Thursday 9th September was R U Okay Day, a day where Australians are encouraged to have important conversations about mental health issues with friends, family and work colleagues.

There are many ways businesses across Australia can remain in contact with the R U Okay organization all year round. Most importantly, the suicide prevention charity offers a large range of resources available to inspire and help business leaders build an “R U Okay” culture within their organization to ensure that all employees feel safe and that their wellbeing is looked after.

The resources provided by R U Okay include a Workplace Champions Guide to promote peer-to-peer support and regular, meaningful conversations among colleagues. There’s also a guide available that aims to encourage people to talk to their colleagues about whether they’re OK, a presentation kit and a video.

Businesses across Australia can also host events. Covid-safe activities suggested for those workplaces in lockdown include hosting a digital event, going for a walk with someone when restrictions allow them to and creating an online communication channel.

According to the R U OK? organization, the benefits of promoting a supportive culture at work include helping to become an employer of choice, boosting staff engagement and morale and it also supports a business’s legal obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to protect the mental issues and physical wellbeing of your employees.

46 Percent of Small Business Owners Admit to Mental Health Issues And Problems

Research published by MYOB earlier this year revealed that 46 percent of small and medium-sized business owners believe that running their own business has directly contributed to feelings of depression or anxiety.

Furthermore, another 26 percent ranked mental health as an “immediate” problem in their daily life and workplace. These figures illustrate that the pandemic is taking a toll on small business leaders beyond the economic impacts imposed upon them by lockdowns and withdrawn federal support.

Of the business leaders surveyed, 52 percent reported feeling stress as a consequence of operating over the course of the last 12 months, these rules were up by 7 percentage points from the same period last year.

On top of these figures, 45 percent of respondents reported experiencing anxiety, and 26 percent experienced depression, up from 20 percent from the same period last year.

Levels of anxiety and stress surged highest among business leaders in the retail and hospitality sectors, as 68 percent of the business leaders working across these sectors reported feeling stress, while 45 percent reported having experienced feelings of depression and anxiety.

As Australia’s economy begins to recover, it is important that the country’s 2.29 million small businesses acknowledge the toll the last 18 months is likely to take on their mental health.

Although running a small business can be very rewarding, it also comes with a lot of stressors and challenges at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a pandemic. 2020 was incredibly difficult for small businesses and the data shows owners and operators may be feeling its effects for some time to come.