Accountants across Australia have admitted that they are concerned for their business clients and their mental health with inquiries about financial distress being made more frequently over the past month.

According to a recently published survey just under 50 percent of accountants are either “fairly” or “extremely” worried about the state of the economy, with accountants in areas that are currently experiencing lockdowns are generally more concerned.

The survey conducted by CPA also illustrates the many challenges associated with implementing different business support programs on a state-by-state or territory basis.

The survey was conducted between the 9th and 15th August capturing the views of nearly 200 CPA Australia members working in accounting practices and Australian businesses.

Although close to 60 percent of the surveyed accountants are pretty confident in the state of business performance over the next three to six months. The majority reporting that many of their business clients are currently experiencing high to very high levels of financial distress and it can affect their mental health.

Nearly 54 percent expect their business clients to find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to pay debts over the next three months.

Furthermore, over 46 percent of surveyed accountants said inquiries they have received regarding financial distress have increased in the past month. Even in non-lockdown areas, nearly 38 percent of surveyed accountants report an increase in these inquiries.

According to the data gathered by the research, the leading cause of pain for businesses is uncertainty around lockdowns, followed by attracting and retaining the right staff and the speed of the vaccine rollout.

“Governments can reduce the pain of lockdowns by announcing business supports at the same time as a lockdown is announced. We’ve grown increasingly frustrated with failures by governments to plan for lockdowns and with red tape holding up the delivery of vital financial support to businesses,” said CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter.

The research also reported that just under three-quarters of surveyed accountants are “unclear” or “unaware” of the government’s National Covid-19 Plan, noting that to effectively advise business clients, accountants need to understand how the government will respond to future outbreaks.

“Forewarned is forearmed; if the business community and their advisers are better informed, they can prepare for the public and social health measures they’re likely to face,” said CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter.

Furthermore, CPA’s research revealed that close to 80 percent of surveyed accountants think governments should be doing more to increase vaccinations. This figure is similar across both lockdown and non-lockdown areas.

46 Percent of Small Business Owners Admit to Mental Health 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 stressed surged highest among business leaders in the retail and hospitality sectors, as 68 percent of the business leaders working across these sectors reported to be 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 incredible difficult for small businesses and the data shows owners and operators may be feeling its effects for some time to come.