We know we need to take care of our mental health, but what does that mean for small and medium-sized businesses?
There’s a new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) that takes a deep dive into how smaller businesses are struggling to properly address mental health challenges within their team and as business owners. The report is called Mind the Gap: Addressing the Mental Health and Addictions “Echo Pandemic” in Ontario. The report outlines 21 recommendations for both businesses and governments to tackle mental health in the workplace.
It seems like an understatement to say the COVID-19 pandemic left a big impact on us. It impacted our businesses, communities, neighbourhoods, family connections, economy, cost of living, etc. There is hardly a facet of our lives that wasn’t impacted. Some of these have returned to normal, others will continue to have a lasting impact.
We have been talking about mental health long before the pandemic, but it took a growing problem and pushed it to the point of crisis. As stated in Mind the Gap: “The crisis disproportionately impacted small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), frontline workers and underserved populations like Indigenous Peoples and northern, remote, and racialized communities.”
According to the report, 69% of large businesses have a formal mental health strategy, while only 33% of small businesses have such a plan.
We no longer have the public health restrictions and the same anxiety about a spreading virus, but what we are left with is a mental health, “echo pandemic.” According to the OCC report: “In contrast to larger organizations, SMEs have limited capacity and resources to respond to the growing workplace impacts of the pandemic and have been placed at the forefront of the ensuing mental health crisis without adequate support.”
Mental Health is not just something for employees — many business owners are facing mental health challenges of their own. Some have watched their business that they have helped build for decades get decimated through the pandemic. They’ve taken on loans and the prospect of repaying them is becoming more daunting as the good times they hoped for haven’t materialized. Instead, they’re working more hours than ever as they struggle to hire while facing record inflation and more economic uncertainty. The life of an entrepreneur has always been one of stress and challenges, but the last few years have pushed this to a breaking point.
I encourage you to read through the recommendations in Mind the Gap. Without getting too much into the details, the suggestions for the business community include being strategic in how we invest in mental health in our workplace with progress that we can monitor and measure. We need a range of accessible mental health and addictions support programs for employees that reflect the diversity of our teams.
Our governments need to help make sure those mental health tools are available for businesses to tap into. It’s hard to refer people to services if the primary care sector doesn’t have the capacity to take it on. The report presents the need for additional supports to encourage more investment more in mental health including tax incentives and leveraging data to improve outcomes.
It’s time to move beyond talking about mental health and take strategic action that includes measurable goals toward a healthier workplace. It’s going to take action from both government and industry. We need to address the “echo pandemic” and mind the gap.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.