COVID: Small business owners close to burnout

After more than two years of continuous COVID-19 shutdowns, capacity restrictions and supply chain disruptions, half of small business owners report difficulty coping with mental health issues.

Data, released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and Nexim Canada, shows that 66% of small business owners are on the verge of burnout and also report an increase in mental health issues among their employees .

“For many small business owners, this is on top of the fact that they have had to deal with closures. They do not always know how they will organize their next pay? said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice President of National Affairs and Partnerships at CFIB. “If they’re going to find the employees they need to get their business back on its feet? »

Employers surveyed say 54% of their workers face mental health issues, an increase of nearly 20% from responses in 2020.

“I wake up in the middle of the night with my guts thinking about the debt the company has taken on,” said Jason Komendat, co-owner of Ottawa Bike Café.

His downtown Ottawa business is now $200,000 in debt as he tries to ride out the downturn of the pandemic.

As office workers and foot traffic slowly begin to revive his business, Komendat worries about the health of his staff.

“If we catch COVID,” Komendat said. “And the numbers are halved or more, we can’t function. »

Komendat says he is seeing a counselor to help him cope, but he is in the minority.

CFIB research shows that less than 27% of small business owners seek mental health support, and only one in three provide information and resources to their employees.

To help managers, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has created an online toolkit that was launched during Mental Health Week, which runs May 2-6.

The checklist provides guidance on how to recognize if their employees have mental health issues, how to defuse conflict, and onboard new employees.

Mental Health Commission of Canada President and CEO Michel Rodrigue says the free resource is particularly helpful as more workplaces balance office workers and working from home.

“You can support your teams better,” Rodrigue said. “And you can create psychologically safe workplaces for people to thrive. »

With her online business growing, Alyssa James thinks a mental health resource like this “could prove to be very beneficial.”

In early 2020, James turned his passion for cross stitch into a custom order design business, out of his Ottawa apartment.

When the pandemic hit, new orders surged, but scarce supplies were hard to come by.

“Walmart was even out of stock,” James said. “So who am I not to run out of polystyrene? »

James struggled with depression before the pandemic.

Add to that the stress of being a new mother, keeping up with the work of her existing full-time job, and starting her design business.

“That’s how I ended up hiring more people,” James said. “I felt like a superwoman the whole time, which was actually leading to another spiral into depression. »

James has now hired six employees and feels much less stressed to meet tight client deadlines.

For Komendat, small businesses simply need more mental health support options and want the government to fund more programs.

“If there’s a program online, I don’t have time to watch it,” Komendat said. “I’m just trying to keep that ball rolling. »

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