Global small business platform, Xero has launched a report revealing the overall wellbeing of Australian small business owners is currently below that of the general population, reflecting a myriad of challenges they are dealing with in 2023 including high inflation, slowing economic growth, concern about staff wellbeing and general uncertainty about the future.

The global state of small business owner wellbeing report found that Australian small business owners had the second lowest overall wellbeing of the seven countries surveyed from November 2022 through to February 2023. It also found that small business owners in countries like New Zealand and Singapore appear to be weathering the challenges better than small business owners in Australia, reporting higher levels of wellbeing and overall life satisfaction.

Using the World Health Organisation’s Five (WHO-5) Well-Being Index framework, the report found that small business owners in Australia had the second lowest overall wellbeing, ahead of only the United Kingdom. Younger Australian small business owners under the age of 30 reported lower overall wellbeing compared to those aged over 50 – a contrast to the findings in the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore and South Africa.

Despite having lower levels of wellbeing, Australian small business owners are on average experiencing less financial distress. Less than one in five (17%) Australian small business owners say they experience financial distress most or all of the time, the equal second-lowest across all countries that we surveyed.

However, nearly one-quarter (24%) say they can’t access affordable counselling and support if they need it – above the average of the seven countries of 21%. In addition, 26% of Australian small business owners say managing issues related to employee mental health is a source of stress all or most of the time, while 12% say work-related issues cause stress in their personal lives all the time, higher than every other country except South Africa.

Xero Australia country manager, Will Buckley said, “These insights are telling us that we need to do more to support Australian small businesses owners and their wellbeing. The stress on business owners to manage different challenges is taking its toll on individuals so we should be continually looking at ways to ease some of the burdens in order to help small businesses thrive.

“On a productivity level, we encourage small business owners to leverage technology and automate processes where possible, so they can take back time to focus on leading their business and working on other areas that they love.

“While tools like Xero can help relieve some of the pressure on day-to-day back-office functions of running a business, we encourage small business owners to seek professional help if they are struggling. Making use of resources available from organisations like Beyond Blue who we’re proud to partner with, can enable small business owners to improve their mental health.”

Beyond Blue chief community officer, Patrice O’Brien added, “Running a business can be stressful at times and we see all too often the pressures it can put on small business owners and their families. For those that are struggling and in need of support, we encourage them to take advantage of services like Beyond Blue’s NewAccess for Small Business Owners program.

“Delivered by mental health coaches who have a small business background and understand the unique challenges facing small business owners, the program helps equip Australians with tools and healthy coping strategies to manage the everyday stressors of running a small business.” 

The global state of small business owner wellbeing offers four recommendations to help improve small business wellbeing:

  1. Investment in policies that encourage small business innovation, learning, and upskilling
  2. Training and guidance in addressing the root causes of employees’ mental health issues
  3. Counselling and peer support networks to help small business navigate their challenges
  4. Exploring ways to achieve restedness that intentionally set business matters aside