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#MentalHealth4SMEs: Poor mental health can kill your business

In this series, Jeff Lomey together with Mark Wortley share top mental health tips that can assist SME owners to reach business success.
Photo by Tim Gouw© from Pexels
According to Alexanderforbes.co.za, it's been estimated that as many as 25% of South African employees will be diagnosed with depression over their course of employment. The figures for anxiety and panic disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic is much higher at around 55%, according to an Askafrica survey.

The cost of poor mental health can and will have a drastic effect on your business, even so far as a marginal loss of profit.

In South Africa, each employee usually supports at least three other people. So, an SME owner with five employees supports approximately 18 people. The annual yearly loss for employees of an average size SME which collapses when the owner gets mentally ill is just under R2m p/a for 18 dependants.

This can have a devastating effect on livelihoods. SME owners are the lifeblood of many families besides their own.

According to PayScale, the median wage of any South African resident is R30,765 per month. The annual yearly loss for those 18 dependants is R1,84m.

These numbers tell an interesting story.

So, what can an SME owners and employees do to minimise losses?

Employees should be aware that keeping the owner in a great state of mind is hugely important for the survival of their families.

This is what we recommend.
  1. Regular assessment of your own mental health risk in the business.
  2. Make employees aware that your mental health is also their lifeline.
  3. Education about mental health especially under Covid-19 lockdown.
  4. Self help tools and techniques to limit the effects of mental illness.
  5. Professional resources available to support those in need.

Regular assessment

SME owners should start with themselves by assessing their awareness on each of these four mental health and building resilience categories. To get an accurate reflection, set up a scale to rate each question below. You can also ask close friends or family members to rate you.


  • Do I have a work routine that reduces the stress of decision-making?
  • Is there enough information available for me to manage the business?
  • Is the business largely self organising?
  • Am I mentally alert when the going gets tough?


  • Do I have balance in my moods at work?
  • Do I share my feelings with co-workers?
  • Do I have an emotionally supportive work team?
  • Do I have solid relationships with critical team members?


  • Do I have a regular exercise routine?
  • Do I spend time in nature?
  • Do I sleep well?
  • Do I eat well?

Spiritual or purpose driven

  • Is there a meaningful connection to the work I do?
  • Are my business goals supporting my life goals?

Once you have assessed yourself, focus on three or four improvement areas where you think quick wins can be made. At some point in the future, you may want to get your senior employees to do the same assessment.

Look out for the next article in the series: #MentalHealth4SMEs: Are you getting enough sleep?



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