After more than two years of rolling COVID-19 shutdowns, capacity restrictions, and supply chain disruptions, half of small business owners report difficulty dealing with mental health challenges.
The data, released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and Nexim Canada, shows 66 percent of small business owners are on the verge of collapse, and they point to a rise in mental health issues among their employees as well.
“For many small business owners, it has to do with the fact that they have to deal with closings. They aren’t always sure how they’re going to get their next payroll together?” said Corinne Pullman, senior vice president of national affairs and partnerships at CFIB. “If they are going to find the employees they need to get their business back up and running?”
Employers surveyed say 54% of their workers face mental health challenges, nearly 20% more than responses in 2020.
“I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how much debt the company has incurred,” said Jason Comendat, one of the owners of the Ottawa Pike Cafe.
His downtown Ottawa business has amassed at least $120,000 in debt, while trying to weather the pandemic downturn.
As office workers and foot traffic slowly begin to revive his business, Komendat has concerns about the health of his employees.
“If we get COVID,” Komendat said. “And the workforce has been halved or more, we can’t work.”
Komendat says he is meeting with a counselor to help him cope, but he is in the minority.
CFIB research shows that less than 27 percent of small business owners seek mental health support, and only one in three provides employees with information and resources.
To assist managers, the Canadian Mental Health Commission has created an online toolkit that will be launched during Mental Health Week, which runs May 2-6.
The checklist provides tips on how to recognize if their employees have mental health issues, and how to defuse conflict and integrate new employees.
The free resource is especially useful, says Michelle Rodrigue, president and CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Commission, as more workplaces balance office workers with work from home.
You can better support your teams,” Rodrigue said. “And you can create psychologically safe workplaces for people to thrive.”
As her online business grows, Alyssa James believes a mental health resource like this “could be very helpful”.
At the start of 2020, James turned her passion for cross-stitching into a bespoke design firm, out of her Ottawa apartment.
As the pandemic spread, new orders soared, but finding scarce supplies was challenging.
“Walmart was out of stock,” James said. “So who am I to not run out of Styrofoam?”
James suffered from depression before the pandemic.
Add to that the stress of being a new mom, keeping up with her current full-time job, and launching her own design project.
“That’s how I ended up hiring more people,” James said. “I was feeling like a superwoman doing this all the time, which was actually leading to more depression.”
James has taken six employees now, and feels much less pressure to meet tight client deadlines.
For Komendat, small businesses simply need more mental health support options, and they want the government to fund more programs.
“If there’s a program online, I don’t have time to look at that,” Komendat said. “I’m just trying to keep this ball rolling.”