Coronavirus worries sparking ‘mental health crisis’ in UK SMEs

Stress, anxiety and sleepless nights brought by the coronavirus pandemic are building into a mental health crisis in the UK’s small business sector, according to new research.

A pre-crisis positivity about future prospects has quickly been eroded, and worries about the financial impact of the Covid-19 shutdown, says data from Liberis, a fintech looking to reshape the small business finance industry.

The firm says an encouraging 61% of small businesses in the UK questioned before the coronavirus outbreak were confident of success in 2021 and beyond – but now nearly nine out of ten (86%) say mental health and wellness issues have arisen as a direct result of difficulties in raising finance and managing cashflow within their business.

The research, which contrasted the attitudes and behaviours of UK small businesses with their peers in the US and Scandinavia, found that 83% of business owners suffer from anxiety and 81% from sleepless nights as a direct result of worries over raising finance.

A further 75% also said it had impacted their personal relationships.

All of these UK figures compare favourably with the US findings, which scored at 91%, 85% and 86% respectively, and unfavourably with businesses in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Rob Straathof, CEO at Liberis, says that the financial community should do more to relieve the stress felt by small businesses.

He said: “Access to finance should not be a stressful experience. While the government should be congratulated on the measures it announced in the budget and its subsequent £330bn loans package, it is critical for the support to be distributed as quickly as possible if businesses are to be supported through the current crisis.

“We need to work with the government to allow for quick underwriting and access to finance that works with fluctuating sales and won’t tie the business down in the long-term. Small businesses don’t have time to wait on legacy systems and approvals. 

“There will also be life after coronavirus and we need to listen to small businesses in addressing their concerns.

“Working from home and social distancing are both issues we have never faced before, and while businesses will need support in the immediate term, we also need to look to their longer-term needs.

“Our goal is to reshape small business finance for good and that means providing funding that is appropriate, sustainable, and that gives them access to funds quickly when they need it.

“We need to be supporting their mental health by making access to finance easier and more transparent, not adding to it with unnecessary delay, confusion and intransigence.”