A third of small and medium-sized business leaders suffer from poor mental health

POSTED: 9th October 2018
IN: Newsroom
  • Over three quarters (78%) think that their mental health problems affect their ability to work effectively
  • Three fifths think that their involvement in their business is a contributing factor
  • Two in five (40%) bosses believe loss of vital business revenues impacts most on mental health
  • On average, UK SMEs are losing 28 working days a year due to poor mental health
  • Aldermore encourages SME bosses to address mental health issues - 15 tips to support workplace well-being

The latest Aldermore Future Attitudes study has revealed that a third (33%) of bosses at UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), equating to 1.81 million* firms with fewer than 250 employees, have personally suffered from anxiety, depression or another kind of mental health problem in the past five years.

The report, which surveyed over a thousand business decision-makers across the UK, found that of those business leaders who have struggled with poor mental health, over three quarters (78%) believe this has affected their ability to work effectively. A further three fifths (61%) also admitted that their involvement in their business was a factor that contributed towards their problems.

The most common catalyst for mental health issues amongst SME bosses was a loss of business revenue or decreasing profits (40%). This was closely followed by key debtors not paying on time (30%) and insufficient working capital (29%).

Top five business issues that impact most on mental health

Business issues

% of SME leaders

Loss of business revenue or decreasing profits


Key debtors not paying on time


Insufficient working capital


Increase in competition


Issues unrelated to my business (e.g. family or friends)


It is not only the most senior executives that are affected. Poor mental health can be a company-wide phenomenon. Aldermore’s figures show that as a result, an average of 28 working days are lost every year, equating to over 185 hours**, across the workforce of each SME.

Despite this, almost a third (30%) of UK business leaders believe that their organisations do not provide adequate mental health support in the workplace. Nearly two in five (37%) also think the government could do more in this space.  

Carl D’Ammassa, Group Managing Director, Business Finance at Aldermore, said: “Due to their size and the relatively limited resources at their disposal, it is no surprise that mental health issues have a proportionally larger impact on smaller companies than larger organisations. Our research reveals that three quarters of SME bosses in the UK believe that there is a negative stigma surrounding mental health problems in the workplace. More must be done to overcome this and encourage those suffering from poor mental health to step forward and seek support.

“That being said, it is encouraging that over four fifths of business leaders describe their workforce as mentally fit and happy.  A half also offer a formal staff well-being strategy that proactively encourages a healthy work/life balance including employees taking regular breaks.”

Jo Maddocks, Chief Psychologist at JCA Global, a business psychology firm, commented: “There is clearly something missing as the world of work becomes ever more complex, demanding and stressful. More organisations than ever are seeking support for their employees in terms of building their emotional resilience, mental health and well-being in the workplace. A longer-term solution would also be for leaders to create work environments that promote a positive working climate.”

Top tips to support mental well-being in the workplace***:

Building mental health in the workplace involves establishing plans and practices across whole organisation. It is important to be consistent with the following habits and behaviours:

  1. Promoting openness and understanding about mental health
  2. Supporting positive social interactions and sense of belonging (arguably by also tackling negative aspects such as bullying)
  3. Promoting/supporting physical activity opportunities and positive health-related opportunities
  4. Promoting/supporting volunteering and opportunities for ‘giving’
  5. Providing access to meaningful stretch/growth/learning

From a personal perspective, individuals should:

  1. Notice early signs of stress (bodily awareness)
  2. Build time in each day for renewal activity
  3. Practice relaxation techniques
  4. Build and draw upon their support network
  5. Address problems early before they escalate
  6. Separate what they can control from what they cannot
  7. Practice acceptance and gratitude, appreciate what they have
  8. Be true to their values
  9. Give back
  10. Identify and write down their purpose / meaningful contribution


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Notes to Editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, conducted by Opinium Research between 10 and 16 July 2018 with a nationally representative sample size of 1,002 senior decision makers in UK SMEs.

* SMEs figure – calculated using Federation of Small Business statistics that say the UK has 5.5m SMEs (2016 figures). Aldermore Future Attitudes research showed that 33% of SMEs have personally suffered from anxiety, depression or another kind of mental health problem in the past five years. 33% of 5.5m = 1.81m

** Working hours figure – calculated using ONS statistics from March – May 2018 that show the average actual weekly hours of work for full-time workers was 37 hours. 25 working days = 5 working works. 5 x 37 = 185hours

*** From JCA Global’s Resilience Model


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