COVID-19 has impacted a third of SME business owners’ mental health

New research from Santander UK reveals that ongoing concerns around coronavirus have taken their toll on UK business owners, with a third (33%) stating that working through COVID-19 has adversely affected their mental health.

The study – which polled 2,050 UK SME owners – revealed that 58% of those surveyed had reported a decrease in profits and revenues as a result of lockdown restrictions, while still having to meet ongoing cashflow and cost commitments.

Two fifths (39%) of SME owners who have been adversely affected say they are now questioning whether they want to continue running their own business in future. The figure is made even more concerning when taking into account the vast number of people employed by UK SMEs, which according to the latest data stands at 5.8 million – accounting for 99.3% of the entire working population.

Over a third (36%) of SMEs said they would not be ready to face any other challenges or future crises until they had dealt with Covid-19, and only one in five SMEs expect their business to return to operating at pre-Covid-19 levels in 2020.

The data also draws parallels between the impact of Covid-19 on female business owners compared to their male counterparts. According to the data, four in ten women SME owners reported that Covid-19 had impacted their mental health. This is lower than their male counterparts, where 30% of respondents had suffered while trying to run their business through the pandemic.

The announcement comes as Santander UK has invested in the workplace wellbeing services of Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, to enhance customer-facing colleagues’ knowledge and awareness of mental health, including how best to respond to and support our customers.

Susan Davies, Head of Business Banking, Santander UK, commented: “Running your own business can be challenging at the best of times, but the pandemic has pushed many business owners to breaking point. Our SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy – losing these businesses would create a damaging ripple effect across the country. We are working at pace to help businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors to recalibrate after the devastating impact of the pandemic and are helping customers with practical support and advice to evolve their business models.”

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “We are really pleased to be working with Santander UK and welcome their commitment to better support the mental health of their colleagues and customers, particularly through these challenging times. The coronavirus pandemic has caused large and sudden changes to the way we work, with businesses and employees forced to adapt quickly. Adjustments can present challenges, including to our mental health and wellbeing, so it’s vital that employees can access support when they need it. We’re looking forward to working with Santander UK to provide these important support services for better mental health.”

Just a fifth (19%) of business owners expect to return to normal operating levels by the end of 2020 and almost a third (32%) by July 2021. One in ten SMEs in the West Midlands never expect their business operations to return to pre-Covid-19 levels. Meanwhile, businesses in Northern Ireland are more hopeful, with over a third (36%) expecting to return to normal before the end of 2020.