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Entrepreneurs have experienced fewer negative mental health symptoms amid the pandemic, survey finds

Posted by Tasnim Ahmed

July 29, 2021    |     2-minute read (574 words)

The world came to near-paralysis with the arrival of Covid-19 pandemic, exerting a tremendous impact on businesses, services and the people they involve. During its first phase in particular, many lurched in confusion, unsure what the next step should be. Some businesses were able to quickly pivot to the demands of remote work, but most were forced to contend with radical uncertainty. A sense of precariousness has loomed heavy over most employed folks and business owners alike.

In this tumultuous time filled with despair, everything relating to the mental health of people has gone for a toss. People around the world have experienced their movements and independence being curtailed and faced lockdowns, which in turn brought a sense of powerlessness and isolation. The prolonged apprehension has been debilitating for many. 

But in this context, there has also been a sliver of a silver lining. The 2021 Self-Employed Mental Health Report, published by FreshBooks in association with Mind Share Partners, contains some surprising insights. The report suggests that small business owners have mentally weathered the pandemic crisis better than their employed counterparts and exhibited fewer negative mental health issues. 

The findings are based on data compiled from a survey of 2,000 self-employed respondents contacted by FreshBooks in an attempt to assess their mental well-being and to shed light on the social and emotional aspects of business ownership in trying times. 

The first thing that jumps out is that the majority of respondents – 72% -- described their mental health as either “very good” or “good.” Among all respondents, just 10% reported their mental health as “poor” or “very poor.”  These simple statistics point to the resilience of the American small business owner in the face of extended adversity. The inference is that entrepreneurs are successfully navigating change despite the pandemic’s unprecedented circumstances.

This is not to say that the self-employed did not sustain stress. About half said they’d experienced signs of poor mental health as entrepreneurs. Among those who experienced symptoms associated with poor mental health during the pandemic, some 42% reported difficulty concentrating at its start, a figure that climbed to 49% mid-pandemic. And 36% reported putting off challenging work in the middle of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the number of respondents who admitted to being less responsive to email and communication before the pandemic remained the same during the pandemic at 30%. The share of respondents who reported missing deadlines or producing inferior work before the pandemic also stayed almost the same mid-pandemic, at 18% and 19%, respectively.

The No. 1 contributor to mental stress during the pandemic among respondents was finance and the future of the business, cited by 44% as the biggest weight on their mental well-being.  But 29% reported working alone was the biggest pressure on their mental health, while 28% cited too little time to do work as the top mental burden. 

Perhaps as a result of better media coverage on mental health issues during the pandemic, close to three-fourths of business owners who have a partner reported they took mental health seriously. And over half said the crisis had made them more empathetic toward the mental health of employees.

Despite the stressors of the pandemic, a whopping 85% of the survey’s respondents said self-employment was still the best option for their mental and physical health. This suggests that despite continued uncertainty, entrepreneurship offers a sense of achievement and satisfaction that being an employee won’t.    

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