Mental health and small business

Running your own business can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners, having sole responsibility for the company's success or failure can take its toll. It can be easy to focus all of your time and attention on your business. Sole traders and small business owners who employ staff face a range of unique challenges. Therefore, it's essential that you take care of yourself and, if you are an employing small business, your staff as well.


Work and mental health

Work can have a positive and negative impact on our mental health. Work is generally good for a person's mental heath. However, work-related stress can arise where the demands of a person's job is greater than their abilities or resources to do the work. Some of your staff will also experience mental health issues unrelated to their work. It is important to be aware of this so you can consider how you can protect the health of yourself and your employees, and support staff who may be experiencing mental health issues.



Why it is important to create a mentally healthy small business

In a small business where you employ staff (who may be family and close friends) it's important to ensure they feel valued and supported. Creating a workplace that promotes mental health and wellbeing has a number of benefits.




What does a mentally healthy workplace look like?

Many small businesses are naturally mentally healthy work environments - the nature of working in smaller teams relies on developing trust and respect. Mentally healthy workplaces are where everyone, including you as the owner, has a shared responsibility in promoting mental health. You and your staff need to work together to create an environment where everyone supports each other and feels comfortable to speak openly about stress and mental health. Business owners need to regularly check in with staff and address any workplace issues early on.


How to create a healthy small business

As your small business is unique, how you go about developing a mentally healthy workplace is also going to be unique. Being a small business, gives you a number of advantages, including the ability to:

  • make decisions autonomously
  • respond quickly to difficult situations
  • communicate regularly and easily with staff members
  • introduce initiatives and strategies that are meaningful to your staff
  • celebrate small wins in 'real time' with staff members.

"It costs way more money to find, train and hire new staff than it does to look after the ones you have. When you trust your staff and give them flexibility and autonomy, they reward you 10 times over with loyalty and an exceptional work ethic."

- Kammi, small business owner

As a small business owner, there are a range of simple, low cost actions that you can take with your staff to build on what you are already doing. These actions are not only good for your employees' mental health and wellbeing, they can boost staff morale and also make good business sense. The actions should be part of the overall plan for your business.


How to get started:

Below we have outlined the steps to take in developing your plan, including things to think about and actions to help. There is also a simple, interactive Action Plan tool you can use that may help you with identifying priority areas and potential actions you can undertake to help you get started.

The Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) have also developed a Small-Business-Mental-Health-Strategic-Planning-Tool that you might also find helpful. The aim of the tool is to assist small business owners in incorporating a mental health strategy into their business development plans.


Steps to take



See how small business owner, Richenda, makes her workplace mentally healthy for herself and her staff.