From XU Magazine, 
Issue 26

Mental wellbeing: support yourself and small businesses

It is now 2021 and while I may have felt that things would get back to normal after 2020, I found the coronavirus pandemic has changed forever the world, my life and the way I live and work. I realised it is not about 2020 is over and done with and now I can get back to normal. 2020 happened but it was now is the past. I managed to get through the challenges and chaos that was thrown my way. I built resilience. I was grateful for being in a place that was safer than most. Putting 2020 into better context helped me address the year and move forward. I now look at 2021 as also being a year of difference. However, I will be in better frame of mind to deal with it and the continuing change. I am constantly working on better mental health for myself. I make this a priority in my life so I can then go about supporting others round me.

In 2020 I had the pleasure of continuing my volunteer work with Beyond Blue. One of the great joys in my life. I am blessed to have the opportunity to volunteer with amazing people who are doing such valuable work for Beyond Blue. A significant development for small business by Beyond Blue was the launch of an online training course to help small business advisers provide mental health support to business owners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I was very honored to be part of the development and then the promotion of this amazing course.

The free Mental wellbeing: support yourself and small businesses course was launched at a time when two thirds of Australia’s small business owners report the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.

The course is available nationwide thanks to the support and expertise of Beyond Blue’s Supporting Partners Xero and Go1.

Evidence shows many small business owners seek advice and support from trusted advisers including accountants, bookkeepers, tax agents, industry associations and representative bodies who are often the first to notice when a client might be experiencing mental health issues.

However, advisers also say they want to know more about the signs to look out for, how to start a conversation with a client they are worried about, and how to connect small business owners to appropriate support.

The course, which can be accessed by all business advisers in Australia on Beyond Blue’s Heads Up web site, covers four key topic areas:

  • An introduction to mental health and how to recognise when someone needs support
  • How advisers can look after their own wellbeing in the workplace and at home
  • How to have a conversation with a small business owner you are worried about
  • How advisers can proactively support small business owners 

The course is amazing and a great resource to have for you and your teams. It’s a resource that you return to whenever you need to learn a little more about how to take care of yourself and then how to support others. It talks about how advisors should look after themselves first, so they are in the best position to support others. It’s interactive and easy to navigate. It was some excellent practical examples. It has reference to resource materials plus where to direct small business owners for additional support.  It’s an awesome guide for everyone. A must complete for any small business, including advisors.

WHY ARE BEYOND BLUE TARGETING BUSINESS ADVISERS?

  • The free course was launched last year in September at a time when two thirds of Australia’s small business owners report the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health
  • Small business owners are time poor, and evidence shows they often seek advice and support from trusted advisers including:
    - Accountants
    - Bookkeepers
    - Tax agents
    - Industry associations and representative bodies
  • These advisers are often the first to notice when a client might be experiencing mental health issues.
  • Advisers have told Beyond Blue they want to know more about:
    - The signs to look out for
    - How to start a conversation with a client they are worried about
    - How to connect small business owners to appropriate support
  • Advisers have also told Beyond Bleu that the number of small business owners seeking support for non-business-related issues has increased during the pandemic and this training is needed now more than ever.
  • Of course, Beyond Blue are not expecting advisers to become counsellors by any means, but they have a strong relationship with their clients and can help support them through difficult times.
  • The Mental Wellbeing: Support yourself and small businesses course supports advisers to play this important role.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ISSUES AFFECTING SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS?

  • Working long hours, cash flow issues, social isolation and balancing work and domestic responsibilities are some of the challenges small business owners face. Not surprisingly, these factors can also affect a business owner’s mental health and wellbeing. 
  • The fallout caused by COVID-19 has exacerbated these stressors while adding enormous uncertainty.
  • People who contact Beyond Blue say the pandemic’s effect on employment and income is a cause of stress.
  • We’re seeing businesses face the immediate financial stress of closing down or trying to manage with reduced turnover.
  • Many are applying for government assistance, often for the first time, and dealing with the emotional impact of what’s happening. 
  • There’s worry about job loss or a significant reduction in hours.
  • Many business owners who are able to keep trading have reported losses in revenue and increased expenditure due to hygiene, cleaning and PPE requirements.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS ADVISERS SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR?

  • In terms of personal signs, examples include changes like:
    - Becoming impatient, irritable, or angry
    - Looking tired
    - Being negative and not solution oriented
    - Speaking about themselves in a derogatory way
  • In terms of business challenges, signs might include:
    - Cash flow challenges
    - Having trouble paying wages or keeping up with accounts for suppliers

WHAT CAN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS DO TO IMPROVE THEIR MENTAL HEALTH?

  • Make sure you are getting accurate information from credible sources.
  • Try and structure their days and establish a routine as best you can.
  • Keep regular sleep patterns and make sure you get enough rest.
  • Look after your physical health, and find a way to stay active if you can.
  • The news can get a bit much at times – take regular breaks from screens and social media.
  • Try to do something each day that makes you feel good.

The course is available free of charge across Australia and aims to provide small business advisers with the skills to support the mental health of small business owners. It was launched at a crucial time for business owners who are doing it tough due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

To access the free Mental wellbeing: support yourself and small businesses course, visit bb.org.au/advisers.  

Xero partners can access the course on Xero Central.

I encourage all advisors to complete the course, share with your teams and learn how to take better care of yourself. Then learn about how best to support small business owners.

It is a great resource to be shared with small business, encouraging them to complete the course, learn and utilise the resources.


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