can help SMEs save time, saying time was one of the major issues contributing to ‘overwhelm’.

A lack of time combined with a dizzying array of tech solutions meant SMEs were often left fumbling in the dark when it came to using tech to help save time.

“Technology is growing and evolving at a pace which is quicker than anybody knows how to handle,” said Gerrish. “We’re living in a time where so much is being upgraded that it can actually add to overwhelm and contribute to inertia.”

That’s where there’s a contradiction – businesses are aware that these tools can help save time but small businesses don’t have the time to investigate them.

It means a fundamental shift in thinking.

“The challenge for business owners is to treat their businesses as their best customer,” said Gerrish. “If your best customer rings or comes to your door you drop everything and look after that customer. Too often we don’t treat our businesses like that.

“That means working on our businesses rather than just in our businesses.”

He said a lot could be achieved if SME owners blanked out an hour per week to get to grips with new technology. They could then save time in the longer run – time business owners can dedicate to enhancing their mental wellbeing.

If you or somebody you know is being affected by stress or depression, please visit your GP or visit BeyondBlue for resources and tools to take action.